Applying Q-Methodology to Investigate People’ Preferences for Multivariate Stimuli

Abstract

This article serves as a step-by-step guide of a new application of Q-methodology to investigate people’s preferences for multivariate stimuli. Q-methodology has been widely applied in fields such as sociology, education and political sciences but, despite its numerous advantages, it has not yet gained much attention from experimental psychologists. This may be due to the fact that psychologists examining preferences, often adopt stimuli resulting from a combination of characteristics from multiple variables, and in repeated measure designs. At present, Q methodology has not been adapted to accommodate. We therefore developed a novel analysis procedure allowing Q-methodology to handle these conditions. We propose a protocol requiring five analyses of a decision process to estimate: the preference of stimuli, the dominance of variables, the individual differences, the interaction between individual differences and preference, and the interaction between individual differences and dominance. The guide comes with a script developed in R to run the five analyses; furthermore, we provide a case study with a detailed description of the procedure and corresponding results. This guide is particularly beneficial to conduct and analyze experiments in any research on people’s preferences, such as experimental aesthetics, prototype testing, visual perception, etc.

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