There is no doubt that the popularity of Check all that Apply (CATA) questions in consumer research is increasing and the apparent simplicity of the technique makes it easy to see why.
Also known as Tick all that Apply (TATA), CATA offers a simple way for us to investigate ‘why’ people like or do not like a product. The alternatives are open-ended questions – laborious to code and often returning lack of consensus and limited insight – or a long series of pre-determined intensity and Just about Right scales. The disadvantage of long lists of scales is that each scale requires a response whether the attribute in question is of relevance to the respondent or not. This creates noise in the data and long questionnaires make for tired and bored consumers. CATA serves to provide a compromise here – respondents are presented with a pre-determined list of terms but only have to check, or tick, those that they consider applicable to the test product. No measure of intensity is required and if a term is not relevant, it can be ignored. The provision of a list of words can be helpful to those respondents who find it difficult to verbalise their perception.
CATA can be applied to any product. The terms used in CATA lists can be purely sensory (sweet, bitter, crunchy); emotional (fresh, energising) or functional (good for breakfast; energy giving). With sensory terms there is also the possibility to explore the ideal e.g. too sweet or not crunchy enough.
CATA data is amenable to statistical interpretation. Analysis can be carried out to determine if samples are different and characterise the nature of the differences. Penalty analysis and even Preference Mapping, have been applied to CATA data in order to understand how a product can be improved to maximise acceptability.