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Social desirability is the tendency for research participants to attempt to act in ways that make them seem desirable to other people. Such attempts to “look good to others” can compromise the validity of research, particularly research with participants who know they are being studied. Frequently viewed as a response bias, social desirability is often associated with self-report questionnaires; however, it can also affect any research based on behavioral observation. Researchers from many sciences, including psychology, business, public opinion, medicine, political science, sociology, and exercise science, must consider the potential effects of social desirability. Researchers have long studied the nature of social desirability, the factors affecting social desirability, its potential impact on research, and various methods for coping with the problem.

The Nature of Social Desirability

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