capture thoughtsOne of the main issues with data capture solutions such as online forms or written surveys is that there’s no guarantee your audience will give you an honest, unvarnished answer. People can be quite guarded when questioned for the purposes of research, a survey or an audit, and any dishonest or inaccurate responses could affect the validity of your results. So, short of hooking your audience up to a polygraph machine, is it possible to get truly honest sentiment data when questioning employees or the general public?


Amazingly, some researchers have been looking at means of solving this very problem by digitally reconstructing images taken directly from the brain. Using fMRI scanners, scientists have been able to record the brain’s responses when confronted with visual stimuli, eventually cross-referencing them against a catalogue of images in order to recreate – to a fair degree of accuracy – what the brain actually ‘sees’. It’s a remarkable technological breakthrough, and particularly so if the data capture technology were to be taken to its logical conclusion…


Visualised responses

Currently, when you ask someone a question to your survey, their brain may conjure an immediate, truthful response. This response isn’t necessarily the one that you’ll be given, however. The thought is first allowed to pass through a number of mental filters: ‘how will the response make me look’, ‘how will this response affect the results of the survey’, ‘do I really want to share that information with a stranger?’, et cetera. If we were one day able to completely visualise an individual’s thoughts, we’d never again fail to receive accurate responses, as the true information would be right there on the screen for all to see.


Earlier, we asked whether there was a means of capturing accurate sentiment data short of hooking your subjects up to a polygraph machine. The idea of actually visualising a subject’s thoughts, however, is far more morally problematic than even the aforementioned lie detector test! This technology is very much in its infancy, and there remains to be a means of capturing thoughts and sentiment beyond ‘simple’ visualisations from another stimulus. There are also many who would argue that the ability to pry directly into someone’s brain is a power that no-one should be able to wield, and it seems unlikely that any audience sample would willingly subject themselves to such a process for the purposes of your survey alone. So, is there a means of capturing the thoughts of your audience without using such intrusive tactics?


A simpler sentiment-capturing solution

If you ask us, natural language processing is the answer to your problems. When people write letters, Facebook posts, Tweets and other more immediate forms of communication, they’re far more likely to offer an honest thought or appraisal than if they were simply ticking a box on your online form. Capturing this natural language can be extremely difficult, however, as the phrases, vocabulary and sheer quantity of words on forums such as social sharing sites makes extracting any relevant meaning from your responses extremely time-consuming. Fortunately, it is now possible to automate this process, allowing an automatic data capture tool to isolate the relevant words and phrases before presenting them to you in a transparent, intelligible way. If you want to capture the thoughts of your audience more accurately this year, make the most of our text analytics and natural language processing software to put your faith in science, rather than science fiction!