By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
The Superbowl is now over, the Seahawks are victorious, and now it is time for the traditional post-game attention to turn toward the commercials (especially for Broncos fans). This year, the winner in the most-discussed category seems to be the Budweiser commercial featuring the heartwarming bond between dog and horse. And we actually knew that before the ad's 'debut' during the game because of the publicity in advance. There were also sites like this one allowing viewers to not only see and rate each of the ads, but also to use dial and slider technology to provide a continual response, so we know exactly when our collective "awww" is elicited during the horse and puppy commercial.
These kinds of response systems, variously known as 'continual response,' 'real-time response,' or simply 'dial testing,' are applied in other settings. We've seen them scrolling across the bottom of the screen during some political debates, for example, and they're also used in many higher-end mock trials. The fit, at least on face, would seem to be clear: If you want exact feedback based on specific pieces of evidence, individual legal arguments, and distinct rhetorical moments, why not put a dialer in your mock jurors' hands and see what works? Because Persuasion Strategies counts itself among the more comprehensive and cutting edge mock trial service providers, we are often asked, "Do you use those dial thingies during your mock trial?" Our answer has always been, "No, we don't." The reasons for that come down to the fact, based on the best information coming from sources other than companies trying to sell the technology, that the devices offer more gimmick than gain, and pose serious questions about whether they're measuring a real reaction or whether they're creating a reaction to measure. In this post, I aim to put together my best explanation for our choice to avoid it, and the best reasons for others to be at least skeptical of the dials.