Social Desirability Effects in Psychology
Have you ever found yourself answering a questionnaire or survey in a way that you think will make you look good, rather than being completely honest? If so, then you have experienced the social desirability effect.
What is Social Desirability Bias?
Social desirability bias (also known as the social desirability effect) is the tendency of people to answer questions in a way that they believe will be viewed favorably by others. This can occur when individuals are asked about topics such as their behavior, attitudes, or beliefs.
This bias can have an impact on research outcomes because it can lead to inaccurate responses from participants. For example, if a person is asked about their smoking habits and they know that smoking is generally viewed as undesirable, they may underreport their smoking behavior.
Causes of Social Desirability Effects
The social desirability effect can be caused by several factors. One of the main causes is the desire to present oneself in a positive light. People may want to appear socially desirable and acceptable to others, which can lead them to give answers that they believe will be viewed positively.
Another cause of this bias is the fear of being judged negatively. Participants may worry that their answers will reflect poorly on them, leading them to provide answers that are more socially acceptable.
Measuring Social Desirability Bias
To measure social desirability bias, researchers often use scales such as the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale or the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding. These scales consist of questions that are designed to measure an individual’s tendency towards socially desirable responses.
The Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale
The Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale was first developed in 1960 and is one of the most widely used scales to measure social desirability bias. It consists of 33 true/false questions that are designed to measure an individual’s tendency towards socially desirable responses.
The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding
The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR) is another commonly used scale to measure social desirability bias. The BIDR consists of two subscales: impression management and self-deceptive enhancement. The impression management subscale measures an individual’s tendency to present themselves in a favorable light, while the self-deceptive enhancement subscale measures a person’s tendency to see themselves in a more positive light than others do.
Reducing Social Desirability Bias
Reducing social desirability bias can be difficult, but there are several strategies that researchers can use to minimize its impact on research outcomes.
- Assure anonymity: Researchers can assure participants that their answers will remain anonymous, which may encourage them to answer more truthfully.
- Use indirect questioning: Indirect questioning can be used to reduce social desirability bias by framing questions in a way that is less likely to elicit socially desirable responses.
- Use multiple measures: Researchers can use multiple measures or scales to measure the same construct, which can help identify when social desirability bias is present in responses.
Social desirability bias can have significant implications for research outcomes and the accuracy of data collected. Researchers must be aware of this effect and take steps to minimize its impact on research results. By using appropriate measures and strategies, researchers can mitigate the impact of social desirability bias and ensure that the data collected accurately reflects participants’ attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs.