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Correctness of self-reported task durations: A systematic review
Centro de Estudios de Ergonomía, Department of Industrial Engineering, School of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá.
Centro de Estudios de Ergonomía, Department of Industrial Engineering, School of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational and Public Health Sciences, Occupational health science. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1443-6211
Department of Physical Therapy, Movement, and Rehabilitation Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston.
2017 (English)In: Annals of Occupational Hygiene, ISSN 0003-4878, E-ISSN 1475-3162Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

Background: Durations of tasks in a job is an essential interest in occupational epidemiology. Such durations are frequently measured using self-reports, which may, however, be associated with both bias and random errors. The present systematic literature review examines the correctness of self-reported durations of tasks, i.e. the extent to which they differ from more valid reference data due to either systematic or random error, and factors influencing this correctness, with particular emphasis on assessment of exposures of relevance to musculoskeletal disorders.

Method: The search for relevant studies included the databases ISI web of Science, Medline, EBSCO HOST, Proquest and Psycnet.

Results: Thirty-two articles were identified, 23 of which examined occupational tasks and nine non-occupational tasks. Agreement between self-reports and a more correct reference was reported for, in total, 182 tasks. Average proportional errors were, for most tasks, between -50% (i.e. underestimations) and +100%, with a dominance of overestimations; 22% of all results considered overestimations of 100% or more. For 15% of the 182 reported tasks, the mean difference between the self-reported and the reference duration value was less than 5%, and 20% of the 182 mean differences were between 5% and 20%. In general, respondents were able to correctly distinguish tasks of a longer duration from shorter tasks, even though the actual durations were not correct. A number of factors associated with the task per se appeared to influence agreement between self-reports and reference data, including:  type of task, true task duration, task pattern across time (continuous vs. discontinuous), and whether the addressed task is composed of subtasks. The musculoskeletal health status of the respondent did not have a clear effect on the ability to correctly report task durations. Studies differed in key design characteristics and detail of information reported, which hampers a formal aggregation of results.

Discussion: The correctness of self-reported task durations is, at the best, moderate at the individual level, and this may present a significant problem when using self-reports in task-based assessment of individual job exposures. However, average self-reports at the group level appear reasonably correct, and may thus be a viable method in studies addressing, for instance, the relative occurrence of tasks in a production system. Due to the disparity of studies, definite conclusions on the quantitative effect on agreement of different modifiers are not justified, and we encourage future studies specifically devoted to understanding and controlling sources of bias in self-reported task durations. We also encourage studies developing decision support for when to apply or avoid self-reports to measure task durations, depending on study purpose and occupational setting.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
self-report bias, task proportion, time perception, exposure modeling
National Category
Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-20372OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-20372DiVA: diva2:858682
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2009-1761
Available from: 2015-10-02 Created: 2015-10-02 Last updated: 2017-10-03Bibliographically approved

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