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Cognitive Dynamics of Proxy Responding: The Diverging Perspectives of Actors and Observers

Norbert Schwarz and Tracy Wellens



The cognitive processes that underlie self- and proxy-reports of attitudes and behaviors have recently received increased attention in the survey methodology literature. However, this research has not yet fully exploited the wealth of psychological theorizing that may potentially be relevant to self and proxy reporting. Most importantly, psychological research on person perception and attribution bears on how individuals form mental representations of self and other, and on how they use these representations in recall and estimation processes. The present paper provides a selective review of this psychological literature; relates its key findings to methodological issues of self and proxy reporting; and reports the findings of several laboratory experiments and an experimental survey designed to provide first tests of key hypotheses derived from cognitive theorizing. Implications for future research, respondent selection rules, and questionnaire construction are discussed.


Cognitive Dynamics, Self and Proxy Reporting


Schwarz, Norbert and Tracy Wellens. (1994). Cognitive Dynamics of Proxy Responding: The Diverging Perspectives of Actors and Observers . Statistical Research Division Working Papers in Survey Methodology (#94-07). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Published online: February 08, 1999
Last revised:

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010