How to Use Hypothetical Questions

When it comes to conducting surveys, asking the right questions is crucial for gathering meaningful data. One type of question that can be particularly useful in this regard is a hypothetical question.

Let’s explore what hypothetical questions are, how they can when creating surveys, and go over some examples.

What are Hypothetical Questions?

Hypothetical questions ask people to consider a fictitious scenario and imagine what they would do or how they would feel. They’re intended to be thought-provoking, as they’re used to understand a person’s thought process, motivations, or decision-making criteria.

How to Use Hypothetical Questions

When used correctly, they can provide valuable insights into attitudes, behaviors, and preferences. Here are some tips on how to use hypothetical questions effectively in your surveys:

  1. Start with a clear and concise hypothetical scenario. The scenario should be relevant to the research topic and easy for respondents to understand.
  2. Use concrete details to help stimulate critical thinking.
  3.  Provide a range of options or responses to choose from (if you’re using closed questions).
  4. Use open-ended questions to encourage respondents to provide detailed and nuanced answers.
  5. Use them in conjunction with other question types, such as Likert scales or multiple-choice questions, to gather a variety of data.

Hypothetical question examples

Here are five examples of hypothetical questions:

  • If you could go back in time and change one decision you made, what would it be?
  • If you suddenly became invisible, what would be the first thing you would do?
  • If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would buy?
  • If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one item with you, what would it be?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

These are much more general questions that won’t help you collect useful data for your research. So, let’s get into some specific examples of hypothetical questions for surveys below.

Examples of Hypothetical Questions in Surveys

Hypothetical questions can be useful in many contexts, as they allow you to understand how individuals might respond to different scenarios.

Customer experience and satisfaction

Hypothetical questions allow businesses to understand how customers might react to new products or services or changes that may impact them.

Here are a few examples for customer experience surveys:

  1. If you experienced a problem with our product or service, how would you like us to resolve the issue?
  2. What rewards or benefits would you find most appealing for a customer loyalty program?
  3. Would you be interested in trying out our new feature?
  4. If our product or service was no longer available, how would you feel and what would you do?

Employee satisfaction surveys

Hypothetical questions can allow companies to gauge how employees may react to changes in their workplace or role. For example, you can better understand how employees handle challenges, resolve conflicts, and make decisions. Here are a few examples for employee satisfaction surveys:

  1. If you were given more autonomy in your role, how do you think it would affect your job satisfaction and productivity?
  2. How would you handle a difficult co-worker and ensure a positive outcome?
  3. What professional development training would you undergo, and why?
  4. If your work schedule changed, how would it impact your work-life balance and overall job satisfaction?

These types of questions can provide insights into employees’ attitudes and preferences, as well as identify opportunities to increase job satisfaction and engagement.

Additionally, they can help companies anticipate potential issues or conflicts in the workplace, allowing employers to proactively address these issues.

Recruitment surveys

When recruiting new individuals, it’s important to understand how candidates will react to different scenarios in the workplace. Here are some examples of hypothetical questions for a recruitment survey:

  • Would you accept a job offer that required you to move to another city?
  • If you were offered a higher salary at another company, but the job was less aligned with your long-term career goals, what would you do?
  • What steps would you take to meet a tight deadline?
  • When faced with a difficult customer, how would you handle the situation to ensure that you meet their needs while maintaining company policies?
  • If one of your team members was not contributing equally, what steps would you take to address the situation?
  • How would you learn the necessary skills to complete a task you’re unfamiliar with?

These questions help you identify the most suitable candidate and whether they align with your company values.

Political polling

In political polling, hypothetical questions allow pollsters to gauge how voters react to new policies, candidates, and campaign strategies. Here are some examples for use in a political polling survey:

  • If a candidate you support were to change their stance on an issue, would you still support them in the upcoming election?
  • If a candidate you do not support were to win the election, how would you feel about the outcome?
  • If Candidate A proposed a new tax plan, how likely would you be to support it?
  • If Candidate B changed their position on an issue, would you be more or less likely to vote for them?
  • If a third-party candidate entered the race, would you be more or less likely to vote for your current preferred candidate?
  • If a scandal broke out about a candidate, how likely would it be to change your opinion of them?

Such questions can help pollsters craft messages and anticipate shifts in public opinion.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hypothetical Questions

Like any question type, these have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the key pros and cons of using hypothetical questions in survey research:


Here are some advantages/benefits of asking hypothetical questions in surveys:

  1. Promote critical thinking by asking individuals to consider alternative perspectives.
  2. They can make surveys more engaging, as they require respondents to think more deeply about their responses.
  3. Identify potential issues or opportunities.
  4. Gain richer insight into attitudes and beliefs based on respondents’ answers.
  5. Help researchers understand the how and why of decision-making processes.


Here are some potential disadvantages of asking hypothetical questions:

  • They may not always accurately reflect real-life situations, reducing the validity and reliability of survey reports.
  • Hypothetical questions can be challenging to interpret, particularly if respondents have varying levels of understanding of the scenario.
  • The insights generated may not always apply to real-life situations, particularly if the scenario is too abstract or far-fetched.
  • Respondents may provide answers they perceive as socially desirable rather than accurately reflecting their opinions or attitudes, leading to response bias.
  • They can be time-consuming and require a high level of cognitive effort, causing survey fatigue.

Wrapping Up

Overall, hypothetical questions can be a valuable tool in survey research. By providing clear and concise scenarios, being specific in the questions asked, and using a variety of question types, researchers can gather valuable insights into the attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of their survey respondents.

However, it’s important to consider the potential limitations and disadvantages of hypothetical questions and use them with other question types to gather a well-rounded picture of survey respondents.