Write Your SDB Autobiography
By Bryan Caplan
The most neglected psychological phenomenon in the world has a name, and that name is Social Desirability Bias. Long story short: When the truth is ugly, people lie – and get angry at those who refuse to play along. When the dosage gets high enough, lies and anger morph into self-righteous absurdity. SDB illuminates a wide range of issues: diction, demagoguery, public goods theory, intelligence research, the rhetoric of freedom, abortion, vegetarianism, self-help, and much more.
A while back, I wrote my social class autobiography – and persuaded a bunch of fellow bloggers to do the same. The underlying idea:
Each of us comes to the table with a different experience with social class. Think deeply about your own story with social class… By taking time to analyze your own story, you may find a level of understanding and acceptance that you had not previously recognized. Moreover, by sharing our personal stories, we refuse to share in the “code of silence” around social class. In your own social class autobiography, making sure to link your experiences to class privilege or deprivation (or both), as well as to connect it explicitly to some of the ideas we have discussed in class like poverty, wealth, education, mental illness, violence, prison, and the American Dream. Finally, reflect on what you have learned from the experience of examining your personal “Social Class Autobiography.”
Although I discovered academic research on Social Desirability Bias less than a decade ago, I now see that it’s been a constant companion throughout my life. In an effort to understand its power more deeply, I’m going to write a short SDB autobiography. Proceeding chronologically, I’ll discuss the forms of SDB I experienced, how I reacted, and how the people around me reacted to my reaction. I’ll ponder the extent to which I submitted to, challenged, and enforced SDB.
If I’m lucky, this exercise will inspire others to write their own SDB autobigraphies. I will gladly link to anyone who does!