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Wednesday 15th July, 11:00 - 12:30 Room: O-101

Social Desirability and Non-Reactive Methods in Survey Research: Improving Theory and Data Collection 2

Convenor Dr Ivar Krumpal (University of Leipzig )
Coordinator 1Professor Roger Berger (University of Leipzig)
Coordinator 2Professor Mark Trappmann (IAB Nürnberg)

Session Details

Social desirability bias is a problem in surveys collecting data on private or norm-violating issues (e.g. sexual behavior, health related issues, voting preferences, income, or unsocial opinions) as soon as the respondent’s true score differs from his or her perception of the social desirable score. Due to the respondents’ strive for social approval and keeping a favourable self-image as well as data protection concerns, collecting valid data on private or norm-violating issues is a challenging task. More specifically, respondents may engage in impression management or self-deception or edit their answer before reporting it. Non-reactive data collection methods could improve measurements and data quality in surveys where social desirability bias is a potential problem. Therefore, the possibilities and limits of non-reactive methods (e.g. record linkage approaches, surveys without questions, biomarkers, field experiments or administrative data usage) will be critically discussed and compared to methods which are based on self-reports.

This session has four main goals: (1) discussion of the theoretical foundation of the research on social desirability bias in the context of a general theory of human psychology and social behavior. A clearer understanding of the social interactions between the actors that are involved in the data collection process could provide empirical researchers with a substantiated basis for optimizing their survey design and data collection to achieve high quality data; (2) presentation of current empirical research focusing on non-reactive methods of data collection in connection with the problem of social desirability; (3) discussion of new designs combining or contrasting non-reactive methods with standard ‘question-and-answer’ survey measurement in innovative ways; (4) exploration of possibilities of integrating such new and innovative approaches in well-established, large-scale population surveys taking into account problems of research ethics and data protection.

Paper Details

1. Validation of a lost letter experiment with a post-hoc survey
Professor Roger Berger (Sociology, University of Leipzig)

We conducted a lost letter experiment on the discrimination of religious groups with car owners in Zurich. From the license plates of the cars, we detected name and address of the owners. Then with the help of onomastics we infered the cultural background of the car owner. And from the car we infered his socioeconomic status.
Then we sent PAPI surveys to the subjects of the lost letter experiment . These direct measures of e.g. cultural background and socioeconomic status were compared to the indirect measures from the field experiment. This validation lead to mixed and unclear results.

2. Two behavioral measures of dishonesty for surveys: An application on the five-factor model of personality and risk taking willingness
Mr Marc Höglinger (ETH Zurich)

Self-reports of dishonest behavior are prone to substantial misreporting due to social desirable responding. Hence, they hardly provide a valid measurement. We developed two behavioral measures of dishonesty that are suited for online surveys and that could be combined with experimental manipulations. The measures are inspired by Fischbacher and Föllmi-Heusi (2013; 2008) and Greene and Paxton (2009) and consist of a short dice game, where participants can cheat for money. Using our measures we tested hypotheses about the effect of the five-factor model of personality and risk taking willingness on dishonest behavior.

3. The impact of data collection mode on sensitive social position indicators
Dr Ave Roots (University of Tartu)

The usual questions influenced by the presence of the interviewer and therefore are mainly on the topics connected to sexual behaviour and social norms. But social desirability through image management plays an important role also in answering questions about social position. The purpose of current research is to discover the social desirability effect of different objective and subjective indicators of social position. European Social Survey mixed mode experiment 2012 Estonian data show that there is no mode effect in answering objective fact based questions, but respondents give lower evaluations to their social position online.

4. Capturing Intrinsic Motivation of Teachers: A Framing Experiment
Ms Mariam Adil (World Bank)
Ms Shwetlena Sabarwal (World Bank)

This paper provides insights on framing considerations for measuring intrinsic motivation of public sector employees. Through randomized control trial among public school teachers in Uganda, we test for social desirability bias and evaluate sensitivities of responses in self-administered questionnaires to framing differences in questions on intrinsic motivation and performance.