An evaluation of a cognitive theory of response-order effects in survey measurement

Jon A. Krosnick, Duane F. Alwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

547 Scopus citations


Previous research has documented effects of the order in which response choices are offered to respondents using closed-ended survey items, but no theory of the psychological sources of these effects has yet been proposed. This paper offers such a theory drawn from a variety of psychological research. Using data from a split-ballot experiment in the 1984 General Social Survey involving a variant of Kohn's parental values measure, we test some predictions made by the theory about what kind of response order effect would be expected (a primacy effect) and among which respondents it should be strongest (those low in cognitive sophistication). These predictions are confirmed. We also test the "form-resistant correlation" hypothesis. Although correlations between items are altered by changes m response order, the presence and nature of the latent value dimension underlying these responses is essentially unaffected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-219
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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