The Purpose and Process of Cognitive Testing

One of the most useful techniques available to report sponsors who want to test materials with their audience is cognitive testing. Cognitive testing is an interview method for investigating the thought processes and reactions that people have as they read information, explore options, and make decisions. The method was originally developed as a tool for selecting and refining survey questions and response options. More recently, it has been adapted to test health-related report materials in general and quality reports in particular.

Cognitive testing of quality reports involves conducting one-on-one interviews with a small sample of people who are representative of your report’s intended audience. These one-on-one interviews, which typically last about 1 to 1½ hours, give people the opportunity to discuss specific elements of your report, including tables, figures, and the language used to explain technical concepts.

This section addresses the following questions:

Page last reviewed July 2011
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: The Purpose and Process of Cognitive Testing. Content last reviewed July 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/talkingquality/resources/cognitive/index.html