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Open Access Examining Auxiliary Verbs in a Salient Belief Elicitation

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Objective: Salient belief elicitations (SBEs) measure beliefs toward a health behavior through open-ended questions, with the purpose of developing close-ended survey questions. Auxiliary verbs used in SBE questions often differ (eg, What are the top 3 reasons you would/should decide to have an abortion?). We tested how 2 auxiliary verbs function in a SBE assessing abortion in English and Spanish: would/decidíra and should/debería. Methods: We administered a SBE survey online (N = 175) and in-person (N = 72); in-person participants also participated in cognitive interviews to assess question interpretation. Participants were assigned to survey versions that included identical SBE questions aside from auxiliary verbs— would/decidíra versus should/debería. Data analysis included: (1) content analysis of survey responses to assess differences in responses by version and (2) thematic analysis of interview data focused on interpretations of would/decidíra and should/ debería . Results: Would/decidíra surveys generated more response categories. Similarly, cognitive interview findings suggest participants conceptualized would/decidíra as allowing for more options, while should/debería was thought to include only the most significant reasons/circumstances for abortion, potentially restricting participants' responses. Conclusion: These findings have important measurement implications for researchers administering SBEs.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2021

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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