Social Desirability Bias

Social desirability bias refers to the fact that in self-reports, people will often report inaccurately on sensitive topics in order to present themselves in the best possible light (1). This can be due to both self-deception and other-deception. Social desirability can affect the validity of experimental and survey research findings, but procedures such as the use of forced-choice items and the use of proxy subjects can be effective in preventing or reducing social desirability bias (2).


(1) Fisher, R. J. (1993). “Social desirability bias and the validity of indirect questioning“. Journal of Consumer Research, 20, 303-315.

(2) Nederhof, A. J. (1985). “Methods of coping with social desirability bias: a review“. European Journal of Social Psychology, 15: 263-280