Survey research

Annu Rev Psychol. 1999:50:537-67. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.50.1.537.


For the first time in decades, conventional wisdom about survey methodology is being challenged on many fronts. The insights gained can not only help psychologists do their research better but also provide useful insights into the basics of social interaction and cognition. This chapter reviews some of the many recent advances in the literature, including the following: New findings challenge a long-standing prejudice against studies with low response rates; innovative techniques for pretesting questionnaires offer opportunities for improving measurement validity; surprising effects of the verbal labels put on rating scale points have been identified, suggesting optimal approaches to scale labeling; respondents interpret questions on the basis of the norms of everyday conversation, so violations of those conventions introduce error; some measurement error thought to have been attributable to social desirability response bias now appears to be due to other factors instead, thus encouraging different approaches to fixing such problems; and a new theory of satisficing in questionnaire responding offers parsimonious explanations for a range of response patterns long recognized by psychologists and survey researchers but previously not well understood.