Vignette Study

Institution: see Organisers & Acknowledgements

Program of study: International Research Workshop

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Katja Rost (University of Zurich)


03.10.2013, 09:30 – 17:30

Room: n.s.

Max. number of participants: 20

Semester periods per week: n.s.

Credit Points: 5 CP for participating in the whole IRWS

Language of instruction: English


Vignette experiments provide “… short descriptions of a person or a social situation which contain precise references to what are thought to be (…) important factors in decision-making or judgment-making processes of the respondents…” (Alexander & Becker, 1978, 94). Within the description, the independent variables are systematically varied by the experimenter (Beck & Opp, 2001). Then the targeted variable, for instance behavioral intentions, is asked about. Provided the vignettes are realistic, the number of factors chosen should mirror the complexity of the decision environment decision makers are normally confronted with (Rossi & Anderson, 1982). Hence, a vignette experiment mimics the outcomes of “typical” decisions. Participants are led to weigh the significance of single characteristics to arrive at an overall preference for one alternative. As in reality, the participants are involved in a trade-off. Such a capacity to deal with the complexity of real decision making gives the design external validity while retaining the internal validity. provided through the experimental features of the factorial survey (Taylor, 2006).

In short, vignette analyses are based on the following three concepts (Teichert, 2001): (1) Every situation consists of a bundle of characteristics. (2) Every participant makes an individual evaluation of the benefits of various combinations of characteristics. (3) The combination of the benefits of various characteristics provides the relative overall benefit to an individual.

The workshop aims at establishing a theoretical and practical understanding about vignette experiments. We will discuss the method by using concrete examples of my former research (Rost & Weibel, 2012; Weibel, Rost, & Osterloh, 2010).

Current research ideas, projects or materials of participants can be considered and discussed in case of interest.


Alexander, C. S. & Becker, H. J. 1978. Use of Vignettes in Survey-Research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 42(1): 93-104.

Beck, M. & Opp, K.-D. 2001. Der Faktiorelle Survey Und Die Messung Von Normen. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialwissenschaften, 53: 283-306.

Rossi, P. H. & Anderson, A. B. 1982. The Factorial Survey Approach: An Introduction. In P. H. Rossi & S. L. Nock (Eds.), Measuring Social Judgments: The Factorial Survey Approach: 15-67. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Rost, K. & Weibel, A. 2012. Ceo Pay from a Social Norm Perspective: The Infringement and Re-Establishment of the Fairness Norm. Corporate Governance. An International Review, forthcoming.

Taylor, B. J. 2006. Factorial Surveys: Using Vignettes to Study Professional Judgement. British Journal of Social Work, 36: 1187–1207.

Teichert, T. 2001. Nutzenschätzung in Conjoint-Analysen. Wiesbaden: Gabler.

Weibel, A., Rost, K., & Osterloh, M. 2010. Pay for Performance for the Public Sector – Benefits and (Hidden) Costs Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 20(2): 387-412.

You have to register for the 7th International Research Workshop to participate in this course.