• Presentation

Incentives as Signals in a Game Theoretic Model of Survey Participation


Wang, K. H. (2008, May). Incentives as Signals in a Game Theoretic Model of Survey Participation. Presented at AAPOR 2008, New Orleans, LA.


Potential respondents consider a wide range of factors in their decision making to participate in a survey such as topic salience, expected level of burden, and other costs and benefits from participating. Respondents may also be uncertain of the intentions of the survey data collector. Survey data collection organizations also make decisions about how to proceed with the survey request such as whether to offer a prepaid or promised incentive and other aspects reflected in the survey’s design. The survey participation process can be viewed as a social situation involving two actors making interdependent decisions. Game theory offers survey methodologists a tool for understanding how individuals make decisions, how those decisions are interrelated and how these decisions lead to outcomes. To illustrate the potential use of game theory for studying the response process, I present and solve two Bayesian games in which survey respondents are uncertain about whether the survey firm has cooperative or exploitative preferences. In the first model, a prepaid incentive can be selected by the survey firm while in the second, a promised incentive can be chosen. Implications from these models are then related to evidence on the effects of incentives on response rates.