Why people fib on surveys

February 24th, 2009 - 5:49 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 24 (ANI): Peoples tendency to portray themselves in a more positive light than their thoughts or actions is a problem that affects the validity of statistics and surveys worldwide. Now, a team of scientists, including an Indian-origin boffin, has shed light on why people lie on surveys and what, if anything, can be done about it.

When asked about their own behaviour in relation to materialism, compulsive buying, drug and alcohol addiction, cigarette smoking, shoplifting, gambling, prostitution, and intolerant attitudes, people tend to answer in a less than candid manner.

Now, study author Ashok K. Lalwani of University of Texas at San Antonio and colleagues have found why people don”t tell the strict truth about themselves in surveys and what can be done about it.

For the study, the research teased out two separate forms of “socially desirable responding,” and found that people’’s cultural orientations lead them to different forms.

For instance, people from cultures that have a collectivist orientation (China, Korea, India, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan) are more likely to engage in impression management, which is a deliberate, strategic presentation of a socially approved image of the self.

Lalwani said that impression management is a conscious, active and deliberate attempt to fake good behaviour in front of a real or imagined audience.

He found that the need to give the right answer could be reduced by keeping survey participants cognitively busy by playing background music during surveys.

On contrary, consumers with an individualist cultural orientation (the United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany) are more likely to engage in self-enhancement, which is a spontaneous tendency to present an internalized, unrealistically positive view of the self.

This behaviour is so unconscious that there is little that can be done to curtail it.

According to researchers, the study can help researchers evaluate the validity of survey responses in light of people’’s tendency toward socially desirable responding. It also helps consumers predict their own behaviour and potentially modify it. (ANI)

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