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Cognitive burden of survey questions and response times: a psycholinguistic experiment

[journal article]

Lenzner, Timo; Kaczmirek, Lars; Lenzner, Alwine

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Please use the following Persistent Identifier (PID) to cite this document:http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-401575

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Abstract An important objective in survey question design is to write clear questions that respondents find easy to understand and to answer. This contribution identifies the factors that influence question clarity. Theoretical and empirical evidence from psycholinguistics suggests that specific text features (e.g., low-frequency words, left-embedded syntax) cause comprehension difficulties and impose a high cognitive burden on respondents. To examine the effect of seven different text features on question clarity, an online experiment was conducted in which well-formulated questions were compared to suboptimal counterparts. The cognitive burden of the questions was assessed with response times. Data quality was compared in terms of drop-out rates and survey satisficing behavior. The results show that at least six of the text features are relevant for the clarity of a question. We provide a detailed explanation of these text features and advise survey designers to avoid them when crafting questions.
Keywords questionnaire; survey; response behavior; understanding; language; cognition; psycholinguistics; survey research; data quality
Classification Science of Literature, Linguistics; Applied Psychology; Methods and Techniques of Data Collection and Data Analysis, Statistical Methods, Computer Methods
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
Page/Pages p. 1003-1020
Journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24 (2010) 7
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acp.1602
ISSN 1099-0720
Status Preprint; peer reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications