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LIfBi Lecture: Panel Conditioning - Effects of Repeated Surveys

When people participate in surveys over a period of years, do they give different answers than when they first participated? If so, is that a problem? Prof. Dr. Michael Bosnjak from the University of Trier addressed these and other questions in the first LIfBi Lecture of 2023.

Michael Bosnjak is Professor of Psychological Research Methods at the University of Trier and recently joined the LIfBi Scientific Advisory Board. His LIfBi Lecture focused on the effects and mechanisms of panel conditioning, which Michael Bosnjak is currently investigating in the PaCo research project conducted jointly with GESIS, ZPID and Utrecht University.

What is Panel Conditioning?

Panel conditioning describes how mere participation in a survey can influence response behavior in follow-up surveys. It refers to changes in respondents' answering behavior caused by prior participation in the survey, e.g., by the fact that repeated questioning leads to a more in-depth examination of the topics and respondents give more reflective answers. If survey responses are substantially influenced by panel conditioning, the validity and quality of data may be compromised. For LIfBi, the topic of the Lecture is thus highly relevant, since the largest longitudinal study in educational science in Germany - the National Educational Panel - is located here.

Good news for panel surveys?

Overall, only limited evidence for the existence of panel conditioning effects could be found in various analyses. Pointing to some exceptions, Michael Bosnjak therefore summed up: "My personal assessment is that in most cases the validity of panel studies is not overly influenced by panel conditioning effects as long as certain effects are monitored and documented".


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