I'm preparing a survey right now and one of the questions I'm looking to answer is: How much does availability bias effect the decision making process for [given behaviour]?

My question is: What's the best way to structure a survey question, or set of questions to test for this heuristic?

My current thinking is that I shouldn't mention specific options a respondent may select, because doing so will prime the respondents.

i.e. I can't mention specific detergent brands and then ask "Which detergent brand are you most likely to buy this month?", as that data won't be valid.

But the possible options a respondent might give if the question is completely open are endless.

Does anybody have any experience in this type of survey and can lend some insight?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm a bit confused about what the [given behavior] is, which is making it hard for me to parse your question. Can you try to clarify a bit more? $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


it seems that you can use randomization of options to decrease bias. That is, present every respondent with multiple choices but in completely random order. Also, bias might be directly tested on two groups, say A&B. Only difference will be the order of available answers.

This manual seems to be very helpful: Handbook of Survey Research, Ch.9 Question and Questionnaire Design

This is shorter insight: SurveyMonkey Blog: Question Order Matters


A few options.

  • You could start with an open ended question and then move to closed ended questions for leading brands and perhaps any other options listed in the previously open ended process.
  • You could use an input box that takes text and shows partial matches which people then select (e.g., a bit like in Facebook when selecting a friend)

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