Is social desirability bias important for effective ethics research? A review of literature

Asian Journal of Business Ethics 10 (2):205-243 (2021)
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Abstract

Social desirability bias (SDB) is one of the main concerns in self-reported studies that measures explicit attitudes such as ethics research. Although SDB was introduced since the early 1950s, little effort has been made to understand the necessity of including an SDB scale in studies of sensitive topics such as ethics. The purpose of this paper was to (1) identify whether current ethics-related studies considered SDB when conducting their research and (2) ascertain whether SDB was a significant variable in such studies. This investigation takes the form of a systematic review of articles published within the last 20 years in well-known business ethics journals (2000–2019). We found that (a) only 13.67% of ethics research measured SDB; (b) although the majority of the reviewed articles were from the West, researchers in Asia have also made significant progress in recent years in measuring SDB in their studies; (c) SDB was used mainly as a control variable and as such researchers preferred scales with fewer items; and (d) SDB was unavoidable even when using online surveys. Based on our findings, we attempt to provide an overview of SDB in ethics research and encourage ethics researchers who adopt self-reported surveys to include an SDB measurement in their studies to control SDB.

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