Using Item Response Times in Online Questionnaires to Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment

General Information

Using Item Response Times in Online Questionnaires to Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment
Stefan Schneider, PhD, Doertes U Junghaenel, PhD, Erik Meijer, PhD, Arthur A Stone, PhD, Bart Orriens, PhD, Haomiao Jin, PhD, Elizabeth M Zelinski, P
Publication Type
Journal paper
The Journals of Gerontology: Series B
Objectives With the increase in web-based data collection, response times (RTs) for survey items have become a readily available byproduct in most online studies. We examined whether RTs in online questionnaires can prospectively discriminate between cognitively normal respondents and those with cognitive impairment, no dementia (CIND). Method Participants were 943 members of a nationally representative internet panel, aged 50 and older. We analyzed RTs that were passively recorded as paradata for 37 surveys (1,053 items) administered online over 6.5 years. A multilevel location-scale model derived 3 RT parameters for each survey: (1) a respondent’s average RT and 2 components of intraindividual RT variability addressing (2) systematic RT adjustments and (3) unsystematic RT fluctuations. CIND status was determined at the end of the 6.5-year period. Results All 3 RT parameters were significantly associated with CIND, with a combined predictive accuracy of area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve = 0.74. Slower average RTs, smaller systematic RT adjustments, and greater unsystematic RT fluctuations prospectively predicted a greater likelihood of CIND over periods of up to 6.5, 4.5, and 1.5 years, respectively. Discussion RTs for survey items are a potential early indicator of CIND, which may enhance analyses of predictors, correlates, and consequences of cognitive impairment in online survey research.