A recent study funded by the National Science Foundation revealed that text messages often provide more open and straightforward responses than those given through voice communication.
Cognitive psychologists from the University of Michigan and the New School for Social Research, along with members of AT&T Research, collected text and vocal responses of more than 600 iPhone owners during the study, offering them iTunes credit as compensation for their time. Researchers found that participants responded both more honestly and more precisely when answering simple questions through text message.More honest responses were given via text when participants were asked how often they exercise in a typical week, or how many days they’ve consumed five or more drinks during the past month. The more precise responses corresponded with questions that would regularly prompt a quick rounding of numbers during the fast pace of a verbal conversation, like how many movies they’ve watched in the past month or how many songs they currently have on their iPhone.
“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,” said Fred Conrad, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan. “As a result, respondents are able to take longer to arrive at more accurate answers.”
In addition to text and interviews over the phone, researchers used a computer to ask the same questions, and sometimes interviewed participants with other people in the same room.
One of the key things missing from the information given by the University of Michigan is the age range of texting participants, especially when Conrad believes there could be a connection between ages groups and the way they use smartphones. “What we cannot yet be sure of is who is most likely to be disclosive in text,” he said. “Is it different for frequent texters, or generational, for example?”
The study is expected to be presented at the American Association for Public Opinion Research this week.