Visual Techniques

3.5.1 The Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET)

The Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) is a patented research tool, developed by Gerald Zaltman, Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration and a member of Harvard University's interdisciplinary initiative, "Mind, Brain, and Behavior." ZMET leverages knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines, including cognitive neuroscience, neurobiology, art and literary criticism, visual anthropology, visual sociology, semiotics, the philosophy of mind, art therapy, and psycholinguistics. Its principles have special relevance to the complex issues of multifunctional products. ZMET works with visual imagery. Its core premises are as follows:

• Most social communication is nonverbal.

• Thoughts occur as images.

• Metaphors are central to cognition.

• Cognition is grounded in embodied experience.

• Deep structures of thought can be accessed.

• Reason, emotion, and experience commingle.

ZMET is an interactive technique that uses an assortment of visual images collected by the research subjects themselves. The researchers guide the subjects through a series of probes and in-depth analytical conversations, based on the pictures. The images chosen by the subjects are metaphors for their thinking and they elicit deep, previously untapped thoughts and emotions. ZMET brings unarticu-lated needs to the surface of awareness, revealing new opportunities for product developers.

3.5.2 Visual Streaming®

Visual Streaming is a technique developed by SPWI that is used both for research and for ideation. Like ZMET, Visual Streaming uses visual images as key tools. Subjects are shown a continuous stream of visual images in video, film, or slide format, and asked to respond to a series of questions as they watch. The visual images serve to trigger both unarticulated thoughts and new conceptual connections. Once the subjects have completed the series, a specially trained facilitator leads them in a discussion, seeking to clarify, qualify, expand, and flesh out their answers.

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