PSYCH 303 Chapter 6: Surveys and Observations- Describing What People Do, Part II

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9 Feb 2017

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Chapter 6: Surveys and Observations- Describing What People Do
Using shortcuts
Response sets, or nondifferentiation
Rather than think carefully about each question, people might answer all of them
positively, negatively, or neutrally—especially toward the end of a long questionnaire
Weaken construct validity because these survey respondents are not saying what
they really think
Acquiescence, or yea-saying
Occurs when people say “yes” or “strongly agree” to every time instead of thinking
carefully about each one
People apparently have a bias to agree with any item, no matter what it states
Threatens construct validity because instead of measuring the construct of true
feelings of well-being, the survey could be measuring the tendency to agree, or
lack of motivation to think and rate carefully
Can be avoided through reverse-worded items
Might slow people down so they answer more carefully
The scale with reverse-worded items would have more construct validity because
high or low averages would be measuring true happiness or unhappiness,
instead of acquiescence
Sometimes results in negatively worded items, which are more difficult to answer
Fence sitting
Playing it safe by answering in the middle of the scale, especially when survey
items are controversial or confusing/unclear
Weakens construct validity when middle-of-the-road scores suggest that some
responders don’t have an opinion when they actually do
Can be fixed by taking away the neutral option through the use of a scale with an
even number of response options, forcing the person to choose one side or the
Drawback is that sometimes people really do not have an opinion or answer, so
for them, having to choose a side is an invalid representation of their truly neutral
Can also be fixed with a forced-choice format, in which people must pick one of
two answers
Reduces fence sitting but can frustrate people who feel their own opinion is
somewhere in the middle of the two options
Trying to look good
Socially desirable responding, or faking good
Because respondents are embarrassed, shy, or worried about giving an unpopular
opinion, they will not tell the truth on a survey or other self-report measure
Similar to faking bad
To avoid faking good, a researcher might ensure that the participants know their
responses are anonymous—perhaps by conducting the survey online, or by having
people put their unsigned response into a closed box
Not the perfect solution because respondents may treat the surveys less seriously
or make people less likely to accurately report a simple behavior
One way to minimize problem is to include special survey items that identify socially
desirable responders with target items
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