Cultural Variations in the Effect of Interview Privacy and the Need for Social Conformity on Reporting Sensitive Information

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Abstract

Privacy is an important feature of the interview interaction mainly due to its potential effect on reporting information, especially sensitive information. Here we examine the effect of third-party presence on reporting both sensitive and relatively neutral outcomes. We investigate whether the effect of third-party presence on reporting sensitive information is moderated by the respondent’s need for social conformity and the respondent’s country of residence. Three types of outcomes are investigated: behavioral, attitudinal, and relatively neutral health events. Using data from 22,070 interviews and nine countries in the cross-national World Mental Health Survey Initiative, we fit multilevel logistic regression to study reporting effects on questions about suicidal behavior and marital ratings, and contrast these with questions about having high blood pressure, asthma, or arthritis. We find that there is an effect of third-party presence on reporting sensitive information and no effect on reporting of neutral information. Further, the effect of the interview privacy setting on reporting sensitive information is moderated by the need for social conformity and the cultural setting.

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