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Social Desirability Bias – What Are Its Effects on Academic Research?


Bias in any form is not acceptable in academic research. It affects the actual results and happenings in the actual world, as the researcher or the respondent gives false answers to the research questions. This mostly happens in social science or academic research where the researcher asks several questions to the respondents, and the respondents give false or incorrect information. Social desirability bias is the most common type of bias observed by researchers in social science research. What is this bias? How does it occur? What are its effects on social science research? How to reduce this bias in your academic research? These are some of the questions that I am going to answer in today’s article about this particular type of bias. So, let’s get started with the definition. 

What does it mean by social desirability bias? 

Social desirability is a type of bias in which the research participants give answers to the questions which make them look good or the answers which are accepted in society. The respondents do not care whether they are giving the false or right information. All they care about is society and its norms and answer based on that. For example, the famous researcher King noted in a study conducted to examine the sexual behaviours among US youth that 51% of youth denied having a sexually transmitted infection (STI). On the other hand, the hospital records showed that the youth had more STIs than reported. So, this is social desirability bias that most respondents answered what society demanded of them. 

How does this bias occur in academic research? 

Social desirability bias can occur in many ways in your research. Knowing those ways is important to reduce this bias in further research or measurements. So, the most common reasons for its occurrence are as follows: 

  • The natural setting and the research environment is the biggest reason why this bias occurs in research. 
  • The desire to act in a culturally appropriate and acceptable way is the number second reason most commonly noted in this type of bias. 
  • Self-report questionnaires are also the reason for this bias because the respondents give answers which are socially acceptable. 

Hence, these are some reasons why this bias occurs in social science research. The most obvious reason is the second one, i.e., the desire to act in a culturally acceptable way. Therefore, hiring a cheap assignment writing service can be really helpful.


What are its effects on academic research? 

Reading the information above, you now have a pretty good idea of this bias and how it occurs. However, this information is not enough as knowing about its effects on academic research is also important. Social desirability bias affects academic research in many ways. A brief description of the most common is as follows: 

  • The research responses are not truthful 

Due to social desirability bias, there is always a doubt that the research responses are not truthful. The answers do not represent the actual scenario that is there in society. It is its first effect on academic research. The respondents do not provide the researcher with true information but rather what they see as culturally acceptable and according to societal norms. This affects the research results badly, which is obviously not good for any researcher. 

  • Cause spurious correlations 

Spurious is just a fancy word for “fake.” So do not stress much at this word. However, the main point is that social desirability bias cause spurious or fake correlations between the variables. It is because the respondents do not give accurate information. So, how can you expect the correlations developed as a result of those responses to be true? All the correlations will be fake and false and will be depicting nothing. They will be useless for your research and the other policymakers. 

  • Acts as a suppressor variable

A suppressor variable is a variable which correlates with other independent variables and hides the actual relationship between the actual variables. So, his bias is a kind of variable which can hide the actual relationship. This property of this bias affects the research results badly and thus makes the researcher unable to draw models and conclusions which depict the actual situation in society. Hence, this is a major effect of this bias on academic research. 

  • Effects on the results as a moderator variable  

A moderator variable is the third type of variable except for dependent and independent variables. This variable does not have any relation with the dependent or independent variables but can affect the relationship between these variables by acting as a moderator variable. Hence, it is another major effect of social desirability bias on academic research.