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Acquiescence has been found to distort the psychometric quality of questionnaire data. Previous research has identified various determinants of acquiescence at both the individual and the country level. We aimed to synthesize the scattered body of knowledge by concurrently testing a multilevel model encompassing a set of presumed predictors of acquiescence. Based on a representative sample comprising almost 40,000 respondents from 20 European countries, we analyzed the effects of the country-level indicators economic wealth, corruption level, and collectivism and the individual-level indicators age, gender, educational attainment, and conservatism. Results revealed that 15% of the variance in acquiescence was due to country-level variations in corruption levels and collectivism. Differences among individuals within countries could be partially explained by conservatism and educational attainment.
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Acquiescence response styles: A multilevel model explaining
individual-level and country-level differences
Beatrice Rammstedt , Daniel Danner, Michael Bosnjak
GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 2 September 2016
Received in revised form 9 November 2016
Accepted 15 November 2016
Available online xxxx
Acquiescence has been found to distort the psychometric quality of questionnaire data. Previous research has
identied various determinants of acquiescence at both the individual and the country level. We aimed to syn-
thesize the scattered body of knowledge by concurrently testing a multilevel model encompassing a set of pre-
sumed predictors of acquiescence. Based on a representative sample comprising almost 40,000 respondents
from 20 European countries, we analyzed the effects of the country-level indicators economic wealth, corruption
level, and collectivism andthe individual-level indicators age, gender, educational attainment, and conservatism.
Results revealed that 15% of the variance in acquiescence was due to country-level variations in corruption levels
and collectivism. Differences among individuals within countries could be partially explained by conservatism
and educational attainment.
© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://
Multilevel model
Individual-level determinants
Country-level determinants
European Social Survey
1. Introduction
Acquiescencethat is, the tendency to respond to descriptions of
conceptually distinct attributes or attitudes with agreement/afrmation
(agreement acquiescence) or disagreement/opposition (counter-acqui-
escence) regardless of their contenthas been widely recognized as a
threat to the validity of questionnaire-based data (e.g., Rammstedt,
Goldberg, & Borg, 2010; Soto, John, Gosling, & Potter, 2008). Specically,
acquiescence can affect mean levels in item responding, thereby yield-
ing misleading mean differences. For example, Van Vlimmeren, Moors,
and Gelissen (2015) showed that country-level differences in trust in
NATO differed substantially before and after controlling for acquies-
cence. Such effects of acquiescence on mean-level differences can
occur if acquiescence differentially affects item responding across coun-
tries. Moreover, acquiescence may blur the intended factorial structure
of a questionnaire by biasing item variances and covariances
(Rammstedt et al., 2010). Finally, it has been shown that acquiescence
can substantially bias the associations between personality items and
behavioral criteria, thereby attenuating predictive validity (Danner,
Aichholzer, & Rammstedt, 2015).
Given the threats thatacquiescence poses to the validity of question-
naire-based data, theoverall aim of the study reported here was to sum-
marize and integrate the available body of knowledge with regard to
central socio-demographic and social indicators into one single concep-
tual model encompassing the presumed determinants of acquiescence.
In what follows, we begin by summarizing the reported evidence on in-
dividual-level determinants and then address country-level predictors.
1.1. Individual-level predictors of acquiescent responding
Numerous studies have revealedthat individuals differ systematical-
ly in their tendency to acquiesce. However, theempirical evidence is not
univocal. While somestudies have suggested that age is positively relat-
ed to acquiescence (e.g., Meisenberg & Williams, 2008; Weijters,
Geuens, & Schillewaert, 2010), others have failed to nd evidence in
support of this notion (e.g., Eid & Rauber, 2000). Findings with regard
to possible effects of gender on acquiescent responding are even more
heterogeneous. Some studies have suggested that women show, on av-
erage, a higher tendency towardacquiescent responding than men (e.g.,
Weijters et al., 2010), whereas others have found no gender effect (e.g.,
Marin, Gamba, & Marin, 1992). However, a broad consensus exists that
educational attainment is a source of systematic differences in the ten-
dency to acquiesce. Results of several studies have indicated that acqui-
escence appears to be more frequent among persons with a lower level
of educational attainment (e.g., Narayan & Krosnick, 1996; Rammstedt
et al., 2010; Rammstedt & Kemper, 2011). It has been suggested that
persons with relatively low education have less clear self-concepts,
smaller vocabularies, and less developed verbal comprehension skills
than more highly educated persons. This may make them relatively un-
certain when it comes to responding to questionnaire items, and may
thus leave more room for the inuence of systematic response biases
(e.g., Goldberg, 1963). For some countries (e.g., Germany), this inverse
effect of education on acquiescence has been widely replicated. More-
over, there is evidence to suggest that this effect can be replicated in
several other countries, albeit with some exceptions (Danner et al.,
Personality and Individual Differences 107 (2017) 190194
Corresponding author at: GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, PO Box 12
21 55, 68072 Mannheim, Germany.
E-mail address: (B. Rammstedt).
0191-8869/© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
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2015; Rammstedt, Kemper, & Borg, 2013). However, results do not indi-
cate a simple generalizability of the inverse effect of education on acqui-
escence across all countries (Meisenberg & Williams, 2008; Rammstedt
et al., 2013). Rather, countries appear to differ systematically in this re-
gard. Moreover, Smith and Fischer (2008) were able to show that indi-
vidual-level interdependence, used as a proxy for a collectivistic cultural
orientation, was positively related to acquiescence. Taken together, the
literature on individual-level determinants of acquiescence partially
supportsthe role of age, gender, level of educational attainment, and de-
gree of conservatism in acquiescent responding.
1.2. Country-level predictors of acquiescent responding
In addition to individual differences in acquiescent responding, re-
cent research has identied cross-national differences in the tendency
to acquiesce, as reected by mean-level differences (e.g., Javeline,
1999; Johnson, Kulesa, Cho, & Shavitt, 2005). For example, Van Herk,
Poortinga, and Verhallen (2004) investigated acquiescent response ten-
dencies in six European countries. The results revealed that respondents
in the Mediterranean countries scored higher on acquiescence than
those in the Northwestern European countries. A worldwide investiga-
tion of acquiescence was conducted by Meisenberg and Williams
(2008). Based on the World Value Survey conducted in 80 countries,
they showed that response styles were most prevalentin less developed
countries and thatat the country levelacquiescence could best be ex-
plained by the country's corruption level. The authors interpreted their
ndings by suggesting that people who live in corrupt societies tend to
be subservient to powerful othersa tendency that carries over into
their survey responses. A similar effect was reported by Smith (2004),
suggesting that acquiescence is signicantly less pronounced in certain
European countries than in countries with lower levels of economic de-
velopment such as Panama, Nigeria, or the Philippines.
In addition, there is a broad consensus that response styles are sys-
tematically related to cultural variables (Hofstede, 2001; Schwartz,
1994) and that they tend to be more pronounced in traditional cultures
(Javeline, 1999). Specically, several studies have suggested that the
prevalence of acquiescence differs across countries and depends on cul-
tural orientations. For example, a study by Johnson et al. (2005) indicat-
ed that collectivistic cultures were especially prone to acquiescent
responding. The authors hypothesized that members of collectivistic
nations experienced greater cultural pressure to acquiesce (Smith &
Fischer, 2008). Support for this association was also provided by
Harzing (2006), who investigated 26 countries from all major cultural
clusters in the world. However, Grimm and Church (1999) could not
conrm the effect of collectivism on acquiescence response style.
In sum, the results of cross-national comparative research suggest
that there are systematic differences between countries with regard to
the mean tendency to acquiesce and that these differences are a func-
tion of the country's social and economic situation and its cultural
orientationsin particular, the degree to which collectivistic values
are endorsed. Thus, we expect that individual differences at the country
level can be explained by these variables.
1.3. Assessing acquiescent responding
Even though the natureof, and the reasons for, acquiescence are still
unclear, different approaches are used to investigate a person's tenden-
cy toward acquiescence. Some studiesespecially those that use only
positively keyed itemsuse the percentage or ratio of items agreed
with (e.g. Harzing, 2006). For this approach, too, different methods of
including and weighting the responses are employed across studies. In-
stead of using only positively keyed items, recent studies (e.g. Johnson
et al., 2005, Rammstedt & Kemper, 2011; Rammstedt & Farmer, 2013;
Rammstedt et al., 2010, 2013; Soto et al., 2008) have used, whenever
possible, pairs of positively and negatively coded items assessing the
same construct (e.g., Prefer to be with others and Like to be all by oneself).
Persons with a high tendency toward acquiescence should have com-
paratively higher mean scores across these item pairs than those with
a lower tendency to acquiesce. Even though some studies report only
a weak consistency of acquiescence across different scales in general
(e.g. Ferrando, Condon, & Chico, 2004), other studies report latent corre-
lations rN0.71 between acquiescence indicators of such pairs of nega-
tively and positively keyed items (Danner et al., 2015).
1.4. The present study
As summarized above, past research has yielded evidenceof individ-
ual-level determinants (age, gender, and educational attainment) and
country-level predictors (economic development, degree of collectiv-
ism, corruption level) of the tendency to acquiesce. However, previous
studies have yielded inconsistent ndings with regard to these charac-
teristics. These inconsistencies may be due to the fact that most of
these studies used highly selective samples that werenot representative
of the respective populations. In addition, to date no study has
concurrently and systematically investigated these country-level and
individual-level characteristics, taking into account the multilevel inter-
relationships between them.
The present study aimed to ll this gap by investigating potential
determinants of acquiescence by simultaneously analyzing the different
country-level and individual-level characteristics and by relying on data
that were representative of the population in 20 European countries.
Specically, we investigated the impact on the tendency toward
acquiescent responding of the country-level characteristics economic
wealth (GDP), corruption level, and levelof collectivism in combination
with the individual characteristics age, gender, educational level, and
degree of conservatism. Individual-level and country-level predictors
can be combined in one multilevel model where respondents (i)are
nested within countries (j), and differences in acquiescence at the
respondent level are modeled as acquiescence
(age) + β
(gender) + β
(education) + β
(conservatism) + ε
differences at the country level are modeled as β
(wealth) + γ
(corruption) + γ
(collectivism) + υ
2. Method
2.1. Data source
The presentanalyses are based on data of the EuropeanSocial Survey
(ESS; The ESS is a cross-national
survey that investigates changes in social structure, conditions, and atti-
tudes in Europe. A key aim of the ESS is to implement high quality stan-
dards in its methodology. These high quality standards are especially
relevant for the translation and adaptation of the questionnaires to
guarantee comparability across the different countries. The survey has
been conducted every two years since 2001.
To test our conceptual multilevel model, we selected Round 1 of the
ESS (European Social Survey Round 1 Data, 2002) as a data source be-
cause it included several contrasting item pairs that had already been
used in an earlier study as an indicator for acquiescence (Johnson,
Mohler, Harkness, & Braun, 2010).
2.2. Samples
The 2002 round of the ESS collected data from 22 European coun-
tries. For the present analyses, only those countries for which all rele-
vant indicators were available were included. Therefore, Italy and
Luxembourg were excluded from our analyses because conservatism
was not assessed in these countries. A list of the countries included in
our analyses can be found in Table 1. In each country, a sample repre-
sentative of the population aged 15 years and over was drawn. Design
weights provided in the data set were applied to adjust for different se-
lection probabilities. The number of interviews conducted ranged
191B. Rammstedt et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 107(2017) 190194
between 1360 in the Czech Republic and 2919 in Germany, with a total
sample size of 39,600 respondents.
ESS questionnaires are administered as face-to-face interviews. Par-
ticipation is voluntary and not usually incentivizedalthough some
countries offer small incentives in order to increase participation. (For
a detailed description of the samples and the assessment design, see
European Social Survey Round 1 Data, 2002).
2.3. Measures and procedure
2.3.1. Individual-level characteristics Demographics. Respondents' age was assessed in ESS Round 1
via the year of birth. Gender was assessed in ESS Round 1 with a di-
chotomous variable (1 = men, 2 = women). Levels of educational
attainment were assessed in all countries on the basis of the national
education system. Later, the ESS researchers harmonized these na-
tional data in to one variable with reference to the International Stan-
dard Classication of Education (ISCED) 1997 levels, which yielded
ve categories: (1) Less than lower secondary education (ISCED
01);(2)Lower secondary education completed (ISCED 2);(3)
Upper secondary education completed (ISCED 3);(4)Post-sec-
ondary, non-tertiary education completed (ISCED 4);(5)Tertiary
education completed (ISCED 5). Conservatism. As a supplement to the ESS, the Portrait Values
Questionnaire (PVQ; Schwartz, Melech, Lehmann, Burgess, & Harris,
2001) was administered, allowing, among other things, the assessment
of the higher order value dimension conservatism, which overlaps
strongly with the cultural orientation collectivism as dened by Hofstede
(see, e.g., Schwartz & Ros, 1996). The conservatism dimension includes
the lower order scales conformity,tradition,andsecurity. It includes
items such as She/he believes that people should do what they're
told(conformity). All items are to be answered on a six-point scale
ranging from not like me at all to very much like me. Cronbach's alpha
ranged between 0.67 (Hungary) and 0.78 (Austria).
2.3.2. Country-level characteristics Economic wealth. As an indicator for the economic wealth of each
country, the logarithm of its gross domestic product (GDP, adjusted for
purchasing power) averaged across the years 1990 to 2002 (as sug-
gested by Meisenberg & Williams, 2008), was used. Information was re-
trieved from the World Development Indicators of the World Bank
( Corruption level. A measure of the corruption level per country
was obtained based on averaged scores of Transparency International's
Corruption Perceptions Index for the years 19992005 (transparency.
org). Collectivism. Country-level scores on an individualism-collectiv-
ism scale for the 20 countries investigated in the present study were
taken from Hofstede (2001).
2.3.3. Acquiescence
As an indicator of acquiescent responding, an acquiescence measure
was constructed on the basis of eight pairs of survey responses from the
ESS questionnaire. These item pairs, which constituted sets of state-
ments that clearly represented opposing opinions, stem from different
question blocks within the ESS questionnaire and are intended to mea-
sure different constructs ranging from socio-political evaluations to atti-
tudes toward migrants. A full list of these item pairs can be found in
Table S1. All items wereto be answered on a ve-point Likert scale rang-
ing from agree strongly to disagree strongly.
In line with earlier research (Aichholzer, 2014; Billiet & McClendon,
2000; Danner et al., 2015; Rammstedt et al., 2010; Rammstedt &
Kemper, 2011; Rammstedt & Farmer, 2013), we scored the acquies-
cence scale by averaging all 16 items. Given that eight items were pos-
itively keyed and eight items were negatively keyed, the resulting
mean score does not reect any construct variance but rather only ac-
quiescence (and random measurement error). We estimated the reli-
ability of the acquiescence index by subtracting each item from its
opposing item and subsequently calculated Cronbach's alpha.
Table 1
Sample characteristics for the 20 countries investigated.
NCountry indicators Individual indicators Acquiescence
GDP CL Collectivism Age (M) Female (%) LE (M) Conservatism (M) Mean SD
Austria 2257 198 7.8 55 46.59 54 2.92 2.88
Belgium 1899 244 7.1 75 44.83 49 3.05 2.71 3.28 0.38
Switzerland 2040 216 8.5 68 47.56 52 3.32 2.96 3.24 0.32
Czech Republic 1360 148 3.7 58 51.91 52 3.10 2.50 3.38 0.36
Germany 2919 1939 7.3 67 47.31 52 3.36 2.83 3.27 0.30
Denmark 1506 130 9.5 74 46.43 49 3.31 3.07 3.08 0.34
Spain 1729 720 7.1 51 48.60 53 2.39 2.36 3.44 0.36
Finland 2000 110 9.7 63 45.63 52 2.89 2.75 3.36 0.38
France 1503 1327 6.3 71 47.32 55 2.96 2.80 3.45 0.40
United Kingdom 2052 1329 8.7 89 48.57 53 2.78 2.80 3.28 0.32
Greece 2566 178 4.2 35 49.66 57 2.30 2.03 3.59 0.37
Hungary 1685 107 4.9 80 46.14 52 2.81 2.45 3.44 0.37
Ireland 2046 80 6.9 70 45.71 54 2.90 2.53 3.35 0.33
Israel 2499 114 7.3 54 41.77 54 3.31 2.45 3.33 0.37
Netherlands 2364 395 9 80 48.07 56 2.98 2.85 3.15 0.33
Norway 2036 119 8.5 69 45.82 46 3.44 3.01 3.16 0.31
Poland 2110 318 4 60 42.9 51 2.94 2.26 3.48 0.32
Portugal 1511 150 6.3 27 47.86 58 1.88 2.78 3.58 0.34
Sweden 1999 214 9.3 71 46.26 49 2.93 3.17 3.21 0.28
Slovenia 1519 33 6 20 44.42 52 2.94 2.51 3.35 0.33
Mean 1980 145 7.1 62 46.67 53 2.93 2.69 3.34 0.34
SD 409 139 1.9 18 2.28 3 0.38 0.29 0.14 0.03
Notes. GDP = gross domestic product in billion EUR adjusted for purchasing power; CL = Corruption level from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean); collectivism scale from 0 (collec-
tivistic) to 100 (individualistic); age = mean age; LE = level of education from 1 (less than lower secondary education) to 5 (tertiary education completed); conservatism from 1 (indi-
vidualistic) to 6 (conservative).
192 B. Rammstedt et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 107 (2017) 190194
Cronbach's alpha was 0.47 on average and varied between 0.39 (Den-
mark) and 0.58 (Greece).
Table 1 provides an overview of the distribution of the different indi-
cators investigated in the 20 countries.
3. Results
In a rst step, we investigated whether the 20 countries differed in
their tendency toward acquiescent responding. We specied a baseline
multilevel model with respondents (i) being nested within countries
(j), acquiescence
that allowed acquiescence differences be-
tween countries, β
. The model parameterswere estimated
using the residual maximum likelihood estimator implemented in SAS
9.3. The model revealed an intra-class correlation of ICC = 0.15, which
indicates that 15% of the total acquiescence variance can be explained
by systematic country differences. Hence, the 20 European countries in-
vestigated differed systematically in their mean tendency toward acqui-
escent responding. On average, the highest acquiescence scores were
found in Greece, followed by Portugal and Poland; the lowest mean ac-
quiescence scores were found in Norway, the Netherlands, and Den-
mark (see Table 1).
In a second step, we concurrently investigated different possible de-
terminants of these between-country and within-country differences in
acquiescent responding: We conducted a second multilevel analysis
with age, gender, educational level, and the degree of conservatism as
individual factors: acquiescence
(age) + β
(gender) +
(education) + β
(conservatism) + ε
. At the country level, we inves-
tigated economic wealth, corruption level, and degree of collectivism:
(wealth) + γ
(corruption) + γ
(collectivism) +
. The intercorrelations between the individual-level predictor vari-
ables and between the country-level predictors are shown in Table S2.
They indicate that GDP and collectivism, in particular, are moderately
interrelated (0.42). The results of the second multilevel model tted
to the data are shown in Table 2.
With the exception of GDP, all country-level predictors contributed
signicantly to explaining the tendency to acquiesce. The highestand
following Cohen (1992) alargeeffect on acquiescence was estimated
for the country's corruption level (η= 0.473): The higher the level of
corruption, the greater was the tendency toward acquiescence in that
country. A country's level of collectivism also had a large effect on acqui-
escence (η= 0.187): The more collectivistic the country, the higher was
the overall tendency to acquiesce. In addition to the country's cultural
orientation, the individual's degree of conservatism was the strongest
predictor of acquiescence at the individual level (η= 0.045) although
this effect was small to moderate in size. Further variance in acquies-
cence could be explained by the individual's level of education (η=
0.029). Thus, at the individual level, respondents with a low degree of
conservatism and with a lower level of educational attainment exhibit-
ed a higher tendency toward acquiescent responding. Most likely due to
the large sample size, the effect of age and gender was also statistically
signicant. However, age contributed only marginally (η= 0.004) to
explaining the variance in our model, and gender did not explain a sub-
stantialportion of the varianceat all. Overall, at respondent level,educa-
tion, age, gender, and degree of conservatism explained 10% of
acquiescent responding, and at country level, wealth, degree of collec-
tivism, and corruption level explained 74% of acquiescent responding.
To ensure that our results were notdue to capitalizing on chance and
that they were not biased by the correlation between GDP, collectivism,
and conservatism at the country level, in particular, we conducted a set
of robustness checks. First, we cross-validated the results of the multi-
level analyses by randomly splitting each country sample into two sub-
samples and then replicated the analyses for both splits. The pattern of
results was very similar for both splits, which suggests no effect of cap-
italization on chance (see Table S3). In addition, we investigated the bi-
asing effectof the intercorrelations of our predictors at the country level.
We therefore excluded each of these three variables in turn from the
analyses. The pattern of the results was highly comparable to that orig-
inally found (see Table S4). We also investigated whether the associa-
tion between acquiescence and age, gender, education, or
conservatism differed between countries and specied the associations
as random effects which did not change the pattern of results (all
Δβb0.002). Finally, we also investigated whether our measure of ac-
quiescence and our conservatism measure were invariant across coun-
tries. In particular, we investigated congural invariance (same factor
structure), metric invariance (same factor loadings), and scalar invari-
ance (same factor loadings and same intercepts) with multi-group
structural equation models. The metric invariance models showed ac-
ceptable model ts (RMSEA b0.07, SRMR 0.05), whereas the scalar in-
variance model revealed a poor model t for both scales (RMSEA N0.11,
SRMR N0.10). Likewise, the change in RMSEA (ΔRMSEA b0.015) and
SRMR (ΔSRMR b0.030) also suggest accepting metric invariance for
both scales (Chen, 2007).
4. Discussion
The aim of the present study was to develop and test a comprehen-
sive model encompassing individual-level determinants and country-
level predictors of the tendency toward acquiescent responding in
Our results corroborate systematic differences in acquiescence be-
tween countries: 15% of thevariance in acquiescence could be explained
by country differences, while the remaining 85% was due to individual
variations among the respondents within countries. Thus, the European
countries included in our study differed substantially in their tendency
toward acquiescence. With our set of predictors we were able to explain
three-quarters of the country-level differences. The most central indica-
tor explaining thesedifferences in acquiescence between countries was
the corruption level of the respective countries, followed by differences
in their respective cultural orientations. The higher the corruption level
and the level of collectivism of a country, the greater was the overall
Even though these reliability estimatesare too low to make inferences about individ-
ual respondents, they arein line with previous research (e.g., Danneret al., 2015) and thus
can be seen as sufcient for regression analyses.
Table 2
Acquiescence regressed on country-level and respondent-level predictors.
Level Predictor Regression
explained at
country level
explained at
Country GDP 0.013 0.450 0.000
Collectivism 0.002 0.041 0.187 0.000
0.039 0.001 0.473 0.000
Respondent Education 0.043 b0.001 0.176 0.029
Age 0.001 b0.001 0.000
Gender 0.010 0.002 0.000
Conservatism 0.073 b0.001 0.085 0.045
0.737 0.097
For the regression analysis, the corruption index was multiplied by 1, so that a high
value on thecorruption scalecorresponds to a highlevel of corruptionin the country. Gen-
der: 1 = male, 2 = fema le. Variance explained at country le vel was calculate d as
(without predictor) υ
(with predictor)] / υ
(without predictor ). Variance ex-
plained at respondent level was calculated as [ε
(without predictor) ε
(with predic-
tor)] / ε
(without predictor).
Values b0werexed to 0.
We did not use χ
-cifference tes ts because in large samples (as the ESS) the χ
difference test is likely to be statistically signicant even if the magnitude of the differ-
ences in not meaningful.
193B. Rammstedt et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 107(2017) 190194
tendency to acquiesce. By contrast, the economic wealth of the country
had no signicant additional effect on acquiescence. These results
support Meisenberg and Williams' (2008) assumption that people
living in corrupt societies are more subservient to powerful others.
However, it has to be kept in mind that the present study investigated
only European and thus comparatively wealthy countries. It needs,
therefore, to be investigated in future studies if economic wealth has
an additional effect on acquiescence based on a more heterogeneous
set of countries.
Individual indicators such as educational level and degree of conser-
vatism differed systematically across the countries and thus contributed
to the explanation of the between-country differences in this response
Moreover, besides these differences between countries, our results
revealed systematic differences between subpopulations: Some sub-
populations within countries were more prone to acquiescence than
others. Ten percent of these individual differences could be explained
by our set of predictors. In line with previous research (e.g., Narayan &
Krosnick, 1996; Rammstedt et al., 2010), our results revealed
thatacross all countriesindividuals with lower levels of educational
attainment and less conservative individuals were more prone to acqui-
escent responding than higher educated and more conservative
In contrast, the effect reported in earlier studies (see Weijters et al.,
2010) that females have, on average, a higher tendency toward acquies-
cence could not be replicated. Rather, we found a statistically signicant
but not substantial effect of gender that indicated a slightly greater ten-
dency toward acquiescence on the part of males compared to females.
Earlier ndings with regard to the effects of age on acquiescence
were inconsistent. While some studies suggested that older individuals
have a greater tendency toward acquiescence (e.g., Meisenberg &
Williams, 2008; Weijters et al., 2010), others identied no substantial
effect of age (e.g., Eid & Rauber, 2000). Our results support these albeit
somewhat contradictory ndings insofar as we found asmall statistical-
ly, but not practically, signicant effect of agein the suggested direction.
In sum, our results support the notion that the corruption level and
the cultural orientation of a country, inparticular, explain cross-national
differences in acquiescent responding. Taking these indicators into ac-
count, the economic wealth of a country was not found to contribute
to the explanation of cross-national differences. This contrasts with
ndings of previous studies that did not control for other indicators.
Overall, our study substantially contributes to an understanding of
cross-national differences in acquiescent responding. Systematic
cross-national response artifacts, as detected in our study, may be
misinterpreted as substantive differences across countries or cultures.
Therefore, before drawing any conclusions from cross-national surveys,
due caution should be taken to reduce acquiescence ex ante (e.g., by
using balanced scales; Billiet & McClendon, 2000) or to control for
acquiescence ex post (e.g., by using ipsatized data; Brown & Maydeu-
Olivares, 2011). Typical areas of application for such ex-ante or post-
hoc measures aimed at reducing acquiescence are all questionnaire-
based data collections performed in multinational, multicultural, and
multiregional contexts. Examples include, but are not limited to, inter-
national employee surveys (e.g., Johnson et al., 2005), cross-national
media usagestudies (e.g., Kuru & Pasek, 2016), and cross-cultural health
surveys (Shavitt et al., 2016). In all these areas, variations in acquies-
cence carry the danger of being misinterpreted as differences in organi-
zational commitment, media exposure habits, or health-related
compliance. Therefore, mindfully considering and correcting for acqui-
escence should yield a more accurate picture about truedifferences,
and help to prevent deriving inappropriate subsequent measures.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
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... -Attitudes towards communication with the patient (ACO) for nursing students [28] (intellectual property UV-MET-201917R registered at the University of Valencia on 8 April 2019). The instrument consisted of 25 items grouped in three dimensions: affective related to patients' admission, procedure and discharge that create anxiety in nurses, which were written in the negative or reverse to avoid the phenomenon of acquiescence [60] (i.e., 12 items, Cronbach's α = 0.95, e.g., "I'm nervous when I give time to the patient and/or family to ask questions and express their concerns"); behavioral, related to information on admission, obtaining informed consent and information on discharge (i.e., 9 items, Cronbach's α = 0.92, e.g., "I usually check that the patient and / or family has understood the discharge information"); and cognitive, referring to the importance of the information that can help in recovery, on discharge care and finally a collaboration with other members of the healthcare team (i.e., 4 items, Cronbach's α = 0.85, e.g., "I need to work with other healthcare team members to provide information to enable the continuity of care."). A five-point Likert scale was used, ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. ...
... This is a 19 item scale composed of three factors and adequate psychometric properties; perspective taking (i.e., 10 items; α Cronbach = 0.83, e.g., "Patients value a nurse's understanding of their feelings that is therapeutic in its own right"), which is the central cognitive ingredient of empathy; compassionate care (i.e., 7 items; α Cronbach = 0.81, e.g., "Asking patients about what is happening in their personal lives is not helpful in understanding their physical complaints"), which aims to understand the patient's experiences, and feelings; thinking like the patient (i.e., 2 items; α Cronbach = 0.84, e.g., "Nurses understanding of their patients feelings and the feelings of their patients families does not influence nursing care"), which is understood as putting oneself in a patient's place [55]. The two last dimensions were written in the negative or reverse to avoid the phenomenon of acquiescence [60]. A five-point Likert scale was used, ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. ...
... In future research, it would be interesting to extend the study sample to other Spanish-speaking countries, and to establish a longitudinal design that would enable causal relationships to be established, and to include other variables that may influence the results, such as age and gender [35]. Another limitation is related to the use of self-reporting, which can introduce social-desirability bias [60]. It would be useful to use another type of instrument completed by others, and/or one with external objective measures. ...
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Communication in nursing is essential to the quality of care and patients’ satisfaction, and personal variables such as empathy and emotional intelligence (EI) can improve it; however, no studies have to date analyzed these competencies and their relations among nursing students compared with nurses. The aims of this study are, therefore, to analyze the differences between nursing students and nurses in the means for empathy, EI and attitudes towards communication in order to assess the impact of empathy and EI on nurses’ and nursing students’ attitudes towards communication, and their influence on the behavioral dimension of attitude. A cross-sectional descriptive study was performed on a convenience sample of 961 nursing students and 460 nurses from the Valencian Community, Spain. T-test and hierarchical regression models (HRM) were used. The data was collected in the selected universities in the 2018/2019 academic year. The results showed high levels in all the variables analyzed (i.e., empathy, EI, and attitudes towards communication) in both samples. The HRM results suggested that empathy was a better predictor than EI of the attitudes towards patient communication among both the nursing students and nurses. In the behavioral dimension of the attitude, the cognitive and affective dimensions had greater weight than the emotional component (i.e., empathy and EI). Developing empathy and the cognitive dimension of the attitude in nursing students and nurses could, therefore, help improve EI and attitudes towards communication. These findings are important for developing intervention programs adjusted to real needs.
... For example, ARS appears to be inversely associated with education (Davis et al. 2019;Meisenberg and Williams 2008;Narayan and Krosnick 1996;Weijters et al. 2010). As respondents with limited education may be less certain about their answers, they may be more susceptible to strategies that reduce their effort and the appearance of ambivalence (Rammstedt et al. 2017). ARS has also been positively associated with age (Davis et al. 2019;De Beuckelaer et al. 2010;Meisenberg and Williams 2008;Rammstedt et al. 2017;Ross and Mirowsky 1984;Weijters et al. 2010). ...
... As respondents with limited education may be less certain about their answers, they may be more susceptible to strategies that reduce their effort and the appearance of ambivalence (Rammstedt et al. 2017). ARS has also been positively associated with age (Davis et al. 2019;De Beuckelaer et al. 2010;Meisenberg and Williams 2008;Rammstedt et al. 2017;Ross and Mirowsky 1984;Weijters et al. 2010). Since aging tends to reduce cognitive ability (Salthouse 1996(Salthouse , 1999, respondents with reduced ability may consciously or unconsciously provide positive answers to camouflage difficulty processing items. ...
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Acquiescent response style (ARS), the tendency for survey respondents to agree with survey items, is of particular concern for increasing measurement error in surveys with populations who are more likely to acquiesce, such as Latino respondents in the U.S. In order to develop methods for reducing ARS, this study addressed two questions: (1) Does administering a questionnaire using conversational interviewing (CI) yield less ARS than standardized interviewing (SI)? (2) Do bipolar disagree/agree (DA) response scales lead to higher ARS than unipolar response scales that do not assess agreement (non-AG)? A total of 891 Latino telephone survey respondents were screened for ARS and randomly assigned to four experimental groups determined by crossing interviewing technique (CI or SI) and response format (non-AG or DA): (1) SI/non-AG (n = 301); (2) SI/DA (n = 295); (3) CI/non-AG (n = 149); and (4) CI/DA (n = 146). CI yielded lower ARS than SI (p < 0.001), but there was no difference in ARS between DA and non-AG response scales. A subset of coded interview recordings indicated that the CI interviewers reduced ARS by clarifying questions even in the absence of evidence of respondent confusion and helping with response mapping. These results suggest that difficulty answering questions associated with cognitive decline and cultural norms may have prompted higher use of ARS, but that conversational interviewers were able to mitigate these difficulties and cultural tendencies. Findings from this study suggest that using CI to administer survey questions may decrease ARS and improve data quality among survey respondents who are more likely to engage in ARS.
... Age-related response styles provide an alternative explanation for this decoupling. Some research has found that older age is associated with greater social desirability (Ausemees et al., 2022), acquiescence bias (Meisenberg & Williams, 2008;Rammstedt et al., 2017), and more extreme response styles (Scheider, 2018). Of these response styles, acquiescent responding most clearly connects to why the purposeful and purposeless factors would become less associated with each other at higher ages. ...
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Despite the value of sense of purpose during older adulthood, this construct often declines with age. With some older adults reconsidering the relevance of purpose later in life, the measurement of purpose may suffer from variance issues with age. The current study investigated whether sense of purpose functions similarly across ages, and evaluated if the predictive power of purpose on mental, physical, cognitive, and financial outcomes changes when accounting for a less age-affected measurement structure. Utilizing data from two nationwide panel studies (HRS: n=14,481; MIDUS: n=4,030), the current study conducted local structural equation modeling and found two factors for the positively and negatively valenced purpose items in the Purpose in Life subscale (Ryff, 1989), deemed the purposeful and purposeless factor. These factors become less associated with each other at higher ages. When reproducing past findings with this two-factor structure, the current study found that the purposeful and purposeless factors predicted these outcomes in the same direction as would be suggested by past research, but the magnitude of these effects differed for some outcomes. The discussion focuses on the implications of what this means for our understanding of sense of purpose across the lifespan.
... An acquiescent response style, in which participants agree with statements regardless of item content, may result from norms that encourage group cohesion or attention to social hierarchy (Johnson et al., 2005). These norms are often observed in countries with higher levels of collectivism; indeed, collectivism has been positively associated with both midpoint (Shulruf et al., 2011) and acquiescent (Rammstedt et al., 2017) responding in populations outside of the Americas. Finally, when one's reputation is important, people may respond in socially desirable ways, trying to present themselves in the ''best light'' rather than accurately reporting their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors (Paulhus & Reid, 1991). ...
Culture influences responses to psychological measurements in ways unrelated to target constructs, thus biasing test scores and potentially contributing to under- and over-diagnosis of mental health problems in populations for which measures have not yet been normed. We conducted a systematic review of publications addressing response style among Latinx population groups in North and South America. In a final corpus of 24 studies, Latinx/Latin American populations were generally found to exhibit higher levels of extreme response style (n = 17), acquiescent response style (n = 10), and socially desirable responding (n = 5). The few publications (n = 3) that investigated midpoint responding reported no differences. Seven publications (29%) attempted to adjust scores to mitigate response style bias, using both scale design and statistical techniques. Findings suggest that researchers and clinicians should directly assess culturally patterned response style as a construct, rather than inferring style indirectly using other measures. For clinicians, knowledge of response style represents another facet of case conceptualization.
... We specifically focus on three European countries with particularly relevant differences in terms of their language and economic, political, historical, and ideological context: Estonia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom. As an example, both acquiescence and social desirability are more salient in collectivistic societies (Rammstedt et al., 2017), with acquiescence also being more likely in societies with higher levels of corruption (Johnson & Vijver, 2003). Estonia and Slovenia, in general, have higher levels of collectivism and perception of corruption than the United Kingdom (Beilmann et al., 2018;Transparency International, 2019). ...
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Income redistribution is determined, to some extent, by how fair citizens judge the income distribution in their societies to be. Nonetheless, there seems to be a contradiction between what people declare as a fair income distribution, and the increase in inequalities across countries. An unexplored methodological reason for that is that survey instruments do not perfectly capture individual’s perception of income fairness, biasing results. Therefore, in this paper we use data from a Multitrait-Multimethod experiment conducted in wave 6 of the probability-based CROss-National Online Survey (CRONOS) panel in Great Britain, Estonia and Slovenia. Specifically, we explore the effect of three different scales on how fair people report an income to be, and the subsequent measurement quality of these answers. Overall, we find that survey scales do have an impact on what people report as a fair income, and the quality of these answers. Specifically, we find that the use of branching scales increases participants’ likelihood of considering an income distribution as “Fair”, while using partial-labelling and visual clues to separate (fair/unfair) dimensions increases the likelihood of considering these as “extremely unfair high/low.” In addition, our results suggest that using a 9-point fully labelled unfolding scale without visual clues yields the best measurement quality across all countries, being preferred over the other tested methods (9-point partially labelled unfolding scale with visual clues; 9-point fully labelled branching scale without visual clues).
A number of studies have examined the relationships between response styles and the Hofstede and GLOBE cultural indices; however, studies involving adolescent samples or examining the effects of national wealth on observed relationships are scarce. This study addresses these gaps by applying simple and partial correlation analysis to the data of 15-year-olds in 33 PISA 2006 countries. The study found that the relationships between response styles and cultural indices in the two frameworks are similar to those in past studies of adult populations. After accounting for GDP per capita, the majority of relationships remained unchanged. However, others, such as Hofstede’s power distance and acquiescence and dis-acquiescence, lost significance, and Hofstede’s masculinity and extreme response styles only gained significance when GDP per capita was held constant. The findings highlight the influence of cultural values on students’ questionnaire-response behaviours, which should be recognised in comparative studies.
Acquiescent (ARS) and extreme response styles (ERS) can have detrimental effects on survey data and, for unknown reasons, are more frequently used by Latino than non-Latino white respondents. This exploratory study examined the influence of culture on these response styles by investigating their associations with individual-level cultural factors and ARS and ERS among 1,296 Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American telephone survey respondents. Principal components representing stronger endorsement of marianismo/ machismo and social attentiveness ( simpatía, personalismo, respect for elders, value for sincerity, collectivism, individualism) were associated with higher ARS and ERS, while higher trust in strangers and more limited health literacy were associated with lower ERS. Findings from this study will enable survey designers to better anticipate ARS and ERS in surveys with Latino populations and, in turn, guide the selection of data collection and analysis methods to mitigate measurement error in the presence of these response styles.
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Objective: Cancer patients receiving palliative care experience a variety of impairments in their quality of life (QoL), and have corresponding supportive care needs (SCNs). The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between SCNs, satisfaction with QoL dimensions, and the perceived importance of these dimensions. Method: A sample of 152 cancer patients receiving palliative care were included in this cross-sectional study. Eight dimensions of QoL were defined and assessed concerning SCNs, satisfaction, and subjective importance using a new assessment instrument with five-point scales (range 1-5) for each dimension. Results: Among the eight specific domains examined, the greatest SCNs were observed for absence of pain (M = 3.18; SD = 1.29). The patients were least satisfied with their physical functioning (M = 2.60; SD = 0.84), and the dimension social relationships (M = 4.14; SD = 0.72) received the highest perceived importance ratings. The eight dimensions' SCNs scores were significantly correlated with each other (r between 0.29 and 0.79); the lowest correlations were found for social relationships. The correlations between the satisfaction scores and the SCNs differed from dimension to dimension, with coefficients between -0.32 (absence of pain) and - 0.57 (sleep quality). Conclusion: The results show that detriments in QoL do not automatically indicate high levels of SCNs in those dimensions. Health care providers should consider both factors, QoL (as measured with QoL questionnaires) and subjectively expressed SCNs, to optimize their patients' care regimens.
Social power as a pivot to analyze the power structure of consumers and consumers’ involvement of firms in crowdsourcing. Accordingly, the managerial implications of ‘consumer-firm’ power balance are deliberated in the chapter. Crowdsourcing is a process that explores collective intelligence for resolving the complex behavioral issues by distributing tasks to a large group of people. The learning objectives of this chapter include understanding of how consumer cognitive (thinking) processes and limitations affect beliefs and social influences, and how other contextual factors influence consumer decision-making, choices, and behavior. This chapter focuses on learning from external factors on consumer behavior and relationships with other people that influence their decision-making processes. The behavioral analytics is discussed in this chapter, in the context of motivation and decision theories. Besides, this chapter discusses the role of consumer advocacy and psychodynamics (peer-to-peer opinion dissemination) as a tool for developing crowd-based business models.
Objective: We investigate the applicability of the Big Five model in rural Southeast Asia and thereby challenge recent concerns about the validity of the model in developing countries. Method: We use a novel data set on personality traits from rural Thailand and Vietnam (N = 3,811 individuals). In our analysis, we (i) assess the factor structure of the data (ii) test the internal consistency of the items, (iii) compare the traits across two consecutive survey waves, (iv) employ regressions to demonstrate the economic relevance of the traits. Results: The results demonstrate a five-factor structure that fits the Big Five model. We observe changes in personality traits over time but Cohen's d coefficients only range between 0.06 and 0.21. The average rank-order stability, measured by the test-retest correlation of the Big Five between the two consecutive waves, lies at 0.21. Individual changes in personality traits over time relate to experienced shocks and appear to be largely independent of age, gender and education. We further find that openness and emotional stability positively correlate with rural incomes. Conclusions: While there is scepticism, pertaining the use of personality trait models in developing countries, our study demonstrates that their importance and usage cannot be rejected.
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This paper presents a theory of potentially universal aspects in the content of human values. Ten types of values are distinguished by their motivational goals. The theory also postulates a structure of relations among the value types, based on the conflicts and compatibilities experienced when pursuing them. This structure permits one to relate systems of value priorities, as an integrated whole, to other variables. A new values instrument, based on the theory and suitable for cross-cultural research, is described. Evidence relevant for assessing the theory, from 97 samples in 44 countries, is summarized. Relations of this approach to Rokeach's work on values and to other theories and research on value dimensions are discussed. Application of the approach to social issues is exemplified in the domains of politics and intergroup relations.
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Cultural differences in the relations between perceived stress and mental and physical health, and the role of social support in buffering these relations, are examined in a survey of multiple U.S. cultural/ethnic groups. Findings from a health survey of N = 603 adults comprising approximately equal numbers of non-Hispanic Whites, Mexican Americans, Korean Americans, and African Americans show that perceived stress is negatively correlated with one’s perceived mental and physical health, in line with previous research. However, the role of social support in mitigating this relationship is culturally contingent. A buffering effect of social support on the relation between perceived stress and both mental and physical health was only observed for Mexican Americans, not for the other cultural/ethnic groups. These patterns are discussed in the context of research on differences in social help seeking among distinct types of collectivistic cultural groups. The findings are consistent with recent research on horizontal versus vertical collectivism that highlights the importance of sociability and benevolence in Latin American cultural contexts. The results affirm the importance of distinguishing between collectivistic cultures in understanding how social support may impact mental and physical health.
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We present a theory and methods for characterizing cultures in terms of value priorities. Applying this approach with data from school-teacher samples in 46 nations reveals a shared value profile that distinguishes West European nations from the rest of the world. This value profile gives priority to Autonomy at the expense of Conservatism, Egalitarianism at the expense of Hierarchy, and Harmony at the expense of Mastery. Data from student samples in 41 nations replicate these findings. Both sets of data also reveal that the West European cultural profile differs substantially from the profile found in samples from the United States. The latter give greater priority to Mastery, Hierarchy and Conservatism values, and less to Egalitarianism, Intellectual Autonomy and Harmony values. Possible socio-historical sources of these cultural value priorities are suggested. The United States and Western Europe have been characterized together as prototypical "Western individualist" cultures. The findings show that they diverge culturally and that both exhibit elements that have been labelled both individualism and collectivism. Moreover, differences within the West are as large as differences between the West and East Asia. This illustrates the inadequacy of the individualism-collectivism dimension to describe cultures. The dimensions proposed here appear more promising for this purpose.
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Previous research suggests that simple structure CFAs of Big Five personality measures fail to accurately reflect the scale’s complex factorial structure, whereas EFAs generally perform better. Another strand of research suggests that acquiescence or uniform response bias masks the scale’s “true” factorial structure. Random Intercept EFA (RI-EFA) captures acquiescence as well as the complex item-factor structure typical for personality measures. It is applied to the NEO-FFI and the BFI scale to test whether an accurate model-to-data fit can be achieved and whether the “clarity” of the factorial structure improves. The results lend confidence in the general effectiveness of RI-EFA whenever acquiescence bias is an issue. Example Mplus code is provided for replication.
Social media measurement relies heavily on self-report survey research. Hence, known biases in how individuals answer survey questions can introduce systematic errors into the social media literature. In particular, many common social media measures are prone to acquiescence response bias, an error that occurs due to individuals' tendency to agree with agree–disagree questions. The current study tests a series of techniques to both detect and overcome acquiescence bias in the context of Facebook measurement. Controlling for individuals' tendency to agree with agree–disagree questions, we find evidence that acquiescence has inflated the reliabilities and factor loadings of many Facebook use scales, and has altered correlations both among Facebook use measures and between those measures and related covariates. Further, when the individual-level tendency to agree with questions is controlled, Facebook measures demonstrate greater criterion validity in their relations to items that do not use agree–disagree scales. Having identified the presence of acquiescent responding, we test three methods for mitigating this response bias: the use of balanced scales, item-specific questions, and statistical correctives. All three methods appear to reduce the bias introduced by acquiescence. Thus, the results provide comparative evidence on strategies to alleviate the consistent impact of an important method bias in social media measurement and thereby contribute to improving the validity of social media research at large.
Acquiescence, which is defined as agreeing to items regardless of content, is a well-known bias in self-report instruments. This paper investigates the relevance, domain specificity, and the stability of acquiescence in personality questionnaires. Data from two large samples representative for the German (N = 1,999) and for the Austrian adult population (N = 3,266) were investigated with structural equation models. In both studies respondents answered, besides others, a short Big Five inventory. The three core findings are: (1) acquiescence systematically affects the variance of personality items and biases the association with other variables, (2) acquiescence is consistent across different question types, and (3) acquiescence in personality items is moderately stable over time. Implications for research and the application of personality questionnaires are discussed.
For groups of persons with low or medium levels of education, Big Five personality scales typically yield scores that poorly replicate the idealized Big Five factor pattern. On the basis of representative samples of German adults, Rammstedt et al. (2010; 2011) have demonstrated that correcting each person’s score for acquiescence eliminates this problem. In the present 18-country study using large samples representative of each country’s adult population, we found that, in all cases, correcting for acquiescence did indeed improve the congruence of factor loadings with an idealized Big Five pattern. However, while this correction led to acceptably high correspondence levels in all countries classified as individualistic, this was not always true for non-individualistic countries. Possible reasons for this finding are discussed.