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"Tell me Lies, Tell me Sweet Little Lies": Dealing with Socially Desirable Responses in Market Research

By Clive Nancarrow, Ian Brace and Len Tiu Wright


The rise of green, ethical, social, charity and cause-related marketing should heighten interest in the marketing research problem of socially desirable responding in interviews. This phenomenon leads to over-reporting of what is socially desirable, under-reporting of what is not and confounds attempts to examine the nature of relationships between the variables under study. This paper examines three potential sources of social desirability bias (SDB), ways of detecting if the bias has occurred and ways of reducing the problem within a marketing research context. The literature search identified a number of methods and techniques designed deal with the problem but no up-to-date review that links the techniques to theory (Impression Management, Ego Defence and Instrumentation). The research techniques include assurances of confidentiality and/or anonymity, indirect questioning, face saving questioning, the bogus pipeline (BPL) and the randomised response techniques (RRT). The paper concludes that while the problem may be reduced, it is generally difficult to know whether it is eliminated and that a programme of qualitative research might be insightful. Ethical issues are also raised

Topics: HF
Publisher: Westburn Publishers
Year: 2001
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