Satisficing or Anchoring? Investigating the Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying Response Effects in Online Surveys (303616)*Nick Allum, University of Essex
Valerija Kolbas, University of Essex
Keywords: measurement, response effects, satisficing, anchoring
Respondents’ answers to survey questions are influenced by both the ordering of response alternatives and the order in which questions are asked in a questionnaire. Ample evidence that such response effects exist is available. However, the cognitive mechanisms underlying such response effects are not always clear. This study examines two putative mechanisms hypothesized to underlie response effects that arise when the characteristics of preceding questions appear to influence answers to subsequent items. Drawing on data from a set of online experiments, we examine the extent to which satisficing or anchoring are more plausible explanations for observed response effects. In particular, we examine the tendency to shift towards an initially selected scale point in subsequent responses under differing conditions. We examine moderators such as need for cognition, cognitive reflection, age and education, typically associated with satisficing alongside personality traits agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness, more readily associated with anchoring, to infer which mechanism is the more plausible under which conditions.