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Determinants of social desirability bias in sensitive surveys: a literature review

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  • Ivar Krumpal

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    Abstract

    Survey questions asking about taboo topics such as sexual activities, illegal behaviour such as social fraud, or unsocial attitudes such as racism, often generate inaccurate survey estimates which are distorted by social desirability bias. Due to self-presentation concerns, survey respondents underreport socially undesirable activities and overreport socially desirable ones. This article reviews theoretical explanations of socially motivated misreporting in sensitive surveys and provides an overview of the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of specific survey methods designed to encourage the respondents to answer more honestly. Besides psychological aspects, like a stable need for social approval and the preference for not getting involved into embarrassing social interactions, aspects of the survey design, the interviewer’s characteristics and the survey situation determine the occurrence and the degree of social desirability bias. The review shows that survey designers could generate more valid data by selecting appropriate data collection strategies that reduce respondents’ discomfort when answering to a sensitive question. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11135-011-9640-9
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Quality & Quantity.

    Volume (Year): 47 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 4 (June)
    Pages: 2025-2047

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:qualqt:v:47:y:2013:i:4:p:2025-2047

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    Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/11135

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    Related research

    Keywords: Sensitive questions; Social desirability bias; Survey design; Survey Methodology; Measurement error;

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    1. Elisabeth Coutts & Ben Jann, 2011. "Sensitive Questions in Online Surveys: Experimental Results for the Randomized Response Technique (RRT) and the Unmatched Count Technique (UCT)," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 40(1), pages 169-193, February.
    2. Rolf Becker, 2006. "Selective Response to Questions on Delinquency," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 40(4), pages 483-498, 08.
    3. Johannes Landsheer & Peter Van Der Heijden & Ger Van Gils, 1999. "Trust and Understanding, Two Psychological Aspects of Randomized Response," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 1-12, February.
    4. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
    5. Edith de Leeuw, 2001. "Reducing Missing Data in Surveys: An Overview of Methods," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 147-160, May.
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    Cited by:
    1. Chadi, Adrian, 2013. "Third Person Effects in Interview Responses on Life Satisfaction," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 133(2), pages 323-333.
    2. Melo, Oscar & Engler, Alejandra & Nahuehual, Laura & Cofre, Gabriela & Barrena, José, 2014. "Do Sanitary, Phytosanitary, and Quality-related Standards Affect International Trade? Evidence from Chilean Fruit Exports," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 350-359.

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