May 16, 2012
Shocker: Texting ups truthfulness, new study suggests
Text messaging is a surprisingly good way to get candid responses to sensitive questions, according to a new study to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.
The preliminary results of our study suggest that people are more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews," says Fred Conrad, a cognitive psychologist and Director of the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).
"This is sort of surprising," says Conrad, "since many people thought that texting would decrease the likelihood of disclosing sensitive information because it creates a persistent, visual record of questions and answers that others might see on your phone and in the cloud."
With text, the researchers also found that people were less likely to engage in 'satisficing' – a survey industry term referring to the common practice of giving good enough, easy answers, like rounding to multiples of 10 in numerical responses, for example. "We believe people give more precise answers via texting because there's just not the time pressure in a largely asynchronous mode like text that there is in phone interviews," says Conrad. "As a result, respondents are able to take longer to arrive at more accurate answers.
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