Our Toolkit (Continued)

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Humans aren't aware of everything they do. Yet most researchers rely on them as reliable reporters of their entire range of ordinary conduct. Researchers at Point Forward understand that there is a tacit dimension, or a set of behaviors and values that usually live outside of normal conscious awareness. People can't describe this part of their lives very well, but they can demonstrate it for you. To observe this dimension, you must get people doing the thing that you're interested in understanding. It is through direct observation that we see what the research participant was unable to describe. 



Getting people to show you how they really live and think isn't always easy. If you're not careful you'll only see a facade, or a fictional version of a person. People create facades as reactions to the research process or the researchers themselves. Often they are just trying to help; they believe they must present a smart, logical, and consistent person to help the researchers as much as possible. But because they don't quite live this way, it offers a distorted portrayal of real life. Researchers at Point Forward employ techniques and personal styles to avoid this critical obstacle.


Metaphors are clues

When research participants use metaphors, it may seem to be an exaggeration of their real experience. You know that they didn’t literally feel like they were sinking in quicksand, for example. But it’s useful to assume that there’s probably something about a metaphor that resonates with them or they probably wouldn’t have used it. The goal is to figure that out. If the metaphor really is "sinking in quicksand," it makes sense to find out if the experience was surprising and felt like it could pull in others, as is the case in popular depictions of quicksand. Probing a metaphor can reveal aspects of an experience that you have yet to fully appreciate.