Asking sensitive questions: the impact of forgiving wording and question context on social desirability bias

Asking sensitive questions: the impact of forgiving wording and question context on social... Sensitive questions are prone to systematic measurement error due to the respondents’ social desirability concerns. Literature on empirical social research often recommends either positive “loading” of sensitive questions, e.g. using “forgiving” wording, or manipulating the question context to reduce social desirability bias. We derive theoretical explanations of how manipulations of question wording and context could elicit more socially undesirable answers in sensitive surveys. In an experimental online survey (N = 1,176), we evaluate the effects of (1) forgiving wording and (2) question context on social desirability bias in different sensitive questions. The empirical evidence on the assumed bias-reducing effects shows inconsistent results. It is indicated however, that the perceived social norm has the strongest and most consistent effect on the respondents’ propensity to self-report socially undesirable behavior. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Quality & Quantity Springer Journals

Asking sensitive questions: the impact of forgiving wording and question context on social desirability bias

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 by Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Subject
Social Sciences; Methodology of the Social Sciences; Social Sciences, general
ISSN
0033-5177
eISSN
1573-7845
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11135-011-9469-2
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Sensitive questions are prone to systematic measurement error due to the respondents’ social desirability concerns. Literature on empirical social research often recommends either positive “loading” of sensitive questions, e.g. using “forgiving” wording, or manipulating the question context to reduce social desirability bias. We derive theoretical explanations of how manipulations of question wording and context could elicit more socially undesirable answers in sensitive surveys. In an experimental online survey (N = 1,176), we evaluate the effects of (1) forgiving wording and (2) question context on social desirability bias in different sensitive questions. The empirical evidence on the assumed bias-reducing effects shows inconsistent results. It is indicated however, that the perceived social norm has the strongest and most consistent effect on the respondents’ propensity to self-report socially undesirable behavior.

Journal

Quality & QuantitySpringer Journals

Published: Mar 23, 2011

References

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