Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jason T. Siegel

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William D. Crano

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Eusebio M. Alvaro

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mel Hyde

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2022 Danielle R Blazek


order effects, organ donation, satisficing, straightlining, survey instructions

Subject Categories



This trio of studies is designed to investigate a possible means of increasing donor registration rates, as doing so can save lives by increasing the number of registered organ donors. Many Motor Vehicle Departments (MVDs) ask a series of probing health and legal questions prior to asking visitors about registering as an organ donor. This practice may diminish registration because of straightlining, a type of satisficing, which is a common problem in survey research where respondents do not give the most accurate response, often in an attempt to diminish effort. When straightlining, some individuals may not register as an organ donor simply because they did not notice they were being asked to register, even if they support organ donation. The first study was an MTurk experiment that found that moving the registration question from last to first position within a series of probing questions significantly affected how often individuals expressed willingness to register as a donor. Study 1 found an order effect online for both donors (OR = 2.57) and non-donors (OR = 2.01). Study 2 took advantage of a decision by New Mexico MVDs to move their donor question from after a series of health and legal questions to before it. Thus, Study 2 served as a conceptual replication of the first study, by using secondary data to examine this change's effect on registration behavior in the Department of Motor Vehicles in New Mexico. This change in question location occurred on April 2, 2020. Unfortunately, this was within two weeks of a statewide stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As this, this represents a critical history effect, it serves as a rival explanation for all the results from Study 2. Not all analyses indicated meaningful results, but when controlling for an overall decline in registrations, this downward trend was attenuated by the change in question position. Additionally, both prior donor and non-donor visitors to the MVD were more likely to re-affirm their previously selected donor statuses. However, these effects could have been the result of the pandemic. Study 3 replicated the order effects observed in Study 1 for the donors, but did not find this effect among the non-donors. Study 3 also added an examination of instructional manipulations to see if it was possible to assuage the tendency to straightline using different instructional manipulations on MTurk. One instruction focused on real-world implications—that when asked to register as a donor, this represents placement on the donor registry. This approach may be applicable for use in MVDs, and was expected to be effective for individuals who already possess extremely favorable attitudes about registration. The other approach was based on equity theory and was expected to be especially helpful in online research contexts. However, this experiment did not find support for the use of these instructional manipulations. Taken together, these studies shed important insight into how question order influences organ donation registration willingness. Across Studies 1 and 3, there was evidence that the order in which the donor registration question is asked influences donor registration rates for donors, as well as for those who are paying the least attention. This dissertation did not conclusively observe the same effect for those who are not registered donors. Thus, when it is possible to do so, listing the donor question prior to any other health and legal questions may increase willingness to register.



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