NEWS24 May 2012

Txt answrs trthfl, say academics

North America

US— Respondents are more likely to be candid when they answer questions by text message, according to a study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Fred Conrad, director of the social methodology programme at the university, said: “The preliminary results of our study suggest that people are more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews.

“This is sort of surprising since many people thought that texting would decrease the likelihood of disclosing sensitive information because it creates a persistent, visual record of questions and answers that others might see on your phone and in the cloud.”

Conrad and the other researchers found that respondents were also less likely to engage in “satisficing”, the practice of picking easy answers, which they put down to the lack of time pressure that can be present in phone interviews.

Respondents were more honest when asked about subjects such as how often they had been to the gym or how often they had had more than five drinks over the course of an evening.

The researchers are in the early stages of analysing the results of the survey, but Conrad said “so far it seems that texting may reduce respondents’ tendency to shade the truth”.

Conrad and his team carried out the survey with 600 iPhone users on Craigslist, and asked the same questions via both text and the telephone.