Social desirability bias is the tendency to create a positive impression rather than providing accurate answers. This bias specifically affects the analyzing and interpreting stage in research.
It is a form of projection that is built to protect oneself from being evaluated as an undesirable person. Social desirability bias is reported to be high when self-reporting questionnaires are used, although it is observed in qualitative research designs as well. The researcher is expected to carefully design the study keeping in mind to avoid such confounding factors. There are empirically proven ways to combat social desirability bias including self-report scales to measure the level of bias. Social desirability bias is sensitive to specific topics where the experimenter has to be careful with the overall research set up. It imposes a question if the results of the research sample can be applied to a larger group.
Social desirability bias is a form of respondent bias where the participant responds in a desirable manner to avoid negative judgments from the researcher. There are two components to social desirability bias. It can be either intentional or unintentional; research has shown that most of the times it is done intentionally. The participant may sometimes have inaccurate thoughts and perceptions about themselves, making their self-concept to look more desirable unconsciously. Another way of social desirability bias displayed is when the participants intentionally provide answers that can make them appear more desirable. For instance, in job interviews, people provide favorable answers to impress than providing honest answers.
Social desirability bias mainly affects the authenticity of responses in survey questions, leading to skewed results. It can stop a researcher from meeting the core purpose of using self-report surveys where the goal is to collect data based on respondents view. Personality traits, socioeconomic status, religion, specific behaviors, and personal habits such as smoking, drinking, substance use, and any controversial subject matters are highly sensitive to social desirability bias. For example, a question â€˜How many cigarettes do you smoke in a day?â€™ can make a participant feel vulnerable and respond as 1 or 2 rather than 4 or 5, which they truly consume. The presence of such bias questions if the study is reliable and valid. Reliability is the measure of the ability of the study to produce the same results on repeated trials. The subjectivity in giving biased responses can affect the results if the test is repeated again sometime later, where the respondents may give a completely different answer. Validity measures if the results of the study correspond to the actual aim of the experiment. Social desirability bias has an effect mainly on external validity, which checks if the outcome can be generalized to or applied to a larger group from which the participants were chosen for the study.
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