You Know What I Know: Interviewer Knowledge Effects in Subjective Expectation Elicitation

Jason T. Kerwin, Natalia Ordaz Reynoso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Directly eliciting individuals' subjective beliefs via surveys is increasingly popular in social science research, but doing so via face-to-face surveys has an important downside: the interviewer's knowledge of the topic may spill over onto the respondent's recorded beliefs. Using a randomized experiment that used interviewers to implement an information treatment, we show that reported beliefs are significantly shifted by interviewer knowledge. Trained interviewers primed respondents to use the exact numbers used in the training, nudging them away from higher answers; recorded responses decreased by about 0.3 standard deviations of the initial belief distribution. Furthermore, respondents with stronger prior beliefs were less affected by interviewer knowledge. We suggest corrections for this issue from the perspectives of interviewer recruitment, survey design, and experiment setup.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Adeline Delavande, Audrey Dorélien, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, Maxwell Mkondiwa, Stacy Pancratz, Rebecca Thornton, Emilia Tjernström, Jenny Trinitapoli, Susan Watkins, Rob Warren, Bob Willis, Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, and four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. This research was supported in part by an NIA training grant to the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan (T32 AG000221). The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Minnesota Population Center (P2C HD041023) funded through a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). All errors and omissions are our own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.


  • Interviewer effects
  • Risk beliefs
  • Spillovers
  • Subjective expectations
  • Survey methodology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Randomized Controlled Trial


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