Interviews as experiments: Using audience effects to examine social relationships

Lee Cronk*, Drew Gerkey, William Irons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


To explore the ability of audience effects to shed light on social dynamics, the authors contrasted responses given in individual and joint interviews. Interviews were conducted among the English-speaking residents of Utila, one of Honduras's Bay Islands. Interviewees were older adults with at least one living adult child and younger adults with at least one living parent. Interviews were conducted with individuals alone and with pairs consisting of older adults and their adult children. The topic of the interviews was parenting, but the authors' particular interest was in a question regarding obligations children have to their elderly parents. Responses to that question and to a control question were coded for length, interviewer behavior, vocalics, and forceful-ness of communicative style. Audience effects were found in children's responses to the question about obligations to elderly parents: Children interviewed with parents responded more forcefully to that question than children interviewed alone. Responses to the control question showed no audience effect. Involvement in the island's remittance economy was also associated with a more forceful communicative style, but this effect was not contingent on the audience present or the question asked. Audience effects may be a useful and important new tool for ethnographic research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-346
Number of pages16
JournalField Methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Audience effects
  • Bay Islands
  • Honduras
  • Interview methods
  • Old age security
  • Utila

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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