3 More Examples of Self Reporting Bias

Right after I put up my self reporting bias post last week, I saw a few more examples that were too good not to share. Some came from commenters, some were random stories I came across, but all of them could have made the original list. Here you go:

  1. Luxury good ratings Commenter Uncle Bill brought this one up in the comments section on the last post, and I liked it. The sunk cost fallacy  says that we have a hard time abandoning money we’ve already spent, and this kicks in when we have to say how satisfied we are with our luxury goods. No one wants to admit a $90,000 vehicle actually kind of sucks, so it can be hard to figure out if the self reported reliability ratings reflect reality or a desired reality.
  2. Study time Right after I put my last self reporting bias post up, this study came across my Twitter feed. It was a study looking in to “time spent on homework” vs grades, and initially it found that there was no correlation between the two. However, the researchers had given the college students involved pens that actually tracked what they were doing so they double checked the students reports. With the pen-measured data, there actually was a correlation between time on homework and performance in the class. It turned out that many of the low performing kids wildly overestimated how much time they were actually spending on their homework, much more so than the high performing kids. This bias is quite possibly completely unintentional….kids who were having a tough time with the material probably felt like they were spending more time than they were.
  3. Voter preference I mentioned voter preference in my Forest Gump Fallacy post, and I wanted to specifically call out Independent voters here. Despite the name and the large number of those who self identify as such, when you look at voting patterns many independent voters are actually what they call “closet partisans”. Apparently someone who identifies as Independent but has a history of voting Democrat is actually less likely to ever vote GOP than someone who identifies as a “weak Democrat”.  So Independent is a tricky group of Republicans who don’t want to say they’re Republicans, Democrats who don’t want to say they’re Democrats, 3rd party voters, voters who don’t care, and voters who truly have no party affiliation. I’m sure I left someone out, but you can see where it gets messy. This actually also effects how we view Republicans and Democrats, as those groups are normally polled based on self identification. By removing the Independents, it can make one or both parties look like their views are changing, even if the only change is who checked the box on the form.

If you see any more good ones, feel free to send them my way!

One thought on “3 More Examples of Self Reporting Bias

  1. Study Time. Also students who are hanging around homeworky things and not getting to do any fun things that they really want to do, but don’t actually pick up pens or books and get anything accomplished. The feel like they spent 2 hours on homework, and resent that it has so little effect. But they only did 20 minutes worth.


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