In defense of research participants #MRX

Cry out loud

Yes, I lied.

But let me tell you why.

You assumed that I have 60 minutes with nothing to do today. That the dog doesn’t need walking. That my kids don’t need me to colour with them. That dinner doesn’t need making and the laundry doesn’t need doing and the plugged toilet doesn’t need unplugging.

You assumed that a survey on paper towels is the most interesting thing I will do today. That I have some kind of intimate knowledge and intense emotional attachment to a piece of paper I will use to wipe dog poo off the kitchen floor and baby vomit off my new carpet.

You assumed that I have an internal ruler in my brain that lets me instantly scan 60 lines of text and bubbles and know intuitively which set of bubbles goes with which set off words, and that I knowingly made an error that must be pointed out in huge red bold text like an 8th grade teacher chastising a lazy student.

You assumed that I understand what internal consistency and cronbach’s reliability scores and factor analysis is and therefore I will understand why you have just asked me the same questions 53 times in row with only slightly different wording.

You didn’t bother to consider that I don’t have a car before you asked me 30 questions about my car, that I know the brands of soap in my cupboard when I don’t do the shopping, that I shop around when the closest store is 35 miles away, that there’s no place on the survey for me to disagree or tell you that none of the options you provided reflect my specific situation.

Did I lie? You say yes. I say, what else did you expect me to do?

4 responses

  1. It’s the lies we force people to make which are the saddest. Whilst sloppy routing can cause some issues, though I hope most of us are beyond that now, many more are caused by our assumptions of participants super-human memories (exactly which SKU of paper towel? Within the last year…?) and hyper-rationalised decisions. Is it really a lie if they plain don’t know the answer but can’t progress without entering one? And whilst lie may suggest being purposely misleading, if a bad survey is already forcing someone to make-up answers, repeat the same information and miss their favourite TV show, who can blame them for being less than thorough with their answers just to get the darn thing over with.

  2. An interesting perspective on a long-studied issue. My question is on what do you or we base our judgement that people are lieing? Further, do you believe people lie at the same level on all topics?

    1. I think we often base “lie” on inconsistent answers which are really totally different things. Answers can be inconsistent yet completely accurate. Answers can be accidentally inconsistent as well. The only way I’d really think an answer was a lie is if the intent behind the answer was to lie. “Finally, please indicate whether you purposefully lied on any of the previous questions. (Please disregard any answers where the question did not permit you to answer correctly.)”

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