I’ve talked about bias before (cognitive bias; personal and situational bias); I’ve probably talked about bias in surveys and sampling. Today I want to talk specifically about self report bias…you know, the bias that exists when people answer questions themselves (as opposed to having their behavior be observed).
First, what is self-report bias (often called self-response bias)? It is the bias that exists when people answer survey questions by themselves. Everyone has this bias; it is unavoidable. It can be seen as social desirability bias (what the the respondent thinks the survey writer wants to hear); self-selection bias (a person decides to respond when invited as opposed to not responding); and what I’m going to call a “clarity bias” (whether the respondent understands the survey content).
I’m finding more and more that the S of good writing are applicable to all writing–fiction, non-fiction, scholarly, SURVEY. If the survey isn’t clear, the respondent isn’t going to be able to answer in a way that is meaningful. If the respondent cannot answer the survey in a way that is meaningful, there will be no meaningful data. If data are not meaningful, then the evaluation will not be able to tell you the value or merit or worth of the project being evaluated.
It is important to
- Pilot test the survey before sending it out to the target audience.
- Have naive readers read over the survey (different from pilot testing).
- Only ask one thing at a time in the questions.
I’m sure there are other things that would help minimize bias–let me know other options used.
Bottom line: Self report bias is always part of evaluation that involves people; it can be minimized.
This is the time of year that one thinks about changes and how one will do that in the new year. Yet, those changes often fall by the way side, getting left in the dust (so to speak) of every day life. One way I’ve kept those changes fresh is to follow how the new year presents itself. There is the calendar new year (on January 1); there is the lunar new year (this year on February 19, the year of the goat); there is the spring equinox (norooz, the Persian new year); Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year beginning on the evening of September 13); there is the Islamic new year, the Thai new year, the Ethiopian new year, and the list goes on. (What is your favorite new year and new year’s celebration?) By refreshing the year regularly, I can keep my “resolutions” alive all year. My wish for you is a prosperous and healthy new year. Welcome 2015.