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date: 01 October 2023

Careless Responding and Insufficient Effort Respondinglocked

Careless Responding and Insufficient Effort Respondinglocked

  • Jason L. HuangJason L. HuangSchool of Human Resources & Labor Relations, Michigan State University
  •  and Zhonghao WangZhonghao WangSchool of Human Resources & Labor Relations, Michigan State University


Careless responding, also known as insufficient effort responding, refers to survey/test respondents providing random, inattentive, or inconsistent answers to question items due to lack of effort in conforming to instructions, interpreting items, and/or providing accurate responses. Researchers often use these two terms interchangeably to describe deviant behaviors in survey/test responding that threaten data quality. Careless responding threatens the validity of research findings by bringing in random and systematic errors. Specifically, careless responding can reduce measurement reliability, while under specific circumstances it can also inflate the substantive relations between variables. Numerous factors can explain why careless responding happens (or does not happen), such as individual difference characteristics (e.g., conscientiousness), survey characteristics (e.g., survey length), and transient psychological states (e.g., positive and negative affect). To identify potential careless responding, researchers can use procedural detection methods and post hoc statistical methods. For example, researchers can insert detection items (e.g., infrequency items, instructed response items) into the questionnaire, monitor participants’ response time, and compute statistical indices, such as psychometric antonym/synonym, Mahalanobis distance, individual reliability, individual response variability, and model fit statistics. Application of multiple detection methods would be better able to capture careless responding given convergent evidence. Comparison of results based on data with and without careless respondents can help evaluate the degree to which the data are influenced by careless responding. To handle data contaminated by careless responding, researchers may choose to filter out identified careless respondents, recode careless responses as missing data, or include careless responding as a control variable in the analysis. To prevent careless responding, researchers have tried utilizing various deterrence methods developed from motivational and social interaction theories. These methods include giving warning, rewarding, or educational messages, proctoring the process of responding, and designing user-friendly surveys. Interest in careless responding has been growing not only in business and management but also in other related disciplines. Future research and practice on careless responding in the business and management areas can also benefit from findings in other related disciplines.


  • Research Methods

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