Using a large real-life corporate database initially consisting of 3,990 heads of households stratified on the basis of various demographic and geographic variables, and whose communication activities (long distance telephone calls, letters, cards, and visits) were surveyed and monitored, this study investigated the direction as well as magnitude of estimation errors in survey responses and diary entries. Supporting the 1994 Fiedler and Armbruster psychometric formulation and conjecture, we show that estimation errors in reports of the frequency and duration of people's own communication activities exhibit a consistent tendency to regress toward the mean. This regressive estimation is greater for those who are further away from the mean in actual behavior and is proportional to the actual deviation from the mean. Furthermore, this regressive estimation is inversely related to the average frequency across behavioral categories. An important implication of our findings is that the distribution of estimated behavioral frequencies and durations appear more concentrated in surveys than they actually are in the general population, although the general shape of the distribution is unaffected.
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