|Title||Interviewing persons with a learning disability: how setting lower standards may inflate well-being scores|
|Tag(s)||EMCA, Medical EMCA|
|Journal||Qualitative Health Research|
To be psychometrically valid, standard questions are meant to be delivered as they appear on the interview schedule—or by nonleading paraphrase—and the respondents’ answers exactly recorded. Yet, inspection of a set of transcripts of quality-of-life assessments of people with a learning disability (in North American terminology, mental retardation) shows massive deviation from this ideal. What is unsurprising is that interviewers frequently edit questions to address their interviewees’ limited cognitive competence. What is more pragmatically and interactionally interesting is that interviewers also redesign questions “sensitively” in ways that lower the social and personal criteria for a high score. Unofficially lowering the bar in this way might seem generous, but it constructs the respondent as impaired. It also means that respondents may end up getting high quality-of-life scores on unambitious questions one would not ask of people without a learning disability and that do not appear on the official questionnaire.