Social desirability in personality inventories: Symptoms, diagnosis and prescribed cure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


An analysis of social desirability in personality assessment is presented. Starting with the symptoms, Study 1 showed that mean ratings of graded personality items are moderately to strongly linearly related to social desirability (Self deception, Impression formation, and the first PC), suggesting that item popularity may be a useful heuristic tool for identifying items which elicit socially desirable responding. We diagnose the cause of socially desirable responding as an interaction between the evaluative content of the item and enhancement motivation in the rater. Study 2 introduced a possible cure; evaluative neutralization of items. To test the feasibility of the method lay psychometricians (undergraduates) reformulated existing personality test items according to written instructions. The new items were indeed lower in social desirability while essentially retaining the five factor structure and reliability of the inventory. We conclude that although neutralization is no miracle cure, it is simple and has beneficial effects.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • personality, social desirability, psychometrics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-159
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

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