Effects of Survey Modality and Access Controls on Perceived Anonymity and Socially Desirable Responding

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Title: Effects of Survey Modality and Access Controls on Perceived Anonymity and Socially Desirable Responding
Author: Whelan, Thomas James
Advisors: Lori Foster Thompson, Committee Chair
Mark A. Wilson, Committee Member
Adam W. Meade, Committee Member
Abstract: The comparison of traditional and computer-based survey formats has received considerable attention in past research, along with questions about the effects of anonymity on the candor of survey respondents. As computerized survey methodologies have evolved, the Internet has presented researchers with an alternative to paper-and-pencil survey administration, although it may also pose problems of sampling (i.e., ensuring that respondents are from the target population). Access controls have been suggested as a way to deal with sampling problems, though the impact of access controls on respondents has not been fully investigated. While many survey sponsors make assurances to respondents as to the anonymity afforded to them, some have argued that access controls may undermine these assurances. In this study, the construct of anonymity perceptions are defined and subsequently examined in several survey contexts that vary in terms of survey modality (i.e., paper versus Web) as well as the style of access control implemented. Respondents (N = 264) were asked to complete an instructor evaluation and university climate survey. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of four survey conditions: Paper-and-pencil, Web-based with no access controls, Web-based with group access controls, and Web-based with individual access controls. This study did not find significant differences between survey conditions for perceptions of anonymity or impression management. In addition, perceptions of anonymity were not found to be significantly related to response distortion, contrary to research hypotheses based on previous empirical and theoretical research. The implications for examining anonymity as a subjective, rather than objective, factor in future survey research are discussed.
Date: 2008-04-25
Degree: MS
Discipline: Psychology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/2828


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