Why are you calling me? How study introductions change response patterns.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Research on survey methodology has demonstrated that seemingly innocuous aspects of a survey's design, such as the order of questions, can produce biased results. The current investigation extends this work by testing whether standard survey introductions alter the observed associations between variables.


In two experimental studies, we invited Parkinson's disease (PD) patients to participate in a telephone survey of (a) Parkinson's patients, conducted by a regional medical center, or (b) the general population, conducted by a regional university. The survey in Study 1 (n = 156) first assessed life-satisfaction, and subsequently health satisfaction. In Study 2 (n = 99), we reversed the order of the two questions, asking the health questions first.


When the introduction focused on Parkinson's disease, we observed an increased correlation between life-satisfaction and a later question about health satisfaction (r = 0.34 vs. 0.63 after general population versus Parkinson's introduction, respectively; Study 1). In Study 2, asking the health questions first resulted in high correlations regardless of the introduction; in addition, judgments of life-satisfaction were lower after the Parkinson's-focused introduction.


When participants were informed prior to the survey that its purpose was to examine well-being in PD, health satisfaction was a much more important component of life-satisfaction, accounting for three times as much variation. We hypothesize that the survey introduction primed participants' health status, resulting in an artificially large correlation with life-satisfaction.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Smith, DM; Schwarz, N; Roberts, TR; Ubel, PA

Published Date

  • May 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 15 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 621 - 630

PubMed ID

  • 16688495

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-2649

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0962-9343

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s11136-005-4529-5


  • eng