The Future of Surveys: Voice Over Internet Surveys

How many online surveys have you taken in your lifetime? Was there ever a time where the questions weren’t quite applicable and you wished there was an option to just speak to someone or leave an audio message to reflect what your answer would be? Well, you may have that option in the near future. Graduate research assistant and Ph.D. student Teresa Ristow and Dr. Ivan Hernandez, assistant professor and director of the Computational Organizational Research (CORE) Lab, have developed a framework that allows researchers a free and user-friendly add-on for collecting vocal data within online survey collection platforms. 

When asked about this framework known as Voice Over Internet Surveys (VOIS), Ristow said, “This method bridges a gap in that there are no currently available free or easy-to-use options to collect audio data from the participant on the popular collection platforms.” Ristow went on to say, “Through copy-and-pasting a JavaScript code provided into the online survey creation platforms, researchers can collect this data more easily in a scalable way from more diverse populations.”

This research aligns with Ristow’s research focus of methodological improvement and accessible implementation in applied psychological research. She is also interested in survey fraud detection and prior research has highlighted how collecting audio data from a respondent can reduce the likelihood the data was fabricated by a collection service. 

Ristow stated, “By making voice collection more widely available in online settings, academic researchers can gain more insight into previously understudied phenomena online. For example, in cognitive psychology, researchers have people think aloud to show their thought process. In Industrial Organizational psychology, people might record their answers to different interview questions. In social psychology, couples can record their dialogue preserving the natural dynamic between the two. Also, non-academic researchers can collect audio data to gain richer insights into a person, such as their speech patterns and tone.

The VOIS method can be used in applied research outside of academic settings, especially in disciplines that benefit from gaining employee insight. Ristow said, “Specifically, organizational researchers can utilize this technology to further understand and explain phenomena in the workplace that may currently only be understood via more traditional data formats. Eliciting employee thoughts and feelings through a means that requires minimal effort from employees can allow for more dynamic and progressive workplace change. Additionally, in a post-pandemic world that has adopted online means of communication, this resource can allow for vocal data collection remotely.” 

This project further highlights how the Virginia Tech Industrial Organizational psychology area is at the forefront of bridging psychology and technology. This project was conducted as part of the CORE lab, which develops computational tools to facilitate psychological research. “Through the department we also see many ways research methods are advanced through technology,” said Ristow. For example, work conducted in the Work Stress and Recovery Lab, directed by Charles Calderwood has been integrating big data via video and physiological sources to work recovery. Louis Hickman’s Workplace Assessment and Social Perceptions lab is at the forefront of studying automated video interview scoring. Ning Hsu leverages data mining in her meta analytic research. Roseanne Foti’s Interface of Leadership and Teams Lab (ILT) has been applying natural language processing and image analysis to study leader perceptions. Neil Hauenstein’s Social Cognitive Industrial Psychology Lab creates and improves quantitative measures for assessment. 

When speaking about other benefits to using VOIS, Ristow said, “It also promotes a standard of open-science and research that is not common in many survey collection platforms or have pay walls and barriers to entry for researchers.” 

Through its accessibility and streamlined data collection process, you may see VOIS being used in your workplace in the near future.


Dr. Hernandez and Teresa Ristow
Dr. Ivan Hernandez and Teresa Ristow
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