I am working on a design for a formal registration service that demands users categorise themselves according to a closed list of options. The list is not exhaustive, so some users don't see an option that works for them. However, user testing shows some reluctance to hit the 'none of the above' option. I'm wondering if the negative precept in the 'none of the above' wording has been explored anywhere? Is there any literature that explores the distinction between a negative 'None of the Above' and a more affirmative "A different option" (or equivalent). Can anyone point me in a useful direction? Thanks!
I could see a couple of things happening here:
Saying "None of the above" could signal the user that he doesn't fit into typical categories of whatever you are trying to distinguish. Not fitting generally invokes negative feelings such as feelings of exclusion or not being understood by your environment.
"None of the above" could send the user into re-thinking his decision , ie. reading through all of them again to make sure he doesn't fit into any of the categories provided before he select his answer.
Giving a term for all other categories that are not listed ( "None of the above" ) can confuse the user in a way where he isn't sure if he can stretch his definition to fit categories listed or he has to go with the "None of the above". Am I really a senior developer? Am I really happy in everyday life? Do I do enough for the environment?
Things that I could see helping:
- Make your categories more clear cut or add a small description for the categories. Example.
How much experience do you have?
- Senior ( 10+ years)
- Intermediate ( 5-10 years )
- None of the above
- Instead "None of the above" add the option of adding an extra input field where the user can insert his term. On the backend you can choose to treat this as a "None of the above" but the user doesn't need to know.
It could be a weird inversed effect of Negativy Bias, as the working hypothesis could be related to the idea that respondents liley associate 'none of the above' as a failure and feel compelled to evaluate the question proposed with weighted attention.
"..people combine information, they weigh negative information more heavily than positive; i.e., that the whole is evaluated more negatively than the average of its parts.." - David E. Kanouse (1984) ,"Explaining Negativity Biases in Evaluation and Choice Behavior: Theory and Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11, eds. Thomas C. Kinnear, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 703-708.
There is likely no silver bullet "research" here that supports the context in which you are stating, but i'd wager that the likely reason for 'none of the above' being a false negative is that the answer is doing its job, meaning it is likely encouraging the user to evaluate the question being more closely and of higher importance for fear of failure.