Improving the Effectiveness of Contact Tracing Interviews: A Randomized Controlled Experiment of an Improved Cognitive Interview Protocol


This article was originally published here

Am J Infect Control. December 28, 2021: S0196-6553 (21) 00858-0. doi: 10.1016 / j.ajic.2021.12.015. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: To compare the effectiveness of a psychology-based contact tracing interview protocol to a control protocol that mimicked current practices under interviewer-directed and self-directed modalities.

METHODS: This randomized controlled experiment used a 2 × 2 factorial design (enhanced cognitive protocol vs control protocol; interviewer-directed call vs self-directed online survey). Data were collected online (n = 200; Mage = 44; 56.5% women; 79.5% White) during the COVID-19 pandemic (July 2 to September 15, 2020).

RESULTS: The improved cognitive protocol increased reported close contacts by 51% compared to the control protocol (d = 0.44 [0.15, 0.71]). This effect was present for both interview modalities and for both identifiable and non-identifiable contacts. The Enhanced Cognitive protocol also increased both the amount of person descriptors (d = 1.36 [0.87, 1.85]) and the usefulness of the descriptions (r = 0.35 [0.13, 0.53]).

CONCLUSIONS: Applying cognitive principles in contact tracing interviews can dramatically improve the quantity and quality of information provided by respondents. Epidemiologists and public health investigators could benefit from the use of cognitive principles and self-directed modalities in contact tracing interviews.

PMID: 34971713 | DOI: 10.1016 / j.ajic.2021.12.015


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