Social Desirability Response Bias and Other Factors That May Influence Self-Reports of Substance Use and HIV Risk Behaviors: A Qualitative Study of Drug Users in Vietnam

AIDS Educ Prev. 2016 Oct;28(5):417-425. doi: 10.1521/aeap.2016.28.5.417.


The accuracy of self-report data may be marred by a range of cognitive and motivational biases, including social desirability response bias. The current study used qualitative interviews to examine self-report response biases among participants in a large randomized clinical trial in Vietnam. A sample of study participants was reinterviewed. The vast majority reported being truthful and emphasized the importance of rapport with the study staff for achieving veridical data. However, some stated that rapport may lead to under reporting of risk behaviors in order not to disappoint study staff. Other factors that appeared to influence accuracy of self-reports include fear that the information may be divulged, desire to enroll in the study, length of the survey, and memory. There are several methods that can be employed to reduce response biases, and future studies should systematically address response bias and include methods to assess whether approaches and survey items are effective in improving accuracy of self-report data.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bias
  • Drug Users / psychology*
  • Fear
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Self Report
  • Social Desirability*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust
  • Vietnam