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Abstract

This paper proposes that when optimally answering a survey question would require substantial cognitive effort, some repondents simply provide a satisfactory answer instead. This behaviour, called satisficing, can take the form of either (1) incomplete or biased information retrieval and/or information integration, or (2) no information retrieval or integration at all. Satisficing may lead respondents to employ a variety of response strategies, including choosing the first response alternative that seems to constitute a reasonable answer, agreeing with an assertion made by a question, endorsing the status quo instead of endorsing social change, failing to differentiate among a set of diverse objects in ratings, saying ‘don't know’ instead of reporting an opinion, and randomly choosing among the response alternatives offered. This paper specifies a wide range of factors that are likely to encourage satisficing, and reviews relevant evidence evaluating these speculations. Many useful directions for future research are suggested.