When it comes to biometrics, stimuli are the items used to evoke a reaction from participants or respondents in a study. Stimuli may come in a range of formats including audio, visual or physical.
So what is stimulus? Stimuli (or stimulus in singular form) are the bedrock of the research study. It’s vital to understand what the stimulus is, and how to utilize it most effectively.
The purpose of the selected stimulus should be to make the research scenario more engaging and interactive for participants, and should mirror real- life as much as possible.
It should also narrow the focus to the research question at hand, without requiring too much prompting.
An example of a stimulus being employed to great effect might be a study whereby eye tracking is used to identify the new brand logo design customers are most interested in. In this case, the stimuli would be the logos that are presented to respondents with their response measured by eye gaze.
Stimuli may also be used in a clinical research setting. For example, following a treatment intervention for achluophobia (fear of the dark) a participant may be exposed to a dark room with his or her bodily response being captured using GSR (Galvanic Skin Response). In this case, the dark room acts as the stimulus.
How to select and use stimuli?
- Fit the hypothesis
The obvious starting block for any research is the hypothesis. Make sure the stimulus chosen addresses the specific research question closely.
- Make it realistic
In order to make your findings as transferable as possible, make sure the stimulus resembles its real-life counterpart. For example, if you are presenting a participant with a new print advertisement, make sure the color scheme of the sample stimulus is exactly the same as the one the customer will actually be exposed to. The range of virtual technology currently available makes simulating real- life experiences and stimuli more possible than ever.
- Use Integrated software
It makes sense to present your stimuli and measure responses from the same platform. This not only makes the entire process easier and more streamlined, but can add exciting new dimensions to your study. Single platforms are available that provide both biometric sensors and stimuli presentations.
- Use real time synchronization to observe responses
When you conduct a study, the moment of truth is often seeing the response to your stimulus, usually in the data analysis stage. Now however, technology has advanced to the stage where you can witness the response in real- time by observing sensory inputs.
To enhance your use of stimuli seek out software capable of providing this function.
Stimulus Software available
iMotions offers a wide range of software that can enhance your stimulus use.
The integrated platform can present respondents with a range of high- quality visual stimuli including images, videos and screen recordings.
In terms of Human Computer Interaction and measuring factors such as website usability for example, iMotions software provides a seamless flow between study, stimuli and respondent setup. This provides a comprehensive overview of the participant’s response to the website or app.
Understanding your stimuli and using them effectively is a vital part of biometrics (take a look at some of our other tips to make your biometric study a winner!).
There are some truly exciting new avenues available to researchers looking to enhance their use of stimuli and iMotions are on the cutting edge of this technology.