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Users surprisingly candid in SMses


2 May 2011
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WASHINGTON: Surprisingly, text messaging seems to evoke more truthful responses to sensitive questions, according to a new study.

"The preliminary results of our study suggest that people are more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews," says Fred Conrad, cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"This is sort of surprising," says Conrad, "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."

With text, researchers also found that people were less likely to engage in 'satisficing' - a survey industry term referring to the common practice of giving good enough, easy answers, like rounding to multiples of 10 in numerical responses, for example, according to a Michigan statement.

"We believe people give more precise answers via texting because there's just not the time pressure in a largely asynchronous mode like text that there is in phone interviews," says Conrad. "As a result, respondents are able to take longer to arrive at more accurate answers."

Conrad conducted the study with Michael Schober, professor of psychology at Michigan and cognitive psychologists, psycholinguists, survey methodologists and computer scientists, as well as collaborators from AT&T Research.

"We're in the early stages of analysing our findings," says Schober. "But so far it seems that texting may reduce some respondents' tendency to shade the truth or to present themselves in the best possible light in an interview - even when they know it's a human interviewer they are communicating with via text.

Researchers recruited approximately 600 iPhone-users on Craigslist, through Google Ads, and from Amazon's Mechanical Turk, offering them iTunes Store incentives to participate in the study.

These findings will be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

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