Inconsistent reporting of life experiences: What people think and how they explain it?

Vanessa Azevedo, Carla Martins, Margarida Carvalho, Ângela Maia


Assessment of life experiences relies mainly on cross-sectional retrospective design, despite the concerns regarding inconsistent reports. Studies suggest that some individuals change their answers when asked repeatedly, but common opinions underlying this behaviour remain unknown. Our study explored personal perceptions regarding inconsistent reporting and identified associated reasons including individual, experiences-related, and design-related characteristics. Seventy-two individuals, enrolled in a longitudinal study about life experiences, answered a measure about general perceptions and involved reasons. Participants seemed to be aware that inconsistent reporting is a common behaviour, which highly impact on research. A cluster analysis revealed two clusters (i.e., variables involved versus not involved). Most disagreed that sociodemographic variables influence inconsistency, whereas memory, mood, valence, impact, mode of data collection, and interviewer features were pointed as key-variables. Our results suggest that inconsistent reporting is not straightforward and it is probably rooted in a varied and complex set of variables.


Adults, Life events, Reliability, Reporting practices, Retrospective assessment.

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