Faking it: Social desirability response bias in self-report research. Aust J Adv Nursing. 2008;25:408.
Free full text at: http://www.ajan.com.au/Vol25/Vol_25-4_vandeMortel.pdf
I thought it was interesting as it:
(i) gives some examples of the bias
(ii) shows that some studies actually try to control for it.
Given the amount of questionnaires that are used in ME/CFS research, this may have some relevance.
The tendency for people to present a favourable image of themselves on questionnaires is called socially desirable responding (SDR). SDR confounds research results by creating false relationships or obscuring relationships between variables. Social desirability (SD) scales can be used to detect, minimise, and correct for SDR in order to improve the validity of questionnairebased research. The aim of this review was to
determine the proportion of health-related studies that used questionnaires and used SD scales and estimate the proportion that were potentially affected by SDR.
Questionnaire-based research studies listed on CINAHL in 2004-2005 were reviewed. The proportion of studies that used an SD scale was calculated. The influence of SDR on study outcomes and the proportion of studies that used statistical methods to control for social desirability response bias are reported.
Fourteen thousand two hundred and seventy-five eligible studies were identified. Only 0.2% (31) used an SD scale. Of these, 43% found SDR influenced their results. A further 10% controlled for SDR bias when analysing the data. The outcomes in 45% of studies that used an SD scale were not influenced by SDR.
While few studies used an SD scale to detect or control for SD bias, almost half of those that used an SD scale found SDR influenced their results.
Researchers using questionnaires containing socially sensitive items should consider the impact of SDR on the validity of their research and use an SD scale to detect and control for SD bias.