Survey Dilemma

Some things I tend to overthink. Surveys, for example, take me a long time to complete because I must consider the question and the implications of the answer.

I was not involved in this survey, but I read a little bit about the results. The survey had to do with how much time people spend on their smartphones and when and where – all the usual habits.

One question that stood out to me was “Do you sleep with your phone next to your bed?”

The surveyors used the high percentage of positive answers to indicate that people are addicted to their phones. Something along the lines of “it’s the last thing they do before going to sleep and the first thing they reach for in the morning.” If I hadn’t known the intent of the question, I would have answered Yes. But knowing the intent of the question would make me want to answer No.

I keep my phone on my nightstand, but only because I use it as my alarm clock. Before I go to sleep, I put it out of commission – airplane mode, all communications off, etc.

If I answer the letter of the question: yes, I keep my phone next to my bed.

If I answer the spirit of the question: no, I sleep with my alarm clock next to my bed.

The fact that my phone is the same physical device as my alarm clock complicates things. In this case, I’m not using my phone for its communication purposes. Is a phone still a phone if it’s not used as a phone?

I would have a similar dilemma if a survey question asked me if I had an alarm clock. My answer depends on why you need to know. If you want to know how many people wake up on their own without some sort of a signal, then yes I use an alarm clock. But if you represent consumer device manufacturers and want to know which appliances are in one’s home, then no I do not use an alarm clock.

You wouldn’t think yes/no questions could be so complicated, and that’s why I don’t trust surveys. Because a lot of times, the people devising the questions don’t realize there could be complications with the way their questions are worded.

But David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?”

1 Samuel 17:29

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This little article thingy was written by Some Guy sometime around 6:56 am and has been carefully placed in the Ponder category.

2 Responses to “Survey Dilemma”

  1. js Says:

    How did you do so well on the ACT? I feel like – to the extent I did well – it’s that I didn’t overthink any question. Or do you react differently to standardized tests than you do surveys?

  2. Some Guy Says:

    Because the ACT was multiple choice, so the people who wrote the questions had to think of various ways the questions could be answered. I consider standardized test writers to be professional question-thinker-uppers, because if a question is bad there will be complaints and backlash. Whereas survey writers are amateur question-thinker-uppers, because if a survey taker doesn’t like the questions he will just abandon the survey and not bother anybody about it.

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