Social desirability bias in the reporting of alcohol consumption: a randomized trial

Kypri, Kypros, Wilson, Amanda, Attia, John, Sheeran, Paschal, Miller, Peter and McCambridge, Jim 2016, Social desirability bias in the reporting of alcohol consumption: a randomized trial, Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, vol. 77, no. 3, pp. 526-531, doi: 10.15288/jsad.2016.77.526.

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Title Social desirability bias in the reporting of alcohol consumption: a randomized trial
Author(s) Kypri, Kypros
Wilson, Amanda
Attia, John
Sheeran, Paschal
Miller, PeterORCID iD for Miller, Peter
McCambridge, Jim
Journal name Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Volume number 77
Issue number 3
Start page 526
End page 531
Total pages 6
Publisher Alcohol Research Documentation
Place of publication New Brunswick, N. J.
Publication date 2016-05
ISSN 1938-4114
Keyword(s) science & technology
social sciences
life sciences & biomedicine
substance abuse
Summary OBJECTIVE: To investigate reporting of alcohol consumption, we manipulated the contexts of questions in ways designed to induce social desirability bias. METHOD: We undertook a two-arm, parallel-group, individually randomized trial at an Australian public university. Students were recruited by email to a web-based "Research Project on Student Health Behavior." Respondents answered nine questions about their physical activity, diet, and smoking. They were unknowingly randomized to a group presented with either (A) three questions about their alcohol consumption or (B) seven questions about their alcohol dependence and problems (under a prominent header labeled "Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test"), followed by the same three alcohol consumption questions from (A). RESULTS: A total of 3,594 students (mean age = 27, SD = 10) responded and were randomized: 1,778 to Group A and 1,816 to Group B. Outcome measures were the number of days they drank alcohol, the typical number of drinks they consumed per drinking day, and the number of days they consumed six or more drinks. The primary analysis included participants with any alcohol consumption in the preceding 4 weeks (1,304 in Group A; 1,340 in Group B) using between-group, two-tailed t tests. RESULTS: In Groups A and B, respectively, means (and SDs) of the number of days drinking were 5.89 (5.92) versus 6.06 (6.12), p = .49; typical number of drinks per drinking day: 4.02 (3.87) versus 3.82 (3.76), p = .17; and number of days consuming six or more drinks: 1.69 (2.94) versus 1.67 (3.25), p = .56. CONCLUSIONS: We could not reject the null hypothesis because earlier questions about alcohol dependence and problems showed no sign of biasing the respondents' subsequent reports of alcohol consumption. These data support the validity of university students' reporting of alcohol consumption in web-based studies.
Language eng
DOI 10.15288/jsad.2016.77.526
Field of Research 170113 Social and Community Psychology
1117 Public Health And Health Services
1701 Psychology
Socio Economic Objective 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, Alcohol Research Documentation
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School of Psychology
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