Wil Dijkstra, born in Marienbad, Czech Republic, in 1945. Ph.D. from the VU University, Amsterdam. Professor of Methods of Data Collection in the Social Sciences at the VU University, Amsterdam.
Fellow (1 September 2003 – 30 June 2004)
COGNITIVE AND INTERACTIONAL PROCESSES IN SURVEY INTERVIEWS
My research project at the NIAS looked at how unobservable cognitive and social processes govern the (observed) interaction between interviewer and respondent and examined how we can infer which processes are taking place from the behaviour observed. A response to a survey question is assumed to involve a number of steps like understanding the question, retrieval of relevant information from memory, forming a judgment from the retrieved information and formulating a response. Such cognitive processes can be signaled by behaviours such as a request for elucidation, inadequate answers, thinking aloud, etc. In addition, the interaction between respondent and interviewer may also be affected by rules that are common in usual conversation, which might be at variance with the rules of standardized interviewing. During my NIAS stay, a comprehensive theory was formulated which integrated these different aspects and focused on the explanation of particular types of inadequate answers to survey questions. In addition, attention was paid to nonverbal, visual behaviour (like direction of gaze) of both interviewer and respondent. Analyses were performed on a large data set with coded question-answer sequences, using an application of Hidden Markov Models that supported the notion of conversational versus standardized ways of responding to survey questions. Another dataset, with videotaped interviews, was used to obtain more insight into visual behaviours. Analyses showed that particular kinds of respondent gazing were clearly related to how certain respondents felt about their answers. Finally, a field experiment was conducted wherein a number of hypotheses derived from the theory were tested. The results of this study will be analysed during the next few months.