Conference Programme 2015

Conference floor plans and map
Tuesday 14th July      Wednesday 15th July      Thursday 16th July      Friday 17th July     


Thursday 16th July, 16:00 - 17:30 Room: O-206

Cognition in surveys 2

Convenor Dr Bregje Holleman (Utrecht University )
Coordinator 1Dr Naomi Kamoen (Utrecht University/ Tilburg University)

Session Details

Cognitive research in surveys covers a wide range of approaches. In recent years, various models describing the cognitive processes underlying question answering in standardized surveys have been proposed. A lot of research is guided by the model of question answering by Tourangeau, Rips and Rasinski (2000). This model distinguishes four stages in question answering: (1) comprehension of the question, (2) retrieval of information, (3) deriving a judgment, and (4) formulating a response. In addition, there are dual-process models, such as the satisficing model proposed by Krosnick (1991). In this model, two groups of respondents are distinguished: those who satisfice, and try to do just enough to give a plausible answer versus those who optimize, and do their best to give a good answer.

Cognitive models such as the two described above, have many applications. For example, they help in understanding what is measured when administering surveys, and they provide a point of departure in explaining the wide range of method effects survey researchers observe. Also, cognitive theory in surveys is used by psychologists, linguists and other scholars to obtain a deeper understanding of, for example, language processing, the nature of attitudes, and memory.

Recently, similar cognitive approaches are also used to describe the ways attitudes are formed using standardized surveys. In this type of research, so-called 'decision aids', such as Voting Advice Applications (VAAs), are studied. In VAAs, users answer attitude questions about political issues in order to obtain a voting advice. How do design choices in these decision aids affect users' answers, attitudes and behavioral intentions?

We cordially invite researchers addressing one or more of these topics to submit their papers to this session.

Paper Details

1. Valence framing in Voting Advice Applications (VAAs). Effects on substantive and non-substantive answers.
Dr Naomi Kamoen (Utrecht University)
Mr Jasper Van De Pol (Amsterdam University)
Dr André Krouwel (VU University)
Professor Claes De Vreese (Amsterdam University)
Dr Bregje Holleman (Utrecht University)

In surveys, the choice for a positive vs. a negative question wording affects the answers. People are more likely to disagree with negative questions than to agree with positive ones. Do similar effects occur in VAAs? In a naturalistic field experiment during the Dutch local elections, we varied the polarity of VAA statements. Citizens visiting KiesKompas were randomly guided to different versions.
Analyses show that a significant effect of question wording on the distribution of agree-disagree answers as well as on the proportion of non-substantive (no opinion) answers.



2. Cognitive processes behind question order effects: the case of questions that evaluate similar objects
Ms Vilma Agalioti-sgompou (ISER, University of Essex, UK)

This study focuses on examining whether there is a question order effect when a set of question that evaluates different objects are included in a survey. Using data from the American National Election Study, we test whether the order of the questions that evaluate the presidential candidates (the Republican candidate first and the Democrat second or the opposite) affects response. We report findings that indicate Contrast and Assimilation effects depending on respondent's background (partisanship, gender). We conclude with a discussion on the interplay between respondent's emotional predisposition and cognitive process during survey response.


3. Asked, not answered: on the contextual factors of not declaring a vote choice in a survey context. The case of the Italian General Election of 2013
Dr Stefano Camatarri (University of Milano)

A crucially sensitive topic of Political Surveys is related to voting behavior. Some respondents often try to avoid this kind of question by refusing to answer. This presentation deals precisely with this issue. In fact, it tries to investigate the impact of different factors on such behavioral pattern. Both individual and macro-level data will be used to this end. Indeed, the main objective of the analysis is to show how voters' propensity to declare their vote is not uniquely linked to cognitive predictors like education, but also to the electoral characteristics of the neighborhood in which they are nested.



4. Respondents’ cognitive processing on school self-evaluation surveys
Mr Jerich Faddar (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
Professor Jan Vanhoof (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
Professor Sven De Maeyer (University of Antwerp, Belgium)

Drawing on the framework of cognition in surveys, cognitive validity can be described as the degree to which respondents construe survey items as intended by the survey developers. Based on the hypothesis that school self-evaluation surveys are vulnerable concerning the cognitive validity, due to abstract educational concepts and the need for higher-level thinking, this study examines to what extent school self-evaluation surveys are cognitively valid. Results from 20 cognitive interviews with school staff give more insight in the cognitive validity of results out of SSE-instruments, and the issues respondents are struggling with during the answering process.


5. Issue framing in online Voting Advice Applications
Mr Jasper Van De Pol (Amsterdam University)
Dr Naomi Kamoen (Utrecht University)
Dr André Krouwel (VU University)
Professor Claes De Vreese (Amsterdam University)
Dr Bregje Holleman (Utrecht University)

Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) are very popular web applications offering voting recommendations to their users. These recommendations are based on the attitudes people give to a survey containing policy statements. In a field experiment, we studied to what extent people change their attitude depending on the way these statements are framed, and whether this effect is moderated by attitude strength. VAAs form a context in which response effects like these will have direct practical relevance: if people change their attitude to policy statements they will receive a different voting advice, which has shown to affect vote choice in some circumstances