Stop me if you've heard this one before

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The Independent Online
May I take just a few minutes of your time today? It won't take long. Just a few questions I want to ask you. Thank you.

No, it's not really a questionnaire. It's just a few questions we want to ask selected members of the public to help us with our research.

It won't take long and it will be very helpful. Thank you.

We want to find out how people feel about being asked to help with questionnaires.

Here we go then.

1. How do you feel about being asked to do questionnaires?

Tick the statement which most nearly approximates to your feeling about questionnaires:

- I think questionnaires are a necessary tool for psephology and market research.

- Questionnaires may well be a necessary tool for psephology and market research, but I am damned if I can see the need for either psephology or market research.

- I think questionnaires are a God-given chance to people with low self- esteem to have an excuse to stop people in the street, wave a clip-board about and feel important.

- I think questionnaires are a God-given chance for the average man or woman in the street like me to look someone with low self-esteem honestly in the eye and give totally false and lying answers to their boring questions.

- I only feel tempted to co-operate with questionnaires when the poor person with the clipboard has been standing in Baker Street all day without being able to get anyone to stop and answer their questions and now looks suicidally unhappy, and even then I probably wouldn't stop.

Well, thank you for answering that question. That has been very helpful.

Now we are going to ask you a question about the behaviour of people with clip-boards who ask you for your help in answering a few questions.

Here is the question:

2. When you agree to answer a question or two, and the clip-board person says, "Well, thank you for answering that question. That has been very helpful", what do you think they really mean ?

- "Well, thank you for answering that question. That has been very helpful."

- "Your answer was so unhelpful that I have written a more helpful answer."

- "I have been standing in Baker Street for five hours asking people questions, and I am so brain-dead that I am putting down the first answer that comes into my mind."

- "I myself have no idea what this survey is for. I have just been plucked off the unemployment pile and offered a few bob to garner your answers, and I have been told to smile and say how helpful you are being. But what you are being helpful towards I have no idea."

- "I am the watch-out for a gang that is about to do a bank raid across the road, and I need to adopt a pose that will not attract attention, and research has shown that people with clip-boards attract less attention than anyone else."

Now, here is another question about questionnaires (and may I say that your answers so far have been extremely cool and helpful?). This one is about mood changes that may take place halfway through a questionnaire.

This is the question:

3. When you stop and agree to answer a few questions from a person with a clip-board, and you realise after 10 minutes and 20 questions that it is going to take AGES and you wish you had never started, does it occur to you that...

- The clip-board person is going to end up asking you to enrol in a time-share or solar panels scheme?n

- The questions are only a blind and this is going to turn into a TV stunt, and in a moment you are going to be approached by someone dreadful such as Esther Rantzen, Ruby Wax, Jeremy Beadle or Cilla Black?

- You could just walk off and leave the researcher to make up the rest of the answers?

- You could start day-dreaming and find yourself thinking, "Blimey, I wonder whatever happened to solar panels! And time-share schemes! And Esther Rantzen! And I wonder, come to that, where Blind Date gets all those people... Oh, my God - you don't suppose this person with the clip- board talking to me is on the trawl for Blind Date candidates?"

4. Now, here's another question. No, don't turn the page! I've only got another few questions, so bear with me. Look, I can't hand this in if the questions are incomplete ! Please come back...!

We will finish the questionnaire some other time. You cannot escape.