Response Artifacts in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being


Diener, E., Sandvik, E., Pavot, W., & Gallagher, D. (1991). Response artifacts in the measurement of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 24(1), 35-56.


The degree to which response artifacts introduce error into self-report measures has long been a matter of concern in the psychological literature. For example, it has been suggested that self-report measures of subjective well-being (SWB) contain large amounts of variance due to the response style of social desirability (Carstensen and Cone, 1983). In the present study, four potential response artifacts (social desirability, current mood, moral beliefs about happiness, and happiness image management) and their effects on self reports of SWB were studied. Using nonself-report measures of happiness, in addition to self-report measures of SWB, various modes for the prediction of SWB were constructed. A measure of social desirability was found to be a significant predictor of nonself-report as well as self-reported measures of happiness, indicating that social desirability is a substantive personality characteristic which enhances well-being, rather than being a response artifact and source of error variance. Current mood was found to sometimes contribute as a predictor of self-report measures of SWB, suggesting the need for control of or assessment of its effects. Moral beliefs in happiness and image management did not significantly correlate with measures of happiness. Implications of the results for the measurement of well-being and for future research are discussed.

To gain access to this article please provide your email address: