Design of Web Questionnaires: An Information-Processing Perspective for the Effect of Response Categories

Vera Toepoel, Corrie Vis, Marcel Das, and Arthur van Soest Design of Web Questionnaires: An Information-Processing Perspective for the Effect of Response Categories  Sociological Methods & Research 2009 37: 371-392.

In this article, an information-processing perspective is used to explore the impact of response categories on the answers respondents provide in Web surveys. Response categories have a significant effect on response formulation in questions that are difficult to process, whereas in easier questions (where responses are based on direct recall) the response scales have a smaller effect. In general, people with less cognitive sophistication are more affected by contextual cues. The Need for Cognition and the Need to Evaluate indexes for motivation account for a significant part of the variance in survey responding. Interactions of ability to process information and motivation combine in regulating responses for questions that are more difficult to process. The results hint at a substantial role of satisficing in Web surveys.

Key Words: response effects • satisficing • need for cognition • need to evaluate • Web surveys

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