Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Mary J. Levitt

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Hugh Gladwin

Third Advisor's Name

Scott L. Fraser

Fourth Advisor's Name

William M. Kurtines

Date of Defense



Focus groups, a typical market research method used with young consumers, are currently being used with older consumers to identify the needs and desires of this potential market segment. Research suggests, however, that social interaction and risk taking behaviors may be different for older and younger persons. The current practice of using young persons to analyze and interpret the discussions of older focus group members may be a serious methodological error. To test this, twenty young men and women (age range 17-35), and twenty old men and women (age range 65-89) analyzed either videotapes or typed transcripts of focus group discussions held with older persons. It was hypothesized that older adults would analyze and interpret discussions of other older adults differently than would young persons and that videotapes would provide more information, most notably nonverbal cues, than would transcripts. However, results indicate that older and younger analysts did not categorize discussion components differently. Participants did not see, hear, or read different information based on age or form of discussion data used. For ratings of emotions expressed by focus group members and selecting quotes representing group discussions, videotaped discussions appeared to interfere with these tasks. Finally, significant age differences were found for recommendations for marketing the bath system discussed in the focus groups. Older persons were more likely than young persons to choose the two extremes of either marketing the bath with no changes or not putting it on the market at all. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for the conduct of focus groups with older adults, guidelines for the use of videotapes versus typed transcripts in focus group analysis, and the importance of hiring older persons to serve as both moderators and analysts of focus groups held with older adults.



Included in

Psychology Commons



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