Success in Shyness – Market Research techniques for shy participants

Written by


Published on

August 23, 2016
Time to read: 3 minutes
market research techniques 2 - Hook Research

Shy people are often very creative and thoughtful, expressing through writing, art and music what they find difficult to express in words. However, modern market research techniques often fail to bring these characteristics to the surface.

Shyness and diffidence are not qualities one naturally looks for in a research participant (screeners often specify that only outgoing people should attend groups), and it can seem that in a world of selfies and social media we live in a world of extroverts. However, the technologies that allow the projection of personal lives into public spaces also allow the shy to express themselves fully using ‘texts, tweets and social … to say the things that embarrass us’.

In effect we have the mechanics, and an audience who knows how to use these tools, so that we can now speak with this class of shy authors. When Hook conducts research, it seeks to look at the totality of an audience from the extroverted to the more low-key – using our unique 4D methodology to blend opinions and achieve a broad perspective of a subject being discussed.

Emojis: Not just for texting

Recently, Hook explored mindfulness amongst young audiences, and how they were being affected by the changes that come with growing up.

To ensure we had a rounded understanding of the area, we intentionally recruited a large number of shy children who did not feel confident expressing their thoughts. Rather than using question and answers we created a set of emojis that allowed kids to express themselves without having to commit to complex answers that revealed too much of themselves (and it seems like we were ahead of the curve – just check out this new Wired article on emojis and language). Some – having done that – wanted to open up more, but the key was unlocking their thoughts initially.

With adults we haven’t used emojis (yet) but we have designed other techniques aimed at accessing and understanding the thoughts of naturally shy people.

When exploring radio habits of older audiences who didn’t feel comfortable with a group environment or the idea of being visited by a researcher, we sent them voice recorders. Over the course of a week, we asked them to tell us what they were listening to, how it made them feel and what they were looking for in the future. This sort of method has a strong lineage – Agatha Christie did not like dictating to a secretary so spoke her ideas into a dictaphone to collect ideas for her writing.

market research techniques - Hook Research

Other market research techniques for shy participants

We have also used free-writing techniques with idea creation – setting out an idea or topic area in group, and allowing respondents in silence to write their ideas down without any pressure from the group or moderator. This technique of shy authordom helps us get different perspectives and new ideas (it also ensures every voice in a room is heard).

In short, at Hook Research we feel that for research to matter it has to take account of the breadth of personalities and voices there are, and although extroverted, outgoing people are important in this mix, we should also develop market research techniques and methods that tap the creativity of the shy and less effusive among us.

If you want to learn more about the way we engage with respondents, check out our blog on Talking Human.

Do you use any research techniques for engaging with shy participants? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!


You should probably settle….

It’s Autumn which only means one thing – Married At First Sight (MAFS) UK on E4. Whilst undeniably entertaining, MAFS crystallises a point about dating and life made by Oliver Burkeman in his book Four Thousand Weeks. That point is that people should be more...

Spider-Man: The Ultimate Origin Story

In the vast universe of superheroes, one name stands out as an emblem of relatability, resilience, and redemptive power: Spider-Man. So, it makes sense that he's the cultural phenomenon we have chosen as this months Hook Top Trump! Since 1962, Peter Parker’s everyman...

A new era of Big Brother

When Big Brother launched last century it was totally new and authentic. Contestants had no idea that Big Brother would pull in huge audiences, and acted accordingly: some contestants were comfortingly humdrum feeding chickens and reading books; and some, like Nasty...

Hook’s Iconic Animated Male Leads for Kids

As promised, following last week's non- animated and animated iconic female leads we have the male leads. All of us at Hook Towers have collaboratively put these lists together in response to The Guardian's top 50 kids' shows to binge over the summer. There were so...

Creating Little Happy Learners with Sophie David

Little Happy Learners was founded by Sophie David, an ex primary school teacher and Early Years Foundation Stage specialist. Using her expertise in education, Sophie launched Little Happy Learners in 2019. She now has over 170k followers on her Instagram page, a...

Ninja Turtles: A Timeless Pop Culture Phenomenon

The world of pop culture is riddled with iconic characters, but few have stood the test of time quite like the Ninja Turtles.  And their blend of martial arts, mutant animals, heroism pizza eating and catchphrases.At its core, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has the DNA...

Team Hook’s Favourite Books

September is always a big month for parents and kids alike, because it always means one thing: back to school. There are a lot of things that can be associated with the start of a new school year; for kids it’s the excitement (and sometimes nervousness) of new...

Free Resources to Support Learning at Home

To help welcome children in primary aged groups back to school, we’ve put together ten free resources. These can be used at home to support your child with different areas of learning. Area of learning: Managing stress and worries Resource: @TheMindfulnessTeacher Age:...

Hook’s Iconic Non-Animated Male Leads for Kids

As promised, following our recent post and in response to The Guardian's top 50 kids' shows to binge over the summer... we have the non-animated male leads. A lot of tough choices and some disagreements here at Hook Towers... especially over The Suite Life of Zack and...

More posts in this category

get a digest of our latest thoughts delivered to your inbox


Don't Miss Out!

Each month, Hook's experts create a roundup of hot takes and insights into the Kids and Media industries...for free!

This information will never be shared with third parties