A caution on the use of the MMPI K-correction in research on psychosomatic medicine

R. R. McCrae, P. T. Costa, W. G. Dahlstrom, J. C. Barefoot, I. C. Siegler, R. B. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The MMPI K scale is widely used to screen for invalid responses and to adjust substantive scale scores for defensiveness. In a normal volunteer sample, correlations of MMPI clinical scales and the Cook-Medley Hostility (HO) scale with self-reports and peer ratings on the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI) were decreased rather than increased by K-correction. Similarly, in a medical sample, structured interview-based ratings of Potential for Hostility were better predicted by uncorrected HO scores than by K-corrected HO scores. Finally, in a prospective study of mortality among lawyers, uncorrected HO scores were a significant predictor of all-cause mortality; K-corrected scores were not. The data suggest that, under some circumstances, the K scale may measure substantive traits rather than defensiveness, and should be used and interpreted with caution. Its use is probably contraindicated for most research on psychiatrically normal subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-65
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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