Satisficing in Surveys

Respondents' behaviour during the survey is influenced by various factors: the complexity of the questionnaire, the respondent's ability and the respondent's motivation. In long surveys, respondents often become tired, disinterested, impatient and distracted when completing the survey. This can lead to the respondent starting to answer according to the satisficing theory. Satisficing is an alternative form of behaviour of respondents who lack engagement but still participate in the survey for various reasons (e.g. contract, rewards, feelings of shame, habit, curiosity, etc.).

Whether respondents are completing the survey on a satisficing basis can be identified through various response patterns: the choice of the first answer, the choice of the middle values, the choice of the last answer, random choices, the choice of the final and first values for matrix questions (tables) and the use of the answer 'Don't know', the time of completion of the survey, etc.

Approaches to Reducing Satisficing in Surveys

1. Before data collection:

  • If possible, keep the questionnaire short, keep the questions simple and occasionally include questions where respondents are asked to explain their answer. Put the more important questions at the beginning.
  • Motivation of respondents can be increased by emphasising the importance of the study.
  • We make the survey easier for respondents by reducing the complexity of the wording of questions, avoiding questions about events that would be harder for respondents to recall, rewording complex questions into multiple questions, naming all answers.
  • The satisficing effect can also be reduced by randomising the answers, avoiding table-type questions and questions with non-content answers.

2. During data collection:

  • At the time of data collection, we can monitor the time taken to complete the survey, which, in the event that the survey is completed significantly faster than expected, indicates the possibility of satisficing-based completion. It should be borne in mind that fast completion is not necessarily an indicator of satisficing.

3. After collecting data:

  • After the data collection period, we can remove answers or even whole units from the analysis (or use data insertion methods) where we observe satisficing to improve the quality of the data.

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