Do respondents lie ? Inconsistent responses
and biographical illusion in a longitudinal survey
on adolescents’ leisure activities
It is commonly understood that to capture changes in practices and representations over the individual life course, longitudinal surveys may be preferable to retrospective ones because they reduce bias due to memory gaps and the “biographical illusion.” This article focuses on precisely those types of bias, discussing the contributions and limitations of the longitudinal approach on the basis of findings from the French ministry of culture’s “Cultural worlds of children and adolescents” survey (2002-2008). We analyze inconsistencies in adolescents’ consecutive responses to questions about their cultural leisure activities. Such inconsistencies are often treated as errors to be corrected, but it is highly instructive to submit them to sociological analysis instead, to show how they fit into the process of individual life story construction.
Key words. LONGITUDINAL ANALYSIS – STATISTICAL METHODOLOGIES AND SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES – CULTURAL PRACTICES – ADOLESCENCE