Detecting and Deterring Insufficient Effort Responding to Surveys

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Responses provided by unmotivated survey participants in a careless, haphazard, or random fashion can threaten the quality of data in psychological and organizational research. The purpose of this study was to summarize existing approaches to detect insufficient effort responding (IER) to low-stakes surveys and to comprehensively evaluate these approaches.


In an experiment (Study 1) and a nonexperimental survey (Study 2), 725 undergraduates responded to a personality survey online.


Study 1 examined the presentation of warnings to respondents as a means of deterrence and showed the relative effectiveness of four indices for detecting IE responses: response time, long string, psychometric antonyms, and individual reliability coefficients. Study 2 demonstrated that the detection indices measured the same underlying construct and showed the improvement of psychometric properties (item interrelatedness, facet dimensionality, and factor structure) after removing IE respondents identified by each index. Three approaches (response time, psychometric antonyms, and individual reliability) with high specificity and moderate sensitivity were recommended as candidates for future application in survey research.


The identification of effective IER indices may help researchers ensure the quality of their low-stake survey data.


This study is a first attempt to comprehensively evaluate IER detection methods using both experimental and nonexperimental designs. Results from both studies corroborated each other in suggesting the three more effective approaches. This study also provided convergent validity evidence regarding various indices for IER.