Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Applied Cognitive Psychology 19 (2005), pp. 245–247 ; doi: 10.1002/acp.1092


Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published online in Wiley InterScience Used by permission.


Applied Cognitive Psychology seeks to publish the best papers, in any area of specialization, that combine cognitive theory and application. One area, the cognitive aspects of survey methodology (CASM) movement, started 20 years ago (Jabine, Straf, Tanur, & Tourangeau, 1984) as an “attempt to build a bridge between deep interdisciplinary chasms” (Tanur, 1992, p. ix), has sought to strengthen collaborations between survey methodologists and cognitive psychologists for the benefit of both fields. To survey methodologists, theories and observations of cognitive psychology can be applied in reducing “response errors.” To applied cognitive psychologists, applying cognitive, communicative, and memory principles to problems in survey methodology has the potential to advance cognitive theory.

But during the past 20 years, the discipline of applied cognitive psychology simply has not exerted an appropriate level of influence, nor reaped a sustained level of rewards, in its association with the CASM movement. As Wright and Loftus (1998) have pointed out, most of the CASM effort is devoted, by design, to the benefit of survey methodology. “But this is really a two-way street. We should be asking what benefits cognitive research … can achieve from this collaboration” (p. 467). Echoing a similar theme, Tanur (1999) has asked “why is the preponderance of CASM-related research … neither guided by nor feeding back into cognitive theory” (p. 17)?

Both survey methodologists and applied cognitive psychologists share responsibility in nurturing a mutually beneficial dialogue. For their part, survey methodologists have not been as responsive as they could be regarding the potential role that applied cognitive psychology can assume in their work. At the same time, applied cognitive psychologists have not been as knowledgeable as they should be concerning the interesting and relevant work that survey methodologists are conducting. The extent to which CASM researchers and applied cognitive psychologists are lacking in their appreciation and knowledge of each other, works to the detriment of both their fields.