Cognitive interviewing is a psychologically oriented method for empirically studying the ways in which individuals mentally process and respond to survey questionnaires. Cognitive interviews can be conducted for the general purpose of enhancing the understanding of how respondents carry out the task of answering survey questions. However, the technique is more commonly conducted in an applied sense, for the purpose of pretesting questions and determining how they should be modified, prior to survey fielding, to make them more understandable or otherwise easier to answer.

The notion that survey questions require thought on the part of respondents is not new and has long been a central premise of questionnaire design. However, cognitive interviewing formalizes this process, as it approaches the survey response task from the vantage point ...

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