Philip K. Dick, American science fiction writer, once said, ?The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.? Although Dick wasn?t talking specifically about surveys, this idea applies to plasticity and priming responses in surveys, since the wording of surveys can greatly influence the results. It is interesting to consider exactly how these two biases affect survey results, how they occur in the first place, what the consequences are, and how their effects can be minimized. The manipulation of surveys, whether intentional or due to inadequate editing, has the potential to shift the results of important surveys, which has the potential to affect a lot of people.
[...] Those who are involved with writing surveys need to carefully consider the order and phrasing of their questions, and anticipate how respondents may think about the survey. By investing sufficient time in carefully shaping the survey to be as neutral as possible, and then having several people proofread the questions, the effects of plasticity and priming responses will be greatly reduced. This is an important goal, since these conditions can drastically manipulate the results of surveys. This could ultimately suggest conclusions that don't support the respondents true opinions, which then could lead to actions that are counterproductive. Works Cited Bishop, George F., Robert W. Oldendick, Alfred [...]
[...] For example, a study by Rugg asked, you think that the United States should allow public speeches against democracy” and you think that the United States should forbid public speeches against democracy.” For the first question of the responders said that the US should not allow these speeches. For the second question, only 46% said that the US should forbid these speeches. Although the two questions ask the exact same thing, there is a huge discrepancy in opinion. Because many people associate a loss of freedom with forbidding anything, they're far less likely to support a question phrased with a forbiddance of anything (Plous 68-69). [...]
[...] Similar to how plasticity affects surveys, it is just as easy to let priming responses manipulate the results of a survey. The phrasing used in the introduction of a survey, or the questions of the survey, have the potential to put the respondents in a particular state of mind that will affect their answers. To demonstrate this, John Bargh created a study where individuals had to walk into an office and unscramble 10 short sentences from a sheet of paper. [...]
[...] to their papers the news as they see When the questions were asked in this order of the respondents said Americans should be able to report from Communist countries and 75% supported Communist reporters coming to the US. However, when the order of the questions was reversed, only 55% agreed that Communists should be able to report from the US, and only 64% said American reporters should go to Communist countries to report (Plous 52-53). Thus, you can see that asking the exact same questions in a different order had a huge affect in how people responded. [...]
[...] They then used different verbs to describe the car crash and asked the respondents to estimate the speed of the vehicles. When they used “contacted,” the mean speed estimate was 31.8 mph. gave a mean speed of 38.1 mph and “smashed” resulted in 40.8 mph. Thus, the more drastic language resulted in respondents recalling a more drastic car crash. If surveys are trying to prove a drastic point, extreme language in the questions could manipulate the results to support that point. [...]
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