Don’t Flatter Yourself: Why Survey Research Can Be Flawed
The tendency of people to portray themselves in a more favorable light than their thoughts or actions would otherwise demonstrate (socially desirable responding) can affect the validity of statistics and surveys.
This research identified two separate forms of “socially desirable responding,” finding that cultural orientations can lead people to different forms. For example, in certain Asian cultures (specifically, China, Korea, India, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan) there is a “collectivist orientation,” in which people are more likely to engage in impression management, the deliberate, strategic presentation of a socially approved image of oneself.
Impression management is a “conscious, active and deliberate attempt to fake good behavior in front of a real or imagined audience.” This behavior can be reduced to a certain extent by cognitively occupying a survey respondent, for example with background music.
In other nations (for instance, the United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany), there is a more individualist cultural orientation, where people are more likely to engage in self-enhancement through a spontaneous tendency to “present an internalized, unrealistically positive view of the self.” This behavior is so unconscious that little can be done to reduce it.