Basic and Applied Memory Research: Practical Applications - Vol. 2

By Douglas J. Herrmann; Cathy McEvoy et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN The Use of Strategic Processes by Survey Respondents

Gordon B. Willis National Center for Health Statistics Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A key issue in the field of applied cognitive psychology is the extent to which individuals use strategies in completing various cognitive tasks. In general, mental tasks can be considered to be either strategy free or strategy intensive ( Campione, Brown, & Bryant, 1985). From the point of view of those who strive to improve human performance on cognitive tasks, a focus on these as either strategy free or strategy intensive gives rise to fundamentally different intervention approaches. This chapter details the application of these approaches to the area of survey methodology, which endeavors to lead respondents to provide accurate information on survey questionnaires. Answering survey questions is assumed here to be heavily cognitively based, as proposed by many authors ( Cannell, Miller, & Oksenberg, 1981; Hippler, Schwarz, & Sudman, 1987; Jabine, Straf, Tanur, & Tourangeau, 1984; Moss & Goldstein, 1979). I consider the task of answering these questions to be either strategy free or strategy intensive, and discuss the ramifications of each viewpoint, for the purposes of actively taking steps to improve respondent performance.


THE STRATEGY-FREE VIEW OF SURVEY RESPONDING

One view of a survey question such as: "How many times have you been to the dentist in the past two years?" would be to consider this as requiring simply what Reder ( 1987) labeled direct retrieval of information, without

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