Recall bias

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In epidemiological research, recall bias is a systematic error caused by differences in the accuracy or completeness of the recollections retrieved ("recalled") by study participants regarding events or experiences from the past.[1] Sometimes also referred to as response bias, responder bias or reporting bias, this type of measurement bias can be a methodological issue in research that involves interviews or questionnaires (potentially leading to differential misclassification of various types of exposure).[2] Recall bias can be a particular concern in retrospective studies that use a case-control design to investigate the etiological causes of a disease or psychiatric condition.[3] For example, in studies of risk factors for breast cancer, women who have had the disease may search their memories more thoroughly than unaffected controls to try to recall exposure to factors that have been mentioned in the press, such as use of oral contraceptives.[4]

Relatedly but distinctly, the term might also be used to describe an instance where a survey respondent intentionally responds incorrectly to a question about their personal history which results in response bias. As a hypothetical example, suppose that a researcher conducts a survey among women of group A, asking whether they have had an abortion, and the same survey among women of group B. If the results are different between the two groups, it might be that women of one group are less likely to have had an abortion, or it might simply be that women of one group who have had abortions are less likely to admit to it. If the latter is the case, then this would skew the survey results; this is a kind of response bias. (It is also possible that both are the case: women of one group are less likely to have had abortions, and women of one group who have had abortions are less likely to admit to it. This would still affect the survey statistics.)


  1. ^ Last, John M, ed. (30 November 2000). A Dictionary of Epidemiology. Oxford University Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-19-977434-0. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Moren, Alain; Valenciano, Marta (Kitching, Aileen, ed.). "Information (measurement) bias". Field Epidemiology Manual. FEM Wiki. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Kopec, JA; Esdaile, JM (September 1990). "Bias in case-control studies. A review.". Journal of epidemiology and community health 44 (3): 179–86. doi:10.1136/jech.44.3.179. PMC 1060638. PMID 2273353. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Schulz, KF; Grimes, DA (February 2, 2002). "Case-control studies: research in reverse.". Lancet 359 (9304): 431–4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)07605-5. PMID 11844534.