People are more likely to answer sensitive questions truthfully in a text message than in a voice interview. And they're also more likely to give more accurate answers to numerical questions by text, according a study just presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.
The researchers are still in the early stages of analyzing their findings. What they're seeing so far is that texting seems to reduce people's tendency to shade the truth or to present themselves in the best possible light to a human interviewer, even when they know that they are texting to a human being.
People are more likely to provide thoughtful and honest responses via text messages even when they're in busy.
People also seem less likely to give simple, easy answers to questions, like rounding off a number to 10, when texting. The researchers think that this is because there isn't the time pressure in typing in a text response that there would be in a phone interview, so people can take longer to think before giving their answer.
For the study, the researchers recruited approximately 600 iPhone-users on Craigslist, through Google Ads, and from Amazon's Mechanical Turk, offering them music download credits as an incentive to participate in the study.
The study sought to test whether people would give the same answer to a question asked by text that they would when the question was asked verbally. It also looked at whether using human or computer questioners changed people's answers, as well as whether the environment, including the presence of other people and the likelihood of the responder multitasking, affected the answers.
Questions that respondents answered more honestly by text include: "In a typical week, about how often do you exercise?" and "During the past 30 days, on how many days did you have five or more drinks on the same occasion?"
Among the questions that respondents answered more precisely via text, providing fewer rounded numerical responses, were: "During the last month, how many movies did you watch in any medium?" and "How many songs do you currently have on your iPhone?"
The study was presented at the 2012 (67th) Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) in Orlando, Florida.