Smartphones are the go-to phones now for a majority of Americans. According to a recent Nielsen report, 50.4 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers own smartphones, with most of the devices Android phones (48.5 percent). iPhone users came in at 32 percent.
It shouldn't surprise you then that text messaging is popular. It's more than that, though. It's a way to increase truthfulness.
"The preliminary results of our study suggest that people are more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews," said Fred Conrad, a cognitive psychologist and director of the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "This is sort of surprising, since many people thought that texting would decrease the likelihood of disclosing sensitive information because it creates a persistent, visual record of questions and answers that others might see on your phone and in the cloud."
Researchers found that with text messaging, people were less likely to engage in "satisficing"—a survey industry term referring to the common practice of giving good enough, easy answers, like rounding to multiples of 10 in numerical responses, for example.
"We believe people give more precise answers via texting because there's just not the time pressure in a largely asynchronous mode like text that there is in phone interviews," Conrad said. "As a result, respondents are able to take longer to arrive at more accurate answers."
Changes in communication patterns and their impact on the survey industry prompted the study. About one out of five U.S. households only use mobile phones, i.e., no longer have landline phones, yet are typically not surveyed even though mobile-only households tend to differ in important ways form households with landline phones. More people are using text messages on mobile phones, with texting now the preferred form of communication among many people in their teens and 20s in the U.S. Texting is extremely common among all age groups in many Asian and European nations.
The researchers also found that people are more likely to provide thoughtful and honest responses via text messages even when they're in busy, distracting environments.
"This is the case even though people are more likely to be multitasking—shopping or walking, for example—when they're answering questions by text than when they're being interviewed by voice," Conrad said.
How does this information fit into the meeting industry worldview, especially considering the value we place on face-to-face meetings?