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A comparison of full and abbreviated formats of hard laddering

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The attributes-consequences-values associations, embedded in means-end chain theory, are often seen as a representation of the basic drive that motivates consumer behaviour. Laddering is a technique used to elicit such associations from the respondent's cognitive-motivational structure in order to fully relate product attributes to the consequences of those attributes and to discover links to underlying personal values. Unfortunately, the traditional procedure is time consuming and requires a considerable physical and mental effort from the respondent. Kaciak and Cullen (2009) proposed a method of shortening a laddering survey while controlling the amount of information lost. They showed that a laddering questionnaire may be shortened by more than 50% and still allow the generation of approximately 95% of the ladders produced by the full set of questions. We investigate this claim empirically, based on two independent quota samples of cigarette smokers. One sample of respondents is presented with the full hard laddering questionnaire, while the other sample is presented with an abbreviated version. The study shows that a statistically significant difference exists between the two groups in their average perceived difficulty in filling out the questionnaire - the group presented with the abbreviated version found it easier to fill out than the group which was assigned the traditional, full format questionnaire. Furthermore, almost no difference in the results produced by the two approaches was found, which suggests that researchers may achieve similar results with much shorter questionnaires, thus helping to minimise respondent fatigue, boredom, irritation, non-response, and failure to complete. As a result, the quality of data collected may be improved, which is vital for research on socially sensitive issues, such as, for example, cigarette smoking.
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Keywords: ABBREVIATED; CIGARETTE SMOKING; HARD LADDERING; MEANS-END CHAINS; QUESTIONNAIRE; SOFT LADDERING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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