2010-2011 Winter

Mario Callegaro, Survey Research Scientist at Google, Inc.

January 10, 2011

A meta-analysis of experiments manipulating progress indicators in online surveys

ABSTRACT: The use of progress bars seems to be standard in many online surveys; researchers hope that using a progress bar helps increasing response rates by reducing drop-off rates. However, there is no clear consensus in the literature regarding its effect on survey drop-off rates. In this meta-analysis we analyzed so far 20+ randomized experiments comparing drop-off rates of an experimental group who completed an online survey where a progress bar was shown, to drop-off rates of a control group to whom the progress bar was not shown. In all the studies drop-offs were defined as any respondent who did not fully complete the survey. This is different than the AAPOR definition of partial interview and break-off. For this reason we use the term drop-off to avoid confusions. Three types of bars were analyzed: a) constant, b) fast-first-then-slow, and c) slow-first-then-fast. Random effects analysis was used to compute odds ratios (OR) for each study. The three authors coded the majority of studies independently and then compared the codes to come to a final agreement. Major references databases and grey literature depository were scouted using as keywords “progress bar”, “progress indicators”, “progress feedback” and other variations. We also searched conference programs and proceedings of market and survey research conferences. We excluded studies where no progress bar was shown and a couple of older studies where the progress bar took considerably longer time to load on dial-up connection and no mechanics was in place to compensate. We developed a coding scheme that captured all the possible aspects of progress indicators including style (e.g. bar or percent), position, color and other characteristics. In the presentation we will show the preliminary results of our analysis. We are still awaiting to get some data from two different authors. As a background reading we attach the latest paper published on the effect of the progress bar in online surveys.

Mario Callegaro
Martha Crenshaw, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

January 24, 2011

The Debate over ‘New’ vs. ‘Old’ Terrorism

ABSTRACT: After the attacks of September 11, 2001, many policy makers, journalists, consultants, and scholars were convinced that the world was confronting a “new” terrorism unlike the terrorism of the past. Thus the US government and policy elites were blamed for not recognizing the danger of the “new” terrorism in the 1990s and therefore failing to prevent the disaster of September 11. From this perspective, knowledge of the “old” or traditional terrorism is irrelevant at best, and obsolete and anachronistic, even harmful, at worst. Those who believe in a “new” terrorism think that the old paradigms should be discarded and replaced with a new understanding.

Kyle Dropp, PhD Candidate, Political Science and Zac Peskowitz, Graduate Student, Economics

January 31, 2011

Electoral Security and the Provision of Constituency Service

ABSTRACT: We examine the relationship between legislators’ electoral environment and the provision of constituency service in the Texas state legislature. Using fictitious constituent requests soliciting information on voter registration and a government program, we analyze the relationship between legislators’ previous vote share and the probability of legislator response. To account for the possible simultaneity of constituency service and election results, we employ an instrumental variables approach. In contrast with previous empirical studies, we find that legislators’ response rates to constituent requests decreases in their electoral security across a wide range of model specifications that control for legislator-specific characteristics. We also investigate how electoral security affects legislators’ provision of legislative public goods and find some suggestive evidence that electoral security increases the number of bills legislators author, but has little effect on other measures of legislative production.

Kyle Dropp

Zac Peskowitz

Benoit Monin, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford University Graduate School of Business

February 7, 2011

Self-Image in Everyday Morality

Moral psychology provides a compelling analysis of how individuals determine right from wrong, either when deciding what ought to be done in hypothetical dilemmas, or when reacting to shocking moral violations (see Monin, Pizarro, & Beer, 2007). I argue that these findings can be complemented by considering the role of self-image in everyday morality. An individual who feels that she has already proven that she is a good person, for example, feels less pressure to do the right thing (moral credentials, Monin & Miller, 2001). The motivation to protect a positive self-image and avoid moral suspicion can have dramatic consequences, as when individuals deny exposure to a disease for fear that it would imply that they engaged in unsafe sex (Young, Nussbaum, & Monin, 2007).

I demonstrate the role of protecting the self by showing how other people’s choices can be threatening. For example, the morally admirable behavior of others can paradoxically be resented if it threatens observers’ own sense of moral adequacy (Monin, 2007): We may not appreciate moral behavior when it implies that we should have done a little more, and this may lead to resentment against moral rebels (Monin, Sawyer, & Marquez, 2008) and to do-gooder derogation (e.g., of vegetarians). On the other hand, moralization can serve to protect against non-moral threats to the self: When someone else’s choice make us feel stupid about our own, we can justify it by deciding that we were just being more moral (Jordan & Monin, 2008 — and see the story in Newsweek).

Benoit Monin
Robb Willer, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

February 14, 2011

Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs

ABSTRACT: Though scientific evidence for the existence of global warming continues to mount, in the United States and other countries belief in global warming has stagnated or even decreased in recent years. One possible explanation for this pattern is that information about the potentially dire consequences of global warming threatens deeply held beliefs that the world is just, orderly, and stable. Individuals overcome this threat by denying or discounting the existence of global warming, and this process ultimately results in decreased willingness to counteract climate change. Two experiments provide support for this explanation of the dynamics of belief in global warming, suggesting that less dire messaging could be more effective for promoting public
understanding of climate-change research.

LinChiat Chang, Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, Data Analytics and Survey Research Methodology

February 28, 2011

The Impact of Healthcare Utilization on Satisfaction with Health Insurance Plans

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the impact of healthcare utilization on perceived quality of health insurance plans, using data from a landline- cellphone bilingual (English/Spanish) telephone survey conducted in November 2009 with a nationally representative probability sample of 1,502 adults. Although over 70% of adults rated the quality of their private plans as “good” or “excellent”, those who had received more inpatient care over the past 5 years gave significantly lower quality ratings, as did people who reported poorer state of health. In contrast, the negative relationship between healthcare utilization and satisfaction with insurance plans did not emerge among Medicare or Medicaid recipients, and was reversed among beneficiaries of military health plans. Further analyses revealed that the negative impact of inpatient care utilization on satisfaction with private insurance was more pronounced among the less empowered segments of the population – namely, ethnic minorities, women, and people in lower income groups. In contrast, the amount of outpatient care over the past 5 years was associated with higher quality ratings for private health plans only among White Americans and people in higher income groups. The impact of healthcare utilization on perceived quality of private health plans was mediated by whether the plans had refused to pay for healthcare services in the past. Taken together, these results suggest that one reason the majority of Americans are contented with their private health insurance plans is because they have not yet had to push the boundaries of their coverage, whereas the minority of Americans who have had to cope with substantial healthcare utilization, particularly utilization of medical services in hospitals, are not quite as satisfied with their private plans.

Cecilia Mo, PhD Candidate, Political Economics, Stanford University

March 7, 2011

Perceived Relative Poverty and Risk: An Aspiration-Based Model of Vulnerability

ABSTRACT: Vulnerability to being trafficked often involves a willingness to acquiesce to danger- ous economic opportunities (e.g., having one’s child migrate far away from home without his/her family for work). In this research project, my claim is the following: as opposed to absolute poverty, an increased salience in relative deprivation can lead individuals to be more risk-seeking, putting themselves and their children at risk for modern forms of slavery. I hypothesize that the mechanism by which this occurs is as follows. Informa- tion regarding others’ relative wealth shifts an individuals’ aspiration level or reference point such that individuals reference points are no longer their status quo endowment. Rather their aspiration or reference point is the higher endowment held by others within their cognitive window – those in their socio-economic and spatial neighborhood. It is then possible for expected utility from economic opportunities to be below one’s reference point. One’s perceived relative deprivation can then place a person in the domain of bad (below-aspirations) payoffs, and drawing on prospect theory, this individual would be more likely to exhibit risk-seeking behavior as a result. Using a controlled survey experiment conducted in trafficking-prone areas of Nepal with a subject pool representing the target population, I find that perceived relative poverty, a sense that one’s wealth falls below some salient point of reference, induces more risk-seeking behavior with regards to eco- nomic opportunities. Additionally, using nationally-representative district-level data from Nepal on inequality and trafficking incidence, I find suggestive evidence that perceived relative poverty explains variation in vulnerability.

Cecilia Mo
Aila M. Matanock, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stanford University

March 28, 2011

A Tangled Web: Measuring and Explaining Popular Support for Armed Groups in Colombia

ABSTRACT: How much popular support do armed groups in a situation of civil conflict have? Armed groups likely require some level of external social support to survive and thrive, but we have little idea of how much they have, who supports them, and how much support they need. Directly measuring social support for terrorist is problematic because individuals likely falsify their preferences to some extent due to fear of coercion or social sanctioning. Using experimental survey techniques allows us to overcome some of these fears to some extent. In Colombia, we employ direct and experimental questions to explore the levels of social support that individuals profess for various armed actors — insurgents, paramilitaries, the military — and their tactics. The evidence in the paper comes from 1,900 face-to-face interviews conducted in May 2010 that constitute a nationally representative sample and an oversample of conflicted regions. We find significant differences between responses to direct questions compared to list experiment, which provide less obtrusive mechanisms for asking about support.

Aila M. Matanock

Stephen Kosslyn, Director of CASBS

April 3, 2011

Effective PowerPoint: Common Errors and How to Avoid Them

ABSTRACT: PowerPoint is ubiquitous, and is used in a wide variety of contexts. We can characterize these contexts with a dimension, anchored on one pole by “conveying information” and on the other pole by “convincing the audience.” But most presentations fail to accomplish either sort of goal; it is commonplace to hear of “Death by PowerPoint,” and without question many such presentations are bad. But why are they bad? To blame the medium for the problem is like blaming a word processing program for a bad essay; the problem is not in the computer program, but in how it is used. This talk focuses on 12 common errors, and shows that they occur because simple psychological principles have not been respected. These errors occur surprisingly frequently, as the results of a study of a stratified sample of PowerPoint presentations demonstrates. The key to using PowerPoint to give clear and compelling presentations is to understand that your audience is composed of human beings, and we humans have specific kinds of minds. A presentation is for people, not Martians or computers endowed with artificial intelligence. As humans, our minds have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. Clear and compelling presentations play to the cognitive strengths of the audience and avoid falling prey to their weaknesses.

Stephen Kosslyn