Calling for participation: Requests, blocking moves, and rational (inter)action in survey introductions

Douglas W. Maynard, Jeremy Freese, Nora Cate Schaeffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We draw on conversation analytic methods and research to explicate the interactional phenomenon of requesting in general and the specific case of requesting participation in survey interviews. Recent work on survey participation gives much attention to leverage-saliency theory but does not explore how the key concepts of this theory are exhibited in the actual unfolding interaction of interviewers and potential respondents. We examine interaction using digitally recorded and transcribed calls to recruit participation in the 2004 Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. We describe how potential respondents present interactional environments that are relatively discouraging or encouraging, and how, in response, interviewers may be relatively cautious or presumptive in their requesting actions. We consider how interviewers' ability to tailor their behavior to their interactional environments can affect whether an introduction reaches the point at which a request to participate is made, the form that this request takes, and the sample person's response. This article contributes to understanding the social action of requesting and specifically how we might use insights from analyses of interaction to increase cooperation with requests to participate in surveys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-814
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • conversation analysis
  • leverage-saliency theory
  • rational choice
  • requesting participation
  • survey non-response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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