The role of behaviour-specific social desirability bias in influencing self-report pro-environmental behaviour

Author Bios (50 Words for each Author)

Oscar Yuheng Zhu:

Oscar is an early career researcher at The University of Queensland in Australia. Oscar’s research focus is on developing theory-based interventions to reduce plate waste in hedonic contexts such as hotel buffets and restaurants. Oscar is also interested in the psychological constructs behind tourists’ pro-environmental behaviours and behavioural intentions.

Danyelle Greene

Danyelle Greene is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Queensland. Her research interests include developing practical interventions to prompt consumers to behave in more sustainable ways. She is a member of the Low Harm Hedonism Initiative, a research team investigating the reduction of harm in hedonic contexts.

Sara Dolnicar

Sara is a Professor in Tourism at The University of Queensland in Australia. Sara’s core research interests are the improvement of market segmentation methodology and the testing and refinement of measures used in social science research. She has investigated a range of different applied research areas, including sustainable tourism and tourism marketing, environmental volunteering, foster caring and public acceptance of water alternatives and water conservation measures.

Abstract (150 Words)

Social desirability bias is the tendency for individuals to over-report behaviours that are viewed favourably by society. Researchers argue that social desirability bias leads to individuals substantially overreporting pro-environmental behaviours. Yet, there is little evidence for this, with a pooled weak correlation between the results from respondent-specific social desirability (RSSD) index and self-report pro-environmental behaviour. This indicates that RSSD index is likely too general to capture socially desirable responding across pro-environmental behaviours. Our study proposes using behaviour-specific social desirability (BSSD) index, which are driven by social expectation and the embarrassment associated with admitting to the specific behaviour. To produce evidence for or against this assumption, we 1) examine the associations between RSSD index and 11 self-reported behaviours and 2) examine the associations between these same behaviours and BSSD. Our results indicate that BSSD is superior in pinpointing risk of social desirability bias and offering correction factors for data analysis.

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The role of behaviour-specific social desirability bias in influencing self-report pro-environmental behaviour

Social desirability bias is the tendency for individuals to over-report behaviours that are viewed favourably by society. Researchers argue that social desirability bias leads to individuals substantially overreporting pro-environmental behaviours. Yet, there is little evidence for this, with a pooled weak correlation between the results from respondent-specific social desirability (RSSD) index and self-report pro-environmental behaviour. This indicates that RSSD index is likely too general to capture socially desirable responding across pro-environmental behaviours. Our study proposes using behaviour-specific social desirability (BSSD) index, which are driven by social expectation and the embarrassment associated with admitting to the specific behaviour. To produce evidence for or against this assumption, we 1) examine the associations between RSSD index and 11 self-reported behaviours and 2) examine the associations between these same behaviours and BSSD. Our results indicate that BSSD is superior in pinpointing risk of social desirability bias and offering correction factors for data analysis.