Social desirability scales: More substance than style

Robert R. McCrae, Paul Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many psychologists still regard correlations with social desirability (SD) scales as evidence of the invalidity of measures, despite 20 years of research showing that this interpretation is usually unjustified. Although items or scales may be characterized as high or low in SD, there is little evidence that individuals differentially respond to this property when completing self-report questionnaires under normal instructional conditions. In an attempt to separate substance from style in SD scales, self-reports from 215 adult men and women were compared to the external criterion of spouse ratings on a range of personality traits in the domains of neuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience. When self-reports were 'corrected' using scores from the Eysenck Personality Inventory Lie scale and the Marlowe-Crowne SD scale, validity coefficients decreased, rather than increased, in most cases. Both scales were shown to be substantively related to neuroticism and, to a lesser degree, to extraversion and closedness. These results suggest that correlations with SD scales should be given substantive rather than artifactual interpretations and that the widespread practice of correcting scores for lying, defensiveness, or SD should be questioned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-888
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Volume51
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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