• Presentation

Cognitive Testing as a Method of Pre-Testing Questionnaires in High- and Low-Context Cultures


Park, H., & Sha, M. (2009, May). Cognitive Testing as a Method of Pre-Testing Questionnaires in High- and Low-Context Cultures. Presented at AAPOR 2009, .


More and more, survey materials are translated from English into non-English languages. To ensure that the translated texts are delivered as intended, experts recommend that translated survey materials be pretested. Cognitive interviewing has been widely used as an effective tool to pretest questionnaires and detect problematic survey questions. However, there is little existing research about cognitive interviewing in languages other than English.

For the current study, we will compare Korean and English cognitive interview data to determine whether we can find the same problems in the English cognitive interview data as in the Korean cognitive interview data. Our data come from a cognitive testing project undertaken at the U.S. Census Bureau in which we conducted 109 cognitive interviews with monolingual speakers of five languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese.

We selected the Korean language because of its linguistic and cultural difference from the English language. Korean language and culture have been described as “high context” culture meaning that Koreans rely heavily on contextual elements, background information, and interpersonal cues in their communication. In contrast, the English language and culture are regarded as “low context” where communication relies more on facts and information (Hall 1959, 1976 and Hall and Hall 1987). Yet, in general, cognitive interviewing has been implemented in the communicative norms of English and Western culture where directness and openness is a preferred communication style (Pan et al., 2008). Despite the different expectations in communication pattern between the English and the Korean languages, we hypothesize that if these cognitive interviews identify similar survey question problems, such as problems originating from meaning of words, in high context (Korean) and low context (English) languages, it would suggest that cognitive interviewing may be a valid method to pretest questionnaires in high context languages.