Respondent Strategies for Recall of Crime Victimization Incidents
Ronald Czaja, Johnny Blair, Barbara Bickart, and Elizabeth Eastman
This research addresses whether accuracy of reporting is affected by length of reference period, the use of anchors to mark the start of the reference period, or the pattern survey respondents use in searching their memories. Victims of robbery, burglary, and assault were asked to report victimizations and victimization dates in a reverse record check survey. Neither length of reference period nor anchoring the reference period significantly affected the rates of reporting victimizations, however, both factors influenced reports of victimization dates. The manner in which respondents searched their memories affected reporting rates but not accuracy of reported dates. Many respondents appeared to use a common recall strategy and we present suggestions for improving questionnaire design based on these results. We also discuss the relationship between method of memory search and the procedure used to anchor the reference period. Finally, suggestions for overcoming the gross underreporting of assault are presented.
Recall errors; memory search; anchor points; length of reference period; response errors; questionnaire design.