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January 27, 2010

Mindful Communication to Address Burnout, Empathy, and Attitudes—Reply

JAMA. 2010;303(4):330-331. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.18

In Reply: Drs Wang and Gao assert that social desirability is a response bias that can confound relationships among the variables of interest. This claim is nonspecific and belied by the evidence. First, a wide body of psychometric data suggests that the putative social desirability response bias is not a response bias at all, but a misnomer for a personality trait related to conventionality.1 Second, even if social desirability resulted in a response bias, there is no psychometric consensus on how it should be measured.2 Third, even if its measurement were attempted, including the results of this measurement in models may reduce rather than enhance the validity of associations.2,3 For instance, in the legally perilous and financially high-stakes world of personnel selection, meta-analytic evidence weighs heavily against the claims that social desirability is a response bias and confounds associations of interest; efforts to measure and adjust for it are discouraged.3 Fourth, even if a social desirability bias exists, measurement is endeavored, and adjustment attempted, social desirability responsiveness could bias treatment effect estimates only if it were associated with both the outcome and treatment.

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