Dietary Assessment Primer

Learn More about Social Desirability

Social desirability is a defensive tendency to avoid criticism and to depict oneself as conforming to social norms. The presence of social desirability may be seen as early as childhood and adolescence. Social approval, which is subtly different from social desirability, is the desire to seek a positive response, particularly in testing situations. Both social desirability and social approval are conceptualized as permanent traits.

In dietary assessment, respondents may be concerned that researchers will judge their reported dietary intakes. This effect may be heightened with interviewer-administration of the dietary assessment instrument. Participants with higher social desirability and social approval may tend to overreport "good" foods and underreport "bad" foods. The wide coverage of prescriptive dietary advice is likely to trigger social desirability and social approval bias among the general population. The effects on misreporting may be heightened even more in dietary intervention studies. The Marlowe-Crowne social desirability questions and/or the Martin-Larsen social approval questions can be administered to identify and control for subjects prone to these traits.

For More Information

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