Researchers ask the darndest question

The question below appeared in a survey asking autistic adolescents if they have experienced any form of bullying victimization.

“How often do other kids gossip or say mean things about you when you are not around?”


The researcher reported that autistic adolescents were confused by this question and sought clarification. Pretty obvious what’s causing the confusion, isn’t it? I’m surprised none of the researchers noticed it. Sometimes a researcher’s ‘logic’ is hard to understand. The best practice would be to engage autistic individuals in the research process and have them test the surveyย before it was rolled-out. In any case, it is important to test a survey before it is rolled-out, I hate surveys with questions that make no sense or are unclear. However, I have to give credit to the researchers for reporting this in their article although it’s a shame they didn’t clarify what they meant by the question.

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9 thoughts on “Researchers ask the darndest question

  1. The problem of course is that there is no way of knowing for certain about this, although one can speculate with a fair degree of confidence (when I was a child my own very confident estimate would have been “One hell of a lot” or words to that effect) – but the most likely response of an autistic person to a question that they cannot give a definite answer to is no response at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, there is no way to know for certain. In the survey, the adolescents had to indicate their answer using a seven-point scale (1=never happens to me; 7=happens to me almost every day).
      In this case, however, the confusion seems to stem from a literal understanding of the question, and I quote, “adolescents asked for clarification about how they were supposed to know if other kids said things behind their backs given that they were not there to hear what the other kids were saying.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Academics and researchers are clearly not the brightest sparks on our planet! I showed this question to my 14-year old neurotypical daughter as well as my son – and they both said “What a stupid question.”

    Liked by 3 people

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