Common (Mis)Beliefs about Memory: A Replication and Comparison of Telephone and Mechanical Turk Survey Methods

Daniel J. Simons, Christopher F. Chabris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Incorrect beliefs about memory have wide-ranging implications. We recently reported the results of a survey showing that a substantial proportion of the United States public held beliefs about memory that conflicted with those of memory experts. For that survey, respondents answered recorded questions using their telephone keypad. Although such robotic polling produces reliable results that accurately predicts the results of elections, it suffers from four major drawbacks: (1) telephone polling is costly, (2) typically, less than 10 percent of calls result in a completed survey, (3) calls do not reach households without a landline, and (4) calls oversample the elderly and undersample the young. Here we replicated our telephone survey using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to explore the similarities and differences in the sampled demographics as well as the pattern of results. Overall, neither survey closely approximated the demographics of the United States population, but they differed in how they deviated from the 2010 census figures. After weighting the results of each survey to conform to census demographics, though, the two approaches produced remarkably similar results: In both surveys, people averaged over 50% agreement with statements that scientific consensus shows to be false. The results of this study replicate our finding of substantial discrepancies between popular beliefs and those of experts and shows that surveys conducted on MTurk can produce a representative sample of the United States population that generates results in line with more expensive survey techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere51876
JournalPloS one
Volume7
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 18 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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