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Qual Health Res. 2012 Oct;22(10):1414-24. doi: 10.1177/1049732312452935. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Using the associative imagery technique in qualitative health research: the experiences of homecare workers and consumers.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana 47306, USA.


The associative imagery technique is a qualitative tool with which researchers use carefully selected photographs or images to trigger participants' responses to explain difficult behavioral and social concepts. In this article, we describe the development and implementation of the associative imagery method in focus groups to understand the complex relationships between homecare workers and their clients as part of a larger health and safety intervention project conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. A total of 116 homecare workers and clients were recruited for the study. We found that participants used images mainly in two ways. First, the images served to remind participants of specific persons, events, and/or objects. Second, the images facilitated recollections and reflections that allowed participants to metaphorically describe their experiences, feelings, and emotions. Both usages of imagery generated comments that answered the research question in a more relevant, descriptive, and vivid way.

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