Social Desirability Bias

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Social Desirability Bias
Social Desirability Bias

Social Desirability Bias is a cognitive bias referring to the fact that people will often self-report inaccurately on sensitive topics in order to present themselves in the best possible light.1

The Social Desirability Bias leads people to “over-report their positive behaviors or qualities while under-reporting undesirable or negative behaviors and qualities.” 2

In early learning it is important to be aware of this bias in many situations. This bias will appear when conducting hiring interviews, when surveying parents about program policy, during staff meetings, and even in conversations with children. “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.”3

This bias operates on many levels in early learning: children want to please teachers, teachers want to keep  parents happy, parents want to impress teachers, administrators want to keep the funders and licencors happy. Being aware of the Social Desirability Bias may help you develop a more realistic view of what’s happening around you. It may also have an impact on how you respond to questions.

Contact us with questions, concerns, and comments about this Early Learning Glossary Entry.

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

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