Telescoping and Temporal Memory

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Abstract

Many survey questions ask respondents to report their behavior during some time period. These questions typically ask about the incidence or frequency of events that occurred during a particular period of time. Most often the question will specify a starting date (e.g., “Since January 1,1990,…”) or a time period (e.g., “During the past 12 months,…“) that ends with the present. Sometimes, however, the reference period may begin and end before the actual time of reporting (e.g., “During the 2-week period beginning Sept. 2 and ending Sept. 16, how often did you…?”). Less often, respondents may be asked questions that call for specific dates (e.g, “When were you interviewed?”).