Forgetting From Episodic Memory

Response process: Retrieval
Forgetting From Episodic Memory


  • The longer the time period in question (e.g. 1 year vs. 1 month) the more likely other similar events will have occurred
  • Hard to distinguish details of one event from the others
  • Tend to blend into single generic memory


  • The more time has passed since events occurred, the weaker the memory
  • Forgetting most rapid in period immediately after event experienced
  • Forgetting continues after as many as 50 years(!)

Events vs. Self knowledge

similar_and_regularResponse process: Retrieval
Events vs. Self knowledge

  • Menon (1993) asked respondents to judge the frequency of mundane activities, e.g. snacking, washing one’s hair, etc.
  • Activities occurred on regular or irregular schedule and were similar or dissimilar
  • Predicted most use episodic recall and least use of rates when events distinctive (dissimilar) and irregular; least use of episodic recall and most use of rates when events similar and regular.

cited article:
Menon, G. (1993). The effects of accessibility of information in memory on judgments of behavioral frequencies. Journal of Consumer Research, 20, 431440.

Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys
University of Michigan

Concept Specification: A Common Problem

Concept Specification: A Common Problem:

“The research objectives of many studies are surprisingly ill-defined.

Asking a researcher what exactly should be measured by a question for which purpose frequently elicits vague answers — if not different answers from different researchers involved in the same project!”

Scharwz, N. (1997), Questionnaire Design: The Rocky Road from Concepts to Answers,
in Lyberg et al. Survey Measurement and Process Quality, New York: Wiley

Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys
University of Michigan

Conversational interviewing: Views of Meaning

Conversational interviewing: Views of Meaning

I. Rationale for standardized wording is that meaning resides in words
– If respondents get same words, get same meaning
– Message model (Akmajian et al, 1990)
– Pretesting can remove most comprehension errors

II. Alternative: meaning rests on collaboration
– Participatns must talk about meaning to be sure listener interprets as speaker intends, i.e,, utterance must be grounded
– Collaborative theory (e.g. Clark, 1996)
– Pretesting cannot anticipate mapping ambiguities for the many respondents in a diverse sample; clarification needed IN INTERVIEW.

Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys
University of Michigan

Measurement error: Variance and Bias

precision_recallMeasurement error: Variance and Bias

Questions that increase variance:

  • “How safe do you feel in the area where you live?”

Questions that increase bias:

  • “Would you say the government should force people to have saving accounts?”
  • “Were you aware that fur traders use methods including drowning and bludgeoning in order to save money and avoid damage to the fur?”

Dartboard analogy

accurate, precise

cited by:
Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys
University of Michigan

Stanford, June 2012


Precision of the clinical exam

NLTK book > 3.3 Precision and Recall

Monitoring The Future

B027_ever_tried_to_stop_usingMonitoring The Future
Questionnaire responses from the nation’s high school seniors
Jerald G. Bachman, Lloyd D. Johnston, and Patrick M. O’Malley
Survey Research Center

Published in 2014 by:
Institute for Social Research,
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

cited by:
Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys
University of Michigan