Acquiescence Bias: Why It Happens and How to Prevent It

Acquiescence Bias: Why It Happens and How to Prevent It cover

Acquiescent bias (also known as acquiescence bias) is a very common obstacle when conducting customer surveys.

But how can you prevent this bias from skewing your user sentiment data?

First, let’s go over what it is and how it happens, then go over some tactics to prevent this phenomenon from affecting the accuracy of your survey data.


  • Acquiescent bias (or acquiescence bias) refers to the tendency for survey respondents to agree with statements or questions, regardless of their true feelings or opinions. For example, acquiescence bias occurs when a survey asks, “Was it easy to find the information?”. Since the word “easy” is included, it might make respondents think of it as the “correct” answer.
  • Several factors breed acquiescence bias, including:
  1. The influence of the researcher via the format of the survey or the way the questions are written.
  2. The inherent desire to conform and select the popular “right” answer.
  3. Lack of motivation to critically engage with the content due to disinterest or because the survey is too long.
  4. Answering from the ideal self-image rather than the real experience.
  • Acquiescence bias can be minimized using several tactics like:
  1. Aiming for neutrality in questions by adding the same number of positive and negative questions or options.
  2. Clearly explaining what your scales mean so users know what each answer represents.
  3. Incorporating open-ended questions to leave room for respondents to provide more accurate and insightful answers.
  4. Minimizing any potential confusion in the questionnaire by using familiar language, articulating the questions well, and limiting yourself to one topic per question.
  5. Segmenting the participants, so you can send more relevant surveys that are less likely to be affected by biases.
  6. Mixing different formats of questions to keep respondents engaged and focused.
  7. Managing expectations with transparency, efficient communication, and proper anticipation.
  • Userpilot can help you design and manage customer surveys with high engagement and minimum bias. Why not book a Userpilot demo to see how you can gather accurate user data?

What is acquiescence bias?

Acquiescence bias—also known as “acquiescent bias,” “yes bias,” “affirmation bias,” or “agreement bias”—is a common bias in survey research where survey respondents tend to agree with statements. It often results in skewed data and can mislead product managers into making incorrect decisions based on inaccurate feedback.

If you want to perform balanced surveys and get unbiased results, understanding and mitigating acquiescence bias is crucial—so you can navigate it easily.

What is an example of an acquiescent response?

Let’s say you need to send a CES survey to see if your knowledge base interface is easy to navigate.

But, for example, you include a survey question that reads: “Was it easy to find the information?”

This question prompts the respondents to lean towards a “yes” because it follows biased wording (includes “easy” in the question), and respondents might think that that’s the “correct” answer.

acquiescent bias example
Acquiescent bias example.

Why does acquiescence bias occur?

Like in the example above, there are several reasons why acquiescence bias might happen—so let’s go over them.

Researcher influence

The influence of the researcher (i.e., you) plays a significant role in acquiescence bias, as respondents often skew their answers to please the researcher with the “correct” answer or simply because the format of the survey influences their response.

Just like the example we covered earlier, the wording of the question, the colors of the buttons, or any uneven formatting might subconsciously influence a respondent to answer positively rather than give their genuine opinion.

Desire to blend in

We humans have an innate compulsion to fit in and follow the crowd. This means we might not want to stand out or rock the boat by expressing views that contradict popular sentiment.

That said, the desire to blend in and follow the mainstream can result in acquiescence response bias and misrepresentations of actual opinions, leading to acquiescence bias in surveys. So any researcher must be aware of what the popular “right” answer is and phrase the survey questions correctly in order to neutralize it.

Lack of motivation

Acquiescent response bias can potentially come from a lack of motivation. If participants don’t find the survey engaging or don’t feel their input is valuable, they may not invest the time and thought necessary for providing accurate responses—defaulting to a “yes” answer to get over it quickly.

There’s also a chance that users might want to avoid follow-up questions, such as “Is there anything you feel our product could do better?”. So try to communicate and be transparent with the number of questions you’re going to include in your surveys.

acquiescent bias follow up question
Example of a follow-up survey question.

Sense of an ideal self

Acquiescence bias can often be motivated by an individual’s version of their ideal self. This is because when answering surveys or questionnaires, people are inclined to give responses that align more with who they aspire to be, rather than reflecting their actual feelings, beliefs, or behavior.

For example, if a respondent idealizes himself as a “data-driven marketer” they might be prone to give a “yes” answer to any question that aligns with that identity—even if when it’s not entirely true in real life.

7 ways to avoid acquiescence bias

Now that you understand what the acquiescence bias is and how it happens, let’s go over 7 best practices to help you avoid survey bias.

1. Keep things neutral

To avoid acquiescence bias, avoid leading questions, as these will skew users toward a specific answer. So, if you provide a five-point scale as possible answers, ensure options are symmetrical from negative to positive, like “strongly disagree,” “disagree,” “neutral,” “agree,” and “strongly agree”.

Also use clear, simple language to prevent participants from feeling compelled to agree out of confusion or misunderstanding. Just like the example below where the number of positive and negative answers are equal and the question is simple and natural:

satisfaction survey neutral example
A neutral user satisfaction survey.

2. Clarify your scales

To prevent acquiescence bias, clearly define what each rating on your scale means. For instance, if you clarify that a ‘1’ equates to poor service and a ‘5’ signifies excellent service, they will likely provide more accurate and thoughtful responses.

This way, you can strategically avoid any ambiguity or misunderstanding that might otherwise lead respondents toward safer, more neutral responses.

3. Include open-ended questions

Open-ended questions naturally have less room for bias, making them a practical approach to avoiding acquiescence bias. This is because instead of steering participants toward selecting a provided survey response, open-ended questions allow them to generate their own answers—reducing the chances of them agreeing with a given option.

Plus, the richer, in-depth responses from these questions offer deeper insights and contribute to more comprehensive data for your market research.

acquiescent bias open ended question
Open-ended survey question example.

4. Minimize confusion

An inefficient survey question can confuse users, and confusion can lead a participant to just agree to your questions instead of spending time trying to understand them.

Thus, it is important to keep your questions straightforward and unambiguous. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Use familiar language that your participants will understand. Avoid technical jargon or industry-specific terms unless you’re certain your participants are familiar with them.
  • Make sure your questions are simple and well-articulated. Avoid lengthy sentence structures that can easily result in misinterpretation.
  • Add subtitles below the survey question to provide more context, just in case the question requires it.
  • Limit yourself to one single topic per question, and avoid double-barreled questions.

5. Segment the participants

Segmenting your respondents is an effective way to get bias-free responses.

When dividing the target participants into small and relevant groups, you can send questions that are better suited to the participant’s knowledge and customer journey stage—reducing the likelihood of them simply agreeing to statements they don’t fully comprehend or relate to.

You can use a tool like Userpilot to, for example, only send CES surveys to active users who use your product every day (and are likely to have more comments and feedback on it).

segmentation acquiescent bias
Segmenting users with Userpilot.

6. Mix different formats

When it comes to long surveys, repetitive questions lead to less focus and higher drop-offs as users get disengaged and tired.

That said, diversifying the format throughout the survey is an effective way to maintain respondent engagement, preventing fatigue, and reducing the likelihood of biased responses.

For instance, you can alternate between multiple-choice questions, scales, open-ended questions, and so on. This way, participants will carefully think about each question rather than fall into a “rhythm” of agreeing with the statements presented.

7. Manage expectations with transparency

To avoid acquiescence bias, try being more transparent and straightforward. When being completely open about the purpose, structure, and use of survey responses, you leave room for building trust with your users and encourage honest answers.

For instance, you can communicate the number of questions from the beginning, make the survey anonymous if it involves sensitive information, and express how you’re going to use their data. This way, respondents can anticipate how much time, effort, and information they’re going to give away before committing to finish it.

Build and manage your surveys with Userpilot

Userpilot is a customer success platform with the ability to create, design, and trigger in-app surveys for user research, either from scratch or by using any of the multiple templates available.

However, Userpilot brings more than the ability to trigger NPS surveys inside your app for research. You can also create onboarding flows, collect user behavior data, and give access to advanced product analytics—everything to nurture product growth.

Here’s how Userpilot can help you with your product research needs:

  • Collect feedback for your research using a great variety of in-app surveys such as CSAT, CES, and NPS surveys.
  • Get a deep user experience understanding with analytics charts such as funnels (to spot friction), trends (to understand what brings value across different plans), and paths (to draw the product journey of your users).
  • Segment your users based on their stage of the journey, in-app behavior, survey responses, and more, so you can target the right in-app surveys for each group.
  • Use advanced survey analytics to tag and filter user responses based on recurrent themes and keywords and save time analyzing responses.
userpilot survey templates
Userpilot survey templates.


Understanding acquiescent bias and its root causes is essential for anyone trying to conduct any type of customer research.

By identifying acquiescence bias and implementing strategies to avoid it (like the ones we covered here), you can ensure the data collected is accurate, reliable, and truly reflective of user opinions.

Now, since you’ll need the right software to create, target, and send surveys, why not book a Userpilot demo to see how you can gather accurate user data?

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