New Publication in Survey Research Methods

Memory Effects: A Comparison Across Question Types by Rettig, Blom & Höhne


A crucial assumption of survey measurements is that respondents carefully perceive, reflect upon, and provide a response to a given question and that this process is independent of respondents’ memory of their responses to previous questions. A violation of this assumption may considerably affect parameter estimations. Despite this possibility, there is little research on when and to what extent such violations occur. To shed light on such memory effects, we investigate the ability of respondents to recall their answers to three types of survey questions (attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs) within one wave of an online panel survey. We find that respondents’ ability to recall their answers is highest for behavior questions and lowest for belief questions, and higher for respondents with extreme responses than respondents with non-extreme responses. We find no difference across respondents with different levels of panel experience and the devices used to complete the survey.

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