The conceptual link between social desirability and cultural normativity

Philippe Bou Malham, Gerard Saucier
Published Online:
24 Feb 2016
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 51 Issue 6

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Psychologists have a recurrent concern that socially desirable responding (SDR) is a form of response distortion that compromises the validity of self‐report measures, especially in high‐stakes situations where participants are motivated to make a good impression. Psychologists have used various strategies to minimise SDR or its impact, for example, forced choice responding, ipsatization, and direct measures of social desirability. However, empirical evidence suggests that SDR is a robust phenomenon existing in many cultures and a substantive variable with meaningful associations with other psychological variables and outcomes. Here, we review evidence of the occurrence of SDR across cultures and tie SDR to the study of cultural normativity and cultural consonance in anthropology. We suggest that cultural normativity is an important component of SDR, which may partly explain the adaptiveness of SDR and its association with positive outcomes.

© 2016 International Union of Psychological Science