I’m paid biweekly, just not by leprechauns: Evaluating valid-but-incorrect response rates to attention check items.
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Description: Not all individuals put in the required thought and effort while responding to self-report survey items, and participant carelessness is a source of invalidity in psychological data (Huang, Liu, & Bowling, 2015). Many techniques and methods have been created to screen for this carelessness (Curran, 2016; Johnson, 2005), including the inclusion of items that researchers presume thoughtful individuals will answer in a given way (e.g., disagreement with “I am paid biweekly by leprechauns”, Meade & Craig, 2012). However, no studies have examined if these items always identify those who are careless, or if there exist individuals who have legitimate and justifiable reasons for picking out-of-bounds responses. This paper reports on two studies in which individuals spoke aloud a series of these questions, as well as their responses and justification for those responses. Coding of these responses found that a) individuals do occasionally report valid justifications for presumed invalid responses, b) there is relatively high variance in this behavior over different items, and c) items developed for this specific purpose tend to work better than those drawn from other sources or created ad hoc. These results suggest that care should be taken when implementing these types of items to screen for carelessness.