China Colloquium

Weihua An, Associate Professor of Sociology, Emory University

You Said, They Said: A Framework on Informant Accuracy with Application to Studying Self-Reports and Peer-Reports of Adolescent Smoking in China

Oct 8, 7:30–8:30 pm (EDT) via Zoom Meeting

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Social research heavily relies on self-reported data. However, it is known that self-reports, especially of sensitive behaviors, tend to be biased. Among many endeavors to address self-reporting bias, informants (such as peers, co-workers, and family members) are often employed to provide alternative reports to supplement self-reports. In this paper, I discuss the necessity and the applicability of using informant reports and the types, measures, and determinants of informant accuracy. I show that studying informant accuracy not only helps deepen our understanding regarding how perceptions of alters are configured, but also helps develop more effective methods to utilize informant reports to correct self-reporting bias. I also propose a general framework that links informant accuracy to informant characteristics as has been done in prior studies, but also to alter characteristics, dyadic characteristics, and features of the object being reported on. I illustrate the framework through a case study of self-reports and peer-reports of smoking among 4,094 middle school students in China. The results reveal mechanisms that can account for previous findings, present more nuanced patterns beyond previous findings, and show the distinctive logics for identifying the presence and the absence of a behavior.