Social desirability claims are a bit of a scam. They’re mostly used as virtue signals by politicians and their proponents. They allow people to claim they’re doing something of value without actually doing anything.

The universe is transactional, despite the claims Keynes et al. Any sort of resource requires the exchange of other resources to obtain. With public goods, we should strive to make this exchange as efficient as possible.

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It sure seems to me that the admiration of certain kinds of art is subject to social desirability bias. My rule on what distinguishes art from modern art is whether an accidental swipe of the spatula or brush is noticed or not. But like fashion certain modern art accumulates value. Atonal music similarly can be detected in a second by imagining a random note being inserted and not noticing. But dare you declare it as shit. I suspect superlatives adorning a discussion about wine is entirely bullshit. Then there's libido and imprinting happening at the same time. Everybody calls it love.

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Thank you for this thought-provoking piece.

Were Facemasks another example of Social Desirability Bias?

Up through early 2022, opinion polls often suggested around 50% of Americans supported facemask mandates. Yet when masks became mostly optional, use decreased to only a small percentage. The change was most dramatic when the transportation mask mandate was blocked by a court in Spring 2022, and people took them off midflight.

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Possible example of Social Desirability Bias:

Electric Cars:

Polls suggest a large portion of car buyers are "interested" in electric cars.

Yet actual purchases show a different picture - a small yet enthusiastic group of early adopters and a much larger group of motorists who prefer gasoline or hybrid cars.

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at least when it comes to healthcare, there’s a difference between a willingness to pay versus capability. inequality of wealth is a huge confounder for SDB analysis. a simpler explanation would be that people have needs and depending on the need the price is outside their ability to pay but if they tax others then it becomes affordable. so SDB can be too clever by half in some situations.

someone could say:

i have a chronic health condition. this medicine is 100k a year. if everyone is taxed X amount then i and everyone else who gets sick therefore gets the medicine they think they need.

did this person do this because it sounds good or because they have a material need met by government taxes? the hansonian argument that marginal healthcare doesn’t improve health is highly controversial and a deeply complicated empirical question. SDB is about people’s psychology and their actual motivations vs what they say. but in that vein there is no conflict between true motivations, their words and actions.

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