ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Using Second Life to Conduct Cognitive Interviews

Elizabeth Dean, Frederick G Conrad, Brian Head

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 5 - Law Building, Room 020
Date: 2012-07-11 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-12


Cognitive interviewing methodology allows survey designers the opportunity to identify errors in surveys by administering probes and think-aloud techniques to highlight cognitive thought processes involved in answering survey questions. Cognitive interviewing is typically dependent on recruiting participants who meet the various criteria of interest for the questionnaire to be tested, are geographically accessible to survey methodologists pretesting the questionnaire, and are willing to come into a survey lab environment at an agreed upon time for an up to 2 hour interview for a token incentive. Digitally networked technologies have now become so widely available, however, that they offer the potential to overcome the some of the geographic and logistical limitations of more traditional cognitive interviewing procedures. The virtual world Second Life, in which users develop self-representative avatars and interact with other users for socializing, gaming, and entertainment, may provide a context-rich environment for conducting cognitive interviews. This study evaluates the quality, efficiency and utility of conducting cognitive interviews via avatars using voice chat in Second Life, using metrics such as the total number of problems identified in the questionnaire, the qualitative variety of problems identified in the questionnaire, total number of questions identified with problems, overall length of interview, and word counts of participant’s reports. Since a Second Life user population will need to be recruited in order to take advantage of the technological and cultural features of Second Life, a comparison group of cognitive interviews will be conducted with recruits from the same Second Life user population but using the video calling software Skype. The use of Skype will allow mirroring of a real world face-to-face interview, while accessing the same geographically dispersed, technologically familiar Second Life population. Previous research suggests that Second Life will provide a viable source of research participants for quick-turnaround cognitive interview data collection.