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Title The Relations Among Different Cognitive Shortcuts in Surveys
Year 2013
Access date 31.05.2013

This paper examines the issue of whether some respondents are consistently “bad” respondents, who use a variety of methods to get through a questionnaire quickly and provide data of dubious value. We examine a wide range of cognitive shortcuts, including choosing the first and last response options, yea-saying, giving don’t know and no opinion responses, nondifferentiation among answers to similar questions, reporting numerical answers as round values, and selecting status quo responses. Some of these are forms of survey satisficing but others are not. The data include responses from national face-to-face, telephone, and Web surveys. Across all three modes, we find little evidence that respondents who exhibit a high rate of shortcuts in the first half of a questionnaire also exhibit a high rate in the second half. In addition, we find weak correlations among the various forms of shortcutting. It could be that respondents have preferred modes for coping with the demands of survey questions, with some preferring DK responses, others non-differentiation, and still others yea-saying. Another possibility is that item characteristics (which affect how interesting and difficult an item is for different respondents) play a more important role in determining the level of shortcutting than respondent characteristics. A final possibility is that these shortcuts do not represent a single phenomenon, but are at best loosely related strategies for dealing with survey questions. We do not find consistent relations between any respondent variables (such as educational attainment) and any of our measures of the use of shortcuts.

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Year of publication2013
Bibliographic typeConferences, workshops, tutorials, presentations

Web survey bibliography (4086)