Hotline Evaluation: Its Impact on the Agency

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Abstract

Informed consent and the use of pseudocallers for evaluating hotline operators' functioning have become controversial issues in the recent psychological literature (Baizerman, 1976a, 1976b; Genthner, 1974, 1976). Winett, Martorano, and Keenan (1977) recently offered their opinions concerning informed consent and the use of pseudocallers. They referred to a study they conducted in which five hotline operators were evaluated over a 4-month period in a single agency. Operators were asked to make a judgment as to whether each call they received while on duty was pseudo. Winett et al. concluded that because their study employed fully informed consent and an opportunity to compare identified with unidentified pseudocalls, informed consent in this type of research should be used to “preserve the integrity of the service and is probably of benefit to the agency and its potential clients”. Although there are good and reasonable reasons for adhering to fully informed consent in psychological research, the problem has another dimension. Because of proximity, we had an opportunity to interview four of the five operators in the Winett et al. (1977) study. In the interviews, we found that three of the operators treated calls they thought were pseudo less seriously. They justified their behavior, claiming that the pseudocallers were often transparent, and they resented the actor's apparent pretension. Winett, Martorano, and Keenan corroborated this finding, that when an operator thought the call was pseudo he or she did not try as hard. This finding coupled with the fact that Winett et al. found that the operators misidentified 36 calls as pseudo suggests that informed consent may not be the best approach for the hotline consumer. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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