Hi kids! It’s quiz time again. As you know, at this time of year I like to do a pop quiz to see if you’ve been paying attention to ol’ Doc King as he’s banged on in Psychology Research Methods Class throughout the year.
As you all know, this year the topic was “Surveys”. Surveys are a great way to gather data, often anonymously and in large amounts. Some people think that everyone always lies on them—but actually when we compare the information gained there with other methods (called “validating”) we get useful results: But only if we construct our surveys intelligently!
So, as in previous years we decided to test your knowledge by putting together a purposely (and, if I say so myself, laughably!) bad survey. And this year’s one was a treat because we had help from a celebrity. He asked not to be named, so let’s just call him “Professor Drumpf”…
Anyhow—this was his survey. As normal it was riddled with ridiculous errors. Your task was to list all the errors—the things that would make this survey utterly useless to anyone with even a passing respect for science, or the fair collection of data. And, I’m glad to say—you all did really well. As a reminder: Here’s the complete quiz.
Of course—as you all spotted, pretty much every single question was so badly constructed as to render the survey totally without value except as an item of comedy, or to test one’s questionnaire making skills. Well done students! However, some of the questions posed special issues and rather than deal with the question papers individually, I’ve put them together here.
We led you in gently with the first three…even putting a “No opinion” on the questions to make the questions appear legit. Having got your guard down we then hit you with question 4!
4) On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans? (Select as many that apply.)
Second Amendment rights
(The question asks for “the worst” and then allows you to tick multiple boxes. As most of you realized—this would confuse anyone remotely familiar with normal human logic.)
Bonus points if you spotted that question (4) also led the respondents to particular conclusions by mentioning only “Republicans” and no other parties.
6) Which online sources do you use? (Select as many that apply.)
Red Alert Politics
Question 6 was a doozy, wasn’t it? It caught a couple of you out…By only mentioning Far-Right news outlets and not allowing any write-ins for “other”, the survey maker would have stacked the deck in their favor (assuming they were a real survey maker and not a gag one like this one!)
7) Do you trust the mainstream media to tell the truth about the Republican Party’s positions and actions?
Question 7 was, as most of you spotted what we call in the trade a “complex question”: E.g. it asks for more than one thing at a time.
Someone might agree with the first part (“Tells the truth about Republican positions” while not the second “Tells the truth about Republican actions”). Indeed—given that the Republican party might itself say one thing and do another—this is a very possible position for a rational person to hold. This question would smear those things together. And you all spotted it—well done you!
8) Hillary Clinton still gets a free pass from the media as she continues to lie about sending classified information on her secret server.
Question 8 (“Hilary Clinton gets a free pass”) was, as you all spotted—a leading question. Technically it’s “question-begging”—assuming the conclusion in the question, like asking “do you still grab pussies?”
9) The mainstream media takes Donald Trump’s statements out of context, but bends over backwards to defend Hillary’s statements.
Question 9 was both the errors of (7) and (8) rolled into one. It was a complex question and a leading question! Well done to those who potted the double-error.
11) The mainstream media needs to do more to expose the shady donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Question 11 (“Shady donations”) was another leading question. We thought we could slip that by you by putting that word later in the sentence—but you all spotted it. It also manages to sneak in an undefined but vaguely perjorative term “mainstream media” without defining it.
25) More time is spent covering fake “scandals” involving Trump than real scandals involving Hillary and our national security.
As you all spotted, this one contained begging the question, leading questions, complex questions and managed to push the “social desirability” element to the fullest. Who doesn’t want to care about “national security” after all…
And, last but not least…
Every piece of data collection should start off with an ethical declaration and a reminder that your data will be kept confidential. Especially important in this day and age where some officials will take your phone, demand your password, and download every text, FB post, and drunken sext to your ex (that you now regret) at the border of certain countries.
This survey asked for personal details at the end without saying these data were only to be collected to prevent repeated surveying of the same individual. Naughty naughty! And well-spotted, students.
Now, some of you thought you could get extra credit by speculating on the possible state of mind or political motives of someone who could construct such a survey. Might I remind you that terms like “narcissistic”, “delusional” or “possible psychedelic drug abuse” are only appropriate in the context of properly conducted clinical interviews? In a similar vein, speculations about “testing the ground for a dictatorship” or similar have no place in psychology.
We are scientists, not politicians. That said, we didn’t remove any marks for these speculations and found them most entertaining. I’m sure our guest professor will agree.