…up to 200,000 people angry with high costs and poor public services took to the streets. Protesters in Rio de Janeiro burned cars and looted buildings as police attempted to disperse them with teargas and rubber bullets. Aerial images showed thousands of people attempting to storm the congress building in Brasilia. The rallies…are some of the biggest ever seen in the country…
Protesting high costs and poor public services by looting stores and burning cars is counterproductive and absurd.
Social desirability bias is the tendency of respondents to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. It can take the form of over-reporting “good behavior” or under-reporting “bad,” or undesirable behavior. The tendency poses a serious problem with conducting research with self-reports, especially questionnaires. This bias interferes with the interpretation of average tendencies as well as individual differences.
Topics where Social desirability bias is of special concern are self-reports of abilities, personality, sexual behavior, and drug use. When confronted with the question “How often do you masturbate?”, for example, respondents may be pressured by the societal taboo against masturbation, and either under-report the frequency or avoid answering the question. Therefore the mean rates of masturbation derived from self-report surveys are likely to be severe underestimates.
When confronted with the question, “Do you use drugs/illicit substances?” the respondent may be influenced by the fact that controlled substances, including the more commonly used marijuana, are generally illegal. Respondents may feel pressured to deny any drug use or rationalize it, e.g., “I only smoke marijuana when my friends are around.”
The bias can also influence reports of number of sexual partners. In fact, the bias may operate in opposite directions for different subgroups: Whereas men tend to inflate the numbers, women tend to underestimate theirs. In either case, the mean reports from both groups are likely to be distorted by social desirability bias.