Quality and Quantity

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 475–493 | Cite as

Memory recall errors in retrospective surveys: A reverse record check study



This paper reports on a study to compare self-reports during an interview with staff who attended a University health centre in Turkey, with the records of visits to the same health centre over the previous 12 months. Design of the study reflects the effects of importance of the event, duration since the event, frequency of the occurrence of the event, measurement scale of the event, and bounded and unbounded recalling. In order to assess the extent of recall error, responses to retrospective questions on health centre visits are compared with administrative records. Statistical models are proposed for short and long term human memory recall error effects on responses.

Key words

memory recall error record linkage matching procedures record check study 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bradburn, N. M. (1979). Improving Interview Method and Questionnaire Design: Response Effects to Threatening Questions in Survey Research. San Fancisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Bradburn, N. M., Rips, L. J. & Shevell, S. K. (1987). Answering autobiographical questions: the impact of memory and inference on surveys. Science 236: 157–161.Google Scholar
  3. Gray, P. G. (1955). The memory factor in social surveys. Journal of the American Statistical Association 50: 344–363.Google Scholar
  4. Dippo, C. S. (1989). The use of cognitive laboratory techniques for investigating memory retrieval errors in retrospective surveys. Bulletin of the International Statistical Institute 53(2): 363–382.Google Scholar
  5. Groves, R. M. (1989). Survey Errors and Survey Costs. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Hazony, Y. (1979). Algorithms for parallel processing: curve and surface definitions with Q-splines. Computer and Graphics 4: 165–176.Google Scholar
  7. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. & Bradburn, N. M. (1990). Reports of elapsed time: bounding and rounding processes in estimation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 16(2): 196–213.Google Scholar
  8. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. & Prohaska, V. (1988). Hierarchical organization in ordered domains: estimating the dates of events. Psychological Review 95: 471–484.Google Scholar
  9. Means, B., Nigam, A., Zarrow, M., Loftus, E. F. & Donaldson, M. S. (1989). Autobiographical memory for health related events. Vital and Health Statistics Series No. 6(2), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Publication No.89-1077.Google Scholar
  10. Moss, L. & Goldstein, H. (1979). The Recall Method in Social Surveys. London: Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  11. Neter, J. (1970). Measurement errors in reports of consumer expenditures. Journal of Marketing Research 7: 11–25.Google Scholar
  12. Neter, J. & Waksberg, J. (1964). A study of response errors in expenditures data from household interviews. Journal of the American Statistical Association 59: 18–55.Google Scholar
  13. Neter, J. & Waksberg, J. (1965). Response errors in collection of expenditures data by household interviews: an experimental study. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Technical Paper No. 11.Google Scholar
  14. Schwarz, N. & Sudman, S. (eds.) (1995). Answering Questions: Methodology for Determining Cognitive and Communicative Processes in Survey Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  15. Sikkel, D. (1985). Models for memory effects. Journal of the American Statistical Association 80: 835–841.Google Scholar
  16. Stoer, J. & Bulirsch, R. (1980). Introduction to Numerical Analysis. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. Sudman, S. & Bradburn, N. M. (1973). Effects of time and memory factors on responses in surveys. Journal of the American Statistical Association 68: 805–815.Google Scholar
  18. Sudman, S. & Bradburn, N. M. (1974). Effects of time and memory factors on response. Chapter 3 in Response Effects in Surveys. Chicago: Aldine. pp. 67–92.Google Scholar
  19. Sudman, S. & Bradburn, N. M. (1982). Asking Questions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  20. Sudman, S., Bradburn, N. M. & Schwarz, N. (1996). Thinking About Answers: The Application of Cognitive Processes to Survey Methodology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  21. Wagenaar, W. A. (1986). My memory: a study of autobiographical memory over six years. Cognitive Psychology 18: 225–252.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of StatisticsMiddle East Technical UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  2. 2.Computing CentreState Institute of StatisticsAnkaraTurkey

Personalised recommendations