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New Hire Alert!

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to our newest Market Research Analyst, Sadie Snyder

Sadie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Montclair State University in 2019. When she transferred to MSU, Sadie says she discovered an interest in statistics, which led her to explore the vast research aspects of marketing. After taking classes pertaining to marketing research, she gained foundational skills such as developing questionnaires, analyzing research data, and participating in on-campus focus groups. From there, she discovered her passions for data collection and the identification of trends and patterns within data.

Following MSU, I was looking for my start in marketing research, which lead me here to HCD Research. It was incredible to discover that HCD uses methodologies that weren’t covered in the many classes I took. I’m looking forward to the boundless innovation HCD Research fosters in our team and understanding our processes for projects from start to finish. When the workday ends, I spend my time kayaking, listening to my self-made music playlist (perfect for long road trips or a quick local drive), and going on adventures with my family dog, Peppa.

By building a team of analysts that have demonstrated a passion for consumer insights early on in their careers, HCD takes pride in the caliber of team members we have on staff to provide innovative solutions for challenging research objectives. We’re so excited to see Sadie continue to evolve in the analytics department of Team HCD!

Augmented Reality Market Research: Connect with consumers in the durable goods and CPG markets

Augmented reality (AR) involves the inclusion of virtual elements into a live view of a current, real-world space, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

HCD introduces AR Surveys, a novel market research methodology allowing consumers to respond to digital survey questions while viewing a product or consumer experience through their device’s camera. This use of AR Surveys merges a physical product with a digital landscape to better understand consumer perceptions. It is easy to implement, provides an opportunity for creative insights, and uncovers in-the-moment reactions. It creates a fun and easy opportunity for consumers to evaluate products and experiences in store or at home with their own smartphone or tablet.

AR Surveys can be done virtually anywhere, serving as a non-disruptive shop-along to an easy in-home use test. Rather than communicate with an interviewer, participants can give honest opinions about all types of products without concerns for feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. Similarly, this approach is beneficial for research on more intimate products and gives participants time to think without being rushed. The AR Surveys also gives space for participants to come to their own in-the-moment feedback. This type of survey collects data in real-time or at point-of-purchase, helping participants give top-of-mind answers without any judgment.

From computers to smartphones, screens are embedded in our society and will continue to be one of the lenses in which consumers engage. Using a familiar tool to assess consumer perceptions fosters understanding and truthfulness in the modern world. AR Surveys push the boundaries between naturalistic and controlled research, exposing drivers of decision making by modernizing conventional consumer research with a cost-effective approach.

Meeting consumers in-the-moment with the right tools empowers any research to move forward efficiently by driving meaningful, future innovation. HCD specializes in Consumer Neuroscience and Brand Harmony in addition to Market & Consumer Research. We strive to promote quality research by using the right tools for the right question to ensure that products meet their promise.

If you are interested in learning more about how to use AR Surveys to progress your research, please contact Allison Gutkowski at

New Hire Alert!

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to our newest Market Research Analyst Intern, Isha Deswal

A 2020 graduate from the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program of the University of Pennsylvania, Isha is a human behavior and insights enthusiast. She developed a keen interest in market research after pursuing courses in consumer behavior and data analysis from the Wharton School where she had a chance to work on client projects and case studies. Her experience as a research assistant during both her undergraduate and graduate studies has given her the skills and deep understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Intrigued by HCD’s unique approach to market research through neuroscience and psychology tools, Isha is excited to be able to learn new and different techniques in market research. She aims to apply her existing knowledge and background to contribute to HCD’s mission of employing the most innovative and effective research tools to get the best consumer experience insights.

By supporting students to develop transferable skills and gain knowledge about Applied Consumer Neuroscience, future leaders- like Isha- will be well-equipped to find innovative solutions for challenging questions. We’re so excited to see you continue to grow in the analytics department of Team HCD!

The Brand-Consumer Connection: Finding Loyalty in the Loops

Coauthored by HCD’s VP of Research & Innovation, Michelle Niedziela, PhD, and Manager of Behavioral & Marketing Sciences, Kathryn Ambroze

As seen in the memory issue of NMSBA’s INsights mag…

A positive, personal experience with a brand tailored to habit formation is an effective way to make a product become a household staple. Growing up baking with a certain type of chocolate chip or cleaning with a specific disinfectant spray shapes expectations and acceptability, with the brand being at the cornerstone of the experience. Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) explain how consumers expect a product to perform a certain way based on prior experiences, creating trust and loyalty to that brand of that product. Some brands can become so deeply embedded in consumers’ lives that they act as an extension of self-expression, a representative of who they are (van der Westhuizen, 2018). Through brand loyalty and aversion to ambiguity, consumers bypass unnecessary circumspection in their shopping, gravitating, and depending on the more familiar instead of taking any chances (Muthukrishnan, Wathieu, & Xu, 2009). This intricate relationship between consumers and brands demonstrates the importance of brands in life, impacting daily routines as well as special holiday traditions. Paying attention to changing perceptions, associations, and preferences allows brands to mold to the current needs within consumer habits. By connecting to the consumer at this deep level, brands can be embedded in fond memories, in consumer lifestyles, and ultimately, remembered for future purchases.

Every association counts

Associations, or mental links, are built through experiences. Information from all five senses—touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound—are utilized to learn and create an association profile to better anticipate what to do if a similar situation occurs again in the future. Furthermore, the knowledge obtained helps to predict the best course of action to take for each situation presented. Humans automatically evaluate uncertainty and risk of a situation to prepare an appropriate response. By creating comparisons and associations to minimize uncertainty, individuals gain comfort in making foreign concepts familiar in order to behave accordingly. By validating personal beliefs through meeting expectations, associations are reinforced and replaced..   

A consumer’s interaction with a brand is made up of several components which consist of sensory, behavioral, intellectual, and affective elements (Brakus et al., 2009). Each of these individual facets plays a bigger role in developing the overall perception of the product. Experiencing the brand, either by watching an ad or holding the physical product, allows the consumer to evaluate its ability to meet a need. The information gathered from brand exposure can be stored and later recalled using memory. But, it is through the automatic processing of implicit memory that allows even small encounters or incidental information to impact the way consumers react in the future (Keane, Cruz, & Verfaellie, 2015). For example, seeing fluffy clouds during a pillow commercial may impact the perception of the product’s softness or comfort. Every lived experience can establish an attachment between the two concepts, thus creating a conceptual link in response to the circumstance.

Neural networks, or pathways, communicate and respond to changes in environmental cues (Berkman, 2018). These connections are updating constantly as situations change and more information about an environment is gathered. The neural pathways are not fixed— associations can decay or strengthen over time depending on how frequently they are utilized. More commonly used pathways are stronger and require less effort, thus conserving energy. Memories also link performance to contexts such as people, items, places, or times typically present during the overall repeated experience (Wood, Tam, & Witt, 2005). Brands can become part of a repeated action by fitting in the proper context and bringing value to the experience.

The malleability of the neural pathways creates an opportunity to mold products or messaging to consumer ideals and better align them with the desired experience. Consider the best way to engineer a product to be identifiable and remembered by a consumer. This communication and design strategy should reflect the values and expectations of the consumer, making the product not only more enticing to try, but also encouraging repeat purchases. By designing a product which meets expectations of the consumer, it will more likely avoid reappraisal and create satisfied product experiences.

Let’s make a habit of it

Those repeated actions are frequently performed as habits. Relevant contexts cause certain behaviors to be routinely rehearsed to the point where they becomes automatic. Habits, which often include products or brands, are engrained throughout daily life. By diving into how brands are incorporated into habits, product developers can better innovate to meet and exceed those needs. Improving the products or messaging, strengthens or redirects existing associations to better meet expectations. By embedding the brands into the habit loop, brand innovation can truly impact the consumer lifestyle, since experiences are so interwoven with everyday living.

The habit loops consist of three fundamental components: the cue, routine, and feedback. Cues initiate the habit loop by acting as a trigger for the behavior. A cue can be as obvious as an alarm reminding consumers to restock the toilet paper to something as covert as the delicious smell of freshly baked pretzels pouring out of a bakery. Although both examples insinuate different anticipated outcomes, they change the environment which causes the consumer to react. The response to the cue is the routine which involves some type of expense, such as time or energy. Based on the feedback within the context of the habit, the individual will be motivated to either avoid or repeat this routine in the future. The feedback is what entices or deters the consumer to continue to partake in the routine. Therefore, consumer’s perceived response of the product must be a positive contribution or else the consumer will take preemptive measures, such as buying a competitor product, to prevent the same outcome. Feedback can be anything from a punishment, such as running late to work for hitting snooze, to a reward with a social benefit, such as seeing friends after work. Habits are governed by dopamine release, which is linked to triggering the (good or bad) motivational importance of an environment or context, thus “stamping-in” a memory for future consideration (Wise, 2004; Berkman, 2018).

Figure 1: An example of a habit loop consisting of a cue, routine, and feedback. The cue, or the mess, initiate the behavior to use a cleaning product, ultimately resulting in the feedback, a cleaner space. Credit: HCD Research 

Brand loyalty demonstrates how a product or service can be integrated and reinforced into the habit loop.  The brand can connect with the consumer by contributing to a life experience. The brand identity impacts the overall product experience, which the consumer evaluates to decide if the quality is worth continuing (or discontinuing) in the future.  By fulfilling an unmet need, the brand recognition may resonate with the consumer to encourage purchase intent. The relationship with a brand is impacted by how it’s perceived, making it important to ensure each component of the product experience creates a unified, cohesive message which resonates with the consumer. Using cues, routines, and feedback to understand where the brand can help consumers can be a beneficial strategy for its adoption into regular use. Furthermore, detecting cues in the habit loop can aid in achieving higher-order benefits in emotional and physical well-being through indirect suggestions (aka behavioral nudges). Emphasizing certain perceptions through communications or packaging can build up a consumer’s reason to believe in the product and encourage continued brand loyalty.

If it isn’t broke, improve it.

Memories connect the past to the present. It is through learned associations that habits can link certain triggers to predicted outcomes (Wood et al., 2005). Creating a brand identity to reliably serve a purpose in the consumer’s life allows the brand to take on a role larger than its original purpose. Once the brand is part of a routine, the individual will find comfort in its familiarity and build a connection to the experience. Additionally, if a brand outperforms its competition, it makes sense why the consumer would prefer it within the routine since the outcome creates a greater reward. However, to retain consumer loyalty, the brand must actively work to remain relevant. Checking in to fit the needs of the consumer means a brand must reshape to the new ideals. The brand must evolve to position itself within the habit loops. In consistently having a space in the consumer’s lifestyle, it builds brand confidence. Recalling on past experiences allows consumers to depend on a brand, proving in each purchase brand experience is worth the cost. 


Berkman, E. (2018). The Neuroscience of Goals and Behavior Change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70(1), 28–44.

Brakus, J. J., Schmitt, B. H., & Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand experience: what is it? How is it measured? Does it affect loyalty?. Journal of Marketing73(3), 52-68.

Chaudhuri, A., & Holbrook, M. B. (2001). The chain of effects from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance: The role of brand loyalty. Journal of Marketing, 65(2), 81-93.

Keane, M. M., Cruz, M. E., & Verfaellie, M. (2015). Attention and implicit memory: priming-induced benefits and costs have distinct attentional requirements. Memory & cognition43(2), 216-225.

Muthukrishnan, A. V., Wathieu, L., & Xu, A. J. (2009). Ambiguity aversion and the preference for established brands. Management Science55(12), 1933-1941.

van der Westhuizen, L. M. (2018). Brand loyalty: exploring self-brand connection and brand experience. Journal of Product & Brand Management.

Wise, R. A. (2004). Dopamine, learning and motivation. Nature reviews neuroscience5(6), 483-494.

Wood, W., Tam, L., & Witt, M. G. (2005). Changing circumstances, disrupting habits. Journal of personality and social psychology, 88(6), 918.

NeuroPolitical study investigates nonconscious viewer response to Biden’s Joint Session Speech

On Wednesday, April 28th, the night of his 100th day in office, President Joe Biden delivered his first public address before a joint session of Congress. Biden touched on a wide range of issues in addition to the pandemic, urging Republicans to work with Democrats to address gun violence, climate change, police reform and more.

President Biden received high praise from Democrats on social media as the speech began with more than 250,000 posts related to the address and the hashtag #JointAddress began to trend, along with #HelpIsHere and #PresidentialAddress.

It wasn’t just Democrats who tweeted responses to the speech, Republicans also tweeted and called out President Biden for taking all the credit for the vaccine rollout. The hashtag #OperationWarpSpeed also began to trend on Wednesday.

During his speech, a consortium of market research companies (HCD Research, IVP Research Labs, Shimmer Research, and The Schlesinger Group) alongside an academic partner at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication (Washington State University) leveraged neuroscience measurements to gauge the non-conscious responses of Republican and Democrat viewers. Applied consumer neuroscience allows marketers to identify behaviors and nonconscious responses to communications, media, and experiences through a combination of neuroscientific, psychological, and traditional market research methodologies. Viewers are often unwilling or unable to express themselves when directly asked their opinions;, neuroscientific measures, however, offer an opportunity to uncover these unarticulated reactions via passive, unobtrusive measurement of psychophysiological response. As such, applied consumer neuroscience enables marketers to gain a deeper understanding of even the slightest reactions while viewers make decisions and develop opinions. In a time when the United States seems more divided than ever, HCD Research hopes to better understand emotional reactions that participants may struggle to express vocally.

Neuroscience Analysis of Joint Session Address.

“He’s actually going to get something done,” “Very, very hard to stay awake myself” – These were some of the post-address reactions by participating viewers to President Biden’s address to Congress. Despite what viewers said, neuroscientific measures utilized in this study found that, throughout the speech, Republicans illustrated larger, and more sustained overall reactions to President Biden’s address vis-à-vis Democrats. The divided response is very much a reflection of how divided the United States remains, and therefor shouldn’t be surprising that reactions to the speech were drawn along party lines.

“This Biden speech is just so comfortingly normal,” suggested political commentator Aisha C. Mills (@AishaMoodMills), perhaps suggesting why we observed democrat viewer responses as more reserved.

Participating viewers were connected to biometric sensors measuring their psychophysiological response to the statements, demeanor, and stage movements of President Biden. For this study, we employed Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) using Shimmer NeuroLynQ devices. GSR is a biometric signal that is used to study the autonomic (or psychophysiological, neuro-) activation of sweat glands, where increased sweating (from arousal, or excitement) increases skin conductance (as measured by GSR). Live data showed percent response (high and medium arousal) for each viewer group (Republican and Democrat). GSR measured second-by-second changes of autonomic activation, allowing for both Republican and Democrat viewer segments to be watched in real time on HCD’s YouTube live (view the full recording: ).

Researchers analyzed psychophysiological reactions between Republicans and Democrats during pivotal moments and controversial subjects of President Biden’s speech. Neuro-activity reached one of its highest peaks for Republican viewers during Biden’s mention of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Elections and cyberattacks on American government and business. As President Biden stated, “I made it clear to Putin that we are not going to seek escalation, but their actions will have consequences…,” Republican reaction surged, reaching its height when the President mentioned President Putin by name. Democrats, on the other hand, were only moderately reactive during discussion of Russian interference, reaching a moderate peak when President Biden mentioned President Putin by name.

While Republican viewers maintained elevated response levels throughout most of President Biden’s address, Democrat viewer responses were more sparse. President Biden’s discussion regarding progressive immigration ranked among the top in garnering a noteworthy Democrat reaction. When President Biden mentioned that he “Sent a comprehensive immigration bill to the United States Congress,” Democrat activity soared, resulting in one of the highest sustained response levels of the address for Democrat viewers. Conversely, while Republican activity maintained moderately high reaction levels throughout the subject of progressive immigration, the immigration bill itself only gained a slight moderate response by Republican viewers.

One trend that is important to note was the lack of Republican reaction during discussions on racial equality in America. In fact, as President Biden said, “She looked at me, she said, ‘My daddy changed the world,’” Republican response declined to one of the lowest sustained levels of the address for the Republican segment. Democrat activity maintained moderate levels through this section of President Biden’s speech, increasing only when President Biden mentioned, “We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans,” and then nearly flatlining after President Biden stated “The vast majority of men and women wearing the uniform and a badge, serve our communities and they serve them honorably. I know them…”

During the portion of President Biden’s address where he discussed restricting the ability to own or buy specific types of guns, the Democrat response remained moderately elevated, while Republican viewers demonstrated more activity. Republican viewers were particularly reactive when President Biden argued “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater,” and when he asserted “One of them [actions being taken to impact the gun violence epidemic] is banning so-called ghost guns.”

While discussing bipartisan relations, both Democrat and Republican viewers exhibited elevated activity levels, correlating similarly in time with each other. Republican and, to a smaller degree, Democrat response levels spiked during President Biden’s dialogue on facilitating bipartisan discussion of the American Jobs Plan. Republican reactions also increased when President Biden claimed that “Doing nothing is not an option.” Republican viewers were particularly reactive to the comparison between the competitive nature of America and other nations. Democrat reactions declined considerably as President Biden mentioned his discussions with President Xi Jinping. There was also a distinct lack of significant reaction from both Democrat and Republican viewers when President Biden spoke about bringing troops home from Afghanistan.

Key Take-Away: “America is on the move again.” 

As President Joe Biden took to the stage to give his first public address before a joint session of Congress, biometric sensors measuring psychophysiological response of Democrat and Republican viewers gave deeper insights into the overall experience. Democrat response peaked during a few key portions of the speech, most namely when President Biden discussed progressive immigration reform; however, this study found Republicans were the most reactive. While Democrat Congresspeople and many media news pundits celebrated Biden’s words, there wasn’t nearly as much reaction from democrat viewers.

Dan Merica (@merica), national political reporter for CNN, wrote, “And there is the Biden line that will be played countless times: ‘Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.’ #JointAddress”

Learning what topics do or do not elicit reactions gives researchers and political enthusiasts an interesting window into the viewers’ experience and thinking. Understanding and reading these reactions live during a speech or event may provide key insights that would benefit reporters, media pundits, and enthusiasts. Reactions between party lines are clearly very different to this first address to Congress, perhaps reflective of a still very divided nation. Only time will tell how these perceptions may change over the next four years.  

Be sure to join in next time and stay up-to-date with the latest in applied consumer neuroscience by following us on Twitter (@HCDResearchInc) and subscribing to our YouTube Channel.

If you are interested in learning more about this neuropolitical research, please contact Allison Gutkowski (

New Hire Alert!

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to our newest Market Research Analyst, Aja Allison

Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aja received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and International Relations in 2019 at New College of Florida. While attending New College of Florida, Aja developed a passion for market research and understanding the ways in which consumer behavior drives whole industries. During her junior year, she studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea, where she conducted research into Chinese tourism demand of South Korea as a market destination. Her thesis was later defended before a committee of professors.

Prior to joining HCD, Aja worked as a Research Coordinator for HCP Associates, where she coordinated mixed methodological research including quantitative, qualitative, primary and secondary data, survey design and implementation, and focus group design.

Aja is very passionate about tailoring the wide range of methodologies offered by HCD Research to the unique needs to each individual client. She is looking forward to continuously developing her skills and expanding her knowledge of market research into a variety of industries. In her spare time, Aja enjoys sailing, horseback riding, dancing, and traveling. Her goal is to fill out every page in every passport she has, with varying degrees of success.

Meet Aja…

Hello! My name is Aja Allison. I am a 2019 graduate of New College of Florida, where I conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative research into Chinese tourism demand of South Korea as a market destination. My research in this subject granted me the opportunity to travel abroad in Seoul, South Korea, where I gained first-hand knowledge about the culture I was researching. During my senior year, I built a preliminary South Korean tourism model, deploying several methodologies to illustrate the dependency of South Korean tourism on Chinese demand. It was through this research that I became fascinated by consumer behavior, how and why consumers make choices, and how those choices affect communities, businesses, and whole industries.

Prior to joining HCD Research, I worked as a Research Coordinator at HCP Associates. While at HCP, I very worked closely with senior leadership to support clients from various industries requiring research-related activities and plans. I learned how to implement mixed methodological research (including quantitative, qualitative, primary and secondary data, survey design and implementation, and focus group design) to produce actionable industry insights and recommendations.

I am very excited to be working with HCD and understand the wide range of methodologies the team leverages to support clients. HCD is an incredibly unique company in its culture and commitment to always providing a tailored approach to each client. I am particularly excited to work with the analytics team and their diverse skillset as well as use my background in market research to further the mission of HCD and its clients.

HCD launches On-Demand Implicit Research Tool

HCD expands Subconscious Consumer Research Capabilities with Online Services

Flemington, NJ— Today, HCD Research, a market research company specializing in applied consumer neuroscience, announced the launch of a new on-demand service that gives clients the ability to rapidly design, integrate and report consumers’ automatic perceptions. Built on more than a decade of HCD’s customized solutions utilizing psychological and neuroscientific methods and innovative technologies for market and consumer research, HCD’s Implicit On-Demand will move their implicit services to a quick turnaround, online request format.

“Fast, seamless, implicit.”  The implicit reaction, time-based approach is a subconscious, System 1, psychological method, developed and validated in academic research for uncovering mental biases and associations that participants are not aware of or may have difficult articulating in self-report. HCD’s implicit services embed seamlessly into quantitative and qualitative research designs to reveal subconscious associations influencing consumer perceptions and behaviors which can be run in-person or online. The new Implicit On-Demand tool is designed for high volume and fast turnaround implicit research needs with 24-hour turnaround times for programming and reporting, respectively. While the on-demand tool is designed to run easily and remotely with little help, HCD’s expertise and client services will also be available for design help and learning when requested.

On the utility of the new service, Glenn Kessler, President of HCD, said “There are some segments which require fast turnaround and high volumes research, such as in the product testing area. There is a need for an easy, accessible tool that helps clients get subconscious consumer insights to make better business decisions. Implicit on demand will meet this need”. Moving research design and reporting online will meet the growing need for more online accessible tools.

HCD’s Implicit On-Demand tool will provide:

  • Simple online setup and reporting dashboard
  • 24-hr turnaround programming with survey integration guidance
  • 24-hr turnaround of meaningful and statistical subconscious results

For more information and demo contact Allison Gutkowski (

Norms, Metrics, & Media Madness: Webinar Panel Recap

By Allison Gutkowski & Kristopher Woung-Fallon

Marketers and advertising agencies have always conducted research. For decades, they have also tapped into the methodology and concepts from academic psychology. Traditional marketing research aims at answering questions related to branding, product development, advertising, or evaluating potential new markets. Basically, ask the people in that market what they think, which inherently had its issues. Then, in the 1990s, brain imaging (fMRI) and other neuroscience tools (EEG, etc.) made it possible to visualize the workings of the human brain. With an objective window into the mind (in theory), marketers soon hoped to bypass many of the problems associated with asking subjects overt questions with these tools.

There’s been a lot of chatter since then surrounding the use of neuro-measures in media with the use of metrics and norms for predictive purposes. It begs questions like, are norms a measure of mediocrity? What is a norm during times of global crisis? And, how does the industry’s need for metrics & norms align with neuroscientific output? Or does it?

In the webinar Norms, Metrics, & Media Madness: A Frank Discussion on Norms, Metrics, Neuroscience & Media Testing, we dive into these ideas and more with a panel of experts. Below, we cover several highlights of the live session on this engaging topic within the consumer research industry…

VP of Research & Innovation at HCD Research, Michelle Niedziela, PhD kicks off our panel discussion establishing an understanding of how normative databases are typically applied and defining some of the issues that can come up with their application here:

In this clip, Michelle explains how normative databases are typically used to understand what the general public is currently thinking compared to what they were thinking previously, and how the potential issues highlighted in this clip could drive the consumer experience, meaning that the database may not be as relevant if changes occur within the market.

Norms are somewhat of a “moving target.” Due to these constant changes in the market, there should be an established value in updating them as they evolve versus debating whether they are good or bad.

Watch Raymond Petit, Executive Director of the Masters of Science in Business Analytics at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego, explains this further when calling on the industry to define what a norm truly is scientifically and then upholding normative databases to that standard:

Many companies provide their own metrics and norms that are supposed to be generalized measures. What has been found is that there can be some form of bias. They may not be reflective of the general population or a “true norm.”

Anna Wexler, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania speaks to this point in our panel discussion here:

In this clip, Anna raises the point of potential limitations in consumer neuroscience technology that could exclude specific segments in a given population if not considered, such as hair texture or length within varying demographics.

With neuroscientific measures, it is important to have relative baselines, or comparisons within subject, built into the research design.

Watch Vinod Venkatramann, PhD, Associate Professor in Marketing & Director of the Center for Applied Research in Decision Making at the Fox School of Business, Temple University, explain the value for reference in consumer neuroscience here:

In the context of ad testing, Vinod advises finding what the best reference could be for the kind of test that you are conducting and including those ads into your test, so you have both, how the new category is performing and how the reference fits within the past norms.

Vinod goes further to explain how when doing this you are correcting the individual differences at the physiological level and then looking at the relative change across different ads to see how they compare.

Whether it is pre-pandemic or in today’s new world, we should stop and think about how relevant the norms and metrics we rely on are. What goes into them? How is the data collected? Are they relevant to my product category? Are we seeing the full story?

It is important to critique any norm or metric in this way as many go/no-go decisions are often based on simple scores or comparisons to norms. Understanding potential strengths and limitations of not only the norms and metrics but also the way by which the data is collected, such as the number of electrodes on an EEG headset, will be vital to pressure testing how a norm or metric will work for you and your specific research question. If you are interested in connecting with Team HCD to discuss this trending topic further, please contact Allison Gutkowski (

Student Voices Series

Given the challenges of the current pandemic, students have been limited in immersive experiences globally due to the restrictions placed on in-person interaction. HCD Research sought to host a current student through virtual and project-based experiential learning activities to aid in this need. During the 2021 winter term, we are excited to welcome Alyssa Rotondo, a Muhlenberg College student, as a Scientific Communications Intern!

By supporting students to develop transferable skills and gain knowledge about Applied Consumer Neuroscience, future leaders- like Alyssa- will be well-equipped to find innovative solutions for challenging questions.

Meet Alyssa!

Alyssa Rotondo is a first-year student at Muhlenberg College majoring in Neuroscience on the Pre-Med track. She is originally from New York City but now resides in Holmdel, NJ. With great confidence, she describes herself as a people person and is intrigued by other people’s outlooks and stories. She is especially interested in experiences with people from uncommon backgrounds and environments to gain new and useful perspectives. Her personal passions include a great love of animals, humanity, and nature. 

She chose to pursue the medical field, in particular neuroscience, due to an experience that occurred recently when her grandmother fell victim to Alzheimer’s Dementia. She aspires to utilize ingenuity to confront this affliction, hoping to eradicate, or at least, alleviate this trauma. Through her time spent volunteering for organizations, she has gained insights and discovered that people stand to benefit much when offered comfort. Undoubtedly, Alyssa considers herself a STEM student, and holds in high regard similar disciplines as they provide balance, insight, and purpose as the broad challenges our world faces today demand fresh, bold outlooks. This is why she chose to engage in interdisciplinary studies which require a strong background in the liberal arts and believes that societies will witness true advancements in the future from the merging of contrasting fields from which we will draw upon repeatedly.

In the upcoming weeks, keep an eye out for Alyssa’s contributions to HCD’s “Student Voices” blog posts where she will be covering a variety of topics in the consumer research industry as well as her experience working with our team!