Contact tracing is one of the oldest social network health interventions used to reduce the diffusion of various infectious diseases. However, some infectious diseases like COVID-19 amass at such a great scope that traditional methods of conducting contact tracing (e.g., face-to-face interviews) remain difficult to implement, pointing the need to develop reliable and valid survey approaches. The purpose of this research is to test the effectiveness of three different egocentric survey methods for extracting contact tracing data: (1) a baseline approach, (2) a retrieval cue approach, and (3) a context-based approach. A sample of 397 college students were randomized into one of each condition and were prompted to anonymously provide contacts and populated places visited from the past four days. After controlling for various demographic, social identity, psychological, and physiological variables, participants in the context-based condition were significantly more likely recall more contacts (medium effect size) and places (large effect size) than the other two conditions. Theoretically, the research supports suggestions by field theory that assume network recall can be significantly improved by activating relevant activity foci. Practically, the research contributes to developing innovative social network data collection methods for contract tracing survey instruments.
contact tracing; ego networks; experimental design; social networks; field theory
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