ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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The respondents cognitive needs and the applicability of calendar methods

Wander van der Vaart

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 8 - Law Building, Room 100
Date: 2012-07-11 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2012-05-15


Despite the popularity of aided recall applications, such as calendar methods, it largely remains unclear what factors can be utilized in ‘tailoring’ these tools to the target population and improve their effectiveness. Since calendar methods usually add properties and procedures (like a graphical grid, landmarks and instructions) to a question list, these methods might also involve a rather complex task for the respondent. The ability of respondents to handle calendar methods might influence their effectiveness. The present paper examines this issue by relating the impact of a calendar application to respondent characteristics and characteristics of the recall task.
First off all, it is expected that the impact of the calendar method depends on the respondents ‘need for cognition’, i.e., their tendency to engage in effortful cognitive endeavors. Furthermore, it is predicted that ‘need for cognition’ is related to the number and types of landmark events that respondents use as calendar recall aids, and to the impact of these landmarks on data quality.
The data stem from a field experiment on a calendar application that was embedded in a standardized telephone survey regarding purchase behavior of clients of opticians. Respondents’ retrospective reports, about purchases of lenses and pairs of glasses during a reference period of seven years, are compared to the optician database information regarding numbers, prices and dates. In addition the numbers and types of landmark events were established.
Differences in recall accuracy between the calendar condition and the question list condition are related to the respondents ‘need for cognition’, the difficulty of the recall task, the use of landmarks and socio-demographic characteristics. Conclusions will be drawn on what factors are important in developing tailor-made calendar methods and how this knowledge can be applied to other aided recall tools.