One potential benefit of online surveys is the use of “conditional branching.” In conventional paper and pencil surveys, one question might ask if the respondent has shopped for a new car during the last eight months. If the respondent answers “no,” he or she will be asked to skip ahead several questions—., going straight to question 17 instead of proceeding to number 9. If the respondent answered “yes,” he or she would be instructed to go to the next question which, along with the next several ones, would address issues related to this shopping experience. Conditional branching allows the computer to skip directly to the appropriate question. If a respondent is asked which brands he or she considered, it is also possible to customize brand comparison questions to those listed. Suppose, for example, that the respondent considered Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai, it would be possible to ask the subject questions about his or her view of the relative quality of each respective pair—in this case, Ford vs. Toyota, Ford vs. Hyundai, and Toyota vs. Hyundai.
The work I am doing right now is with child maltreatment. We are determining whether or not spanking is harmful to children. A conclusion was drawn from a plethora of studies that corporal punishment, spanking being the isolated form, is associated with anxiety disorders. Someone tried to flip A and B and say that children who were prone to being more anxious might act out and behave clumsy more frequently, thus, warranting more spankings. Neurology bridged this gap showing that the portions of the brain responsible for threat detection flared when children discussed spankings and when looking at grumpy faces. The same portion is responsible for anxiety disorders later in life. What then, when the control for behavior prior to spankings began is accounted for and there is a scientific field bridging the gap? Technology such as MRI's are certainly not perfect, but I'd like to believe they are an advancement we should not be ignoring.