Response of Sensitive Behaviors to Frequent Measurement

Publication Abstract

Axinn, William G., Elyse A. Jennings, and Mick P. Couper. 2015. "Response of Sensitive Behaviors to Frequent Measurement." Social Science Research 49:1-15.

We study the influence of frequent survey measurement on behavior. Widespread access to the Internet has made important breakthroughs in frequent measurement possible—potentially revolutionizing social science measurement of processes that change quickly over time. One key concern about using such frequent measurement is that it may influence the behavior being studied. We investigate this possibility using both a population-based experiment with random assignment to participation in a weekly journal for twelve months (versus no journal) and a large-scale, population-based, journal-keeping study with weekly measurement for 30 months. Results reveal few of the measured behaviors are correlated with assignment to frequent measurement. Theoretical reasoning regarding the likely behavioral response to frequent measurement correctly predicts domains most vulnerable to this possibility. Overall, however, we found little evidence of behavioral response to frequent measurement.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.07.002

PMCID: PMC4247852