College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

A Procedure for Reducing Errors in Reports of Life Events

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1990

Keywords

Adult, Cues, Disease Susceptibility, Life Change Events, Memory, Mental Recall, Personality Tests, Psychophysiologic Disorders, Retention

Publication Title

Journal of Psychosomatic Research

ISSN

0022-3999

Volume

34

Issue/No.

2

Abstract

Despite the widespread use of life event inventories, relatively little research has been conducted evaluating whether recall techniques can reduce reporting errors. This study evaluated whether memory aids would reduce errors in reports of life events and explored subjects' explanations for why they had given inconsistent answers to life event questions over the course of two interviews. Seventy-one college students were randomly assigned to two groups: memory aids (MA: n = 36) and no memory aids (NMA: n = 35). Memory aids, as used in this study, reduced errors in reports of life events as reflected in the following results: (1) significanlty fewer subjects in the MA group reported dating events incorrectly; (2) subjects in the MA group consistently gave more reliable responses between the two interviews as measured by intraclass correlations; (3) there was a significantly higher test-retest correlation for life events reported by MA subjects; and, (4) MA subjects recalled more life events and had fewer inconsistent responses. A further probe revealed that memory aids differentially aided recall of subjective as compared to objective life events. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that memory aid procedures can differentially reduce errors in reporting life events.

DOI

10.1016/0022-3999(90)90050-E

Peer Reviewed

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