2
$\begingroup$

When building a survey, what is the maximum number of response choices in a question? In the interest of reducing cognitive load and/or avoid choice paralysis. I couldn't find any research on this specifically.

$\endgroup$

1 Answer 1

1
$\begingroup$

Take a look at researches on human Working Memory Capacity (WMC) and it applications in different problems, for instance, here is Elsevier ScienceDirect chapter/paper set related to WMC. Most of the researches depicts that WMC of an adult human is limited to 3-5-7 items, depending of how large and complex these items are.

Therefore, if your survey question is about something minimalistic, like preferable color or time slots, which are quite simple objects to comprehend, you may confidently provide up to 7 answer options. But if your question is asking about behaviour in some imagined environment, and answer options present different complex scenarios in a response to this environment, it's better to limit them to 3-4 options so that respondents would be able to comprehend each option separately and consciously compare it with other ones.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! That's an interesting idea, although I'm not completely sure WMC is the important thing to look at - when going through the list of possible answers, each is assessed individually, so there only ever is 1 item in working memory at a time, regardless of the total number of options. Does this make sense? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @LionelDanko that's true, but to make a choice completely consciously one has to compare all the options with each other, especially when the question is hard or answers are somehow similar. In general, I think, your question is very broad, there are too many factors that affect on correct answer. For instance, at least survey topic, time duration, respondents' motivation should be considered. Thus I think an answer based on WMC is the only correct answer in the general case. $\endgroup$
    – AivanF.
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 18:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.