Respondent Reactions to Sensitive Questions
Lippert, Adam M.
Johnson, Timothy P.
Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 2007 September; 2(3): 31-37
We administered debriefing probes to gauge respondent discomfort in reaction to sensitive questions. These probes assessed respondents' own reactions to being asked to report on substance use (subjective discomfort), as well as their beliefs about the reaction of others (projective discomfort). We investigated whether a sample of men from the general population were more uncomfortable with questions about drug use than a sample of men who have sex with men (MSM) surveyed from the same city (Chicago). We also investigated whether those who disclosed drug use on the survey experienced higher levels of discomfort. Contrary to opinions often expressed as research ethics committee (REC) recommendations, questions about drug use do not generate much subjective discomfort. MSM did not differ from the general population with respect to subjective discomfort. General population males did, however, report higher levels of "drug specific" projective discomfort. Respondents disclosing recent drug use reported higher levels of subjective discomfort. Implications for the REC practice, researcher and REC education, and directions for future research are discussed.
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