Effects of the Wording of a Question on Memory and Response

Essay by anythingaUniversity, Master'sA+, March 2004

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Effects of the Wording of a Question on Memory

Over the years, researchers have examined how the wording of a question can affect an individual's memory. A number of studies were conducted, which focused on the impact question wording, design, suggestibility, and prior experiences have had on a person's ability to recall information. This topic is important to scientific scholars because the results could determine how they phrase their questions for future studies. It is hypothesized that one's memory would become distorted if the questions asked were not clearly presented, causing misinterpretation of the meaning.

According to Robert Baron (2001), the term "memory" is defined as, "Our cognition system for storing and retrieving information, which allows us to remember the past, retain new information, solve problems, and plan for the future" (p.210). Studies have shown that the way questions are worded and the format in which they are presented could cause distortion of memory and inaccuracy of reports (Schwarz, 1999).

The participant must be able to clearly comprehend the literal meaning of key words (Schwarz, 1999; Winkielman et al., 1998).

Researchers have also examined how the wording of one's question could effect the ability to recall a past event or experience. Winkielman et al. (1998) focused on how participants' responses vary among the frequency and duration of the experiences. The wording of time spans need to be clear and precise. It was hypothesized that minor experiences that get people irritated or angry tended to occur more frequently than the major experiences, which do not happen as often (Winkielman et al., 1998). The results supported the predictions that the wording of the questions would influence the participants' ratings of their emotional experiences (Winkielman et al., 1998).

Similar to the study conducted by Winkielman et al. (1998), Powell and Roberts (2002) sought...