Personality Scale Distortion

For personality questionnaire tips, we offer several types of personality test practice, together with some personality test tips.

Personality Distortion 

Social desirability scale on personality tests

You will probably not be able to fake this personality profile throughout the whole of the test. Your responses could easily be identified by the faking / social desirability scale used by the personality assessment tool. Then you could be asked to explain your “unusual” test taking style by one of the recruiters and/or be asked to take the personality assessment again.

Lie scale on personality tests

Given the high potential for faking a personality test there are multiple ways built-in to test how reliable a candidate’s responses are. One of the most effective ways is what’s called a social desirability, or lie-scale.

For example, a personality test question may ask you to rate statements such as I have never told a lie or I have never been late for an appointment. Be wary of trying to come across as a perfect angel here. Everyone has told a lie at least once and everyone has been late at least some of the time.

Social Desirability – Personality scale Interpretation

A sten score of 8, 9 or 10 should be treated with caution and the respondent questioned accordingly at the interview stage – to validate their personality profile. The key point being that an extreme Social Desirability score indicates the respondent may be trying to distort their results by answering in an overly positive manner. As with any personality scale individuals have different social desirable tendencies so it’s difficult to distinguish genuine responses (for such positive attributes) from respondents intentionally distorting their answers.

A high Social Desirability score could reflect preferred behavioural style – it certainly does not prove the respondent is lying / faking. This reinforces the need to validate any personality test profile with a follow-up interview, in this case to probe for interview evidence of such positive attributes.

Using Social Desirability as a personality scale

To illustrate “social desirability” the question, I have never told a lie, is often given. Everyone has lied at some point so denying this is to answer in a socially desirable way. In fact, “Social desirability” describes two things:

  1. The tendency to exaggerate positive behaviours when answering a personality questionnaire. There is a tendency for a small percentage of personality questionnaire respondents to agree with seemingly desirable questions.
  2.  It also describes the moderation of negative behaviours; to disagree with socially undesirable questions (Zickar & Gibby, 2006).

It is therefore best practise in popular personality questionnaire design to use a Social Desirability scale to address such faking issues. Respondents can deliberately distort their answers on any personality questionnaire; assuming they know the sort of personality characteristics the recruiter is looking for. Hence that they can correctly guess the personality scales being assessed. Using a “Social Desirability” scale is an excellent means of addressing this effect. Otherwise intentional distortion can affect a personality questionnaire’s validity (Haaland & Christiansen, 1998).

Social Desirability Personality Scale Research 2018

Anguiano-Carrasco, C., MacCann, C., Geiger, M., Seybert, J.
M., & Roberts, R. D. (2014). Development of a forcedchoice
measure of typical-performance emotional intelligence.
Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 33, 83-97.
Bartram, D. (2007). Increasing validity with forced-choice
criterion measurement formats. International Journal of
Selection and Assessment, 15, 263-272. doi:10.1111/j.1468-
Funder, D. C. (1995). On the accuracy of personality judgment: A
realistic approach. Psychological Review, 102, 652-670.
Personality, 81, 155-170.
Colvin, C. R., Block, J., & Funder, D. C. (1995). Overly positive
self-evaluations and personality: Negative implications for
mental health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
Funder, D. C. (1995). On the accuracy of personality judgment: A
realistic approach. Psychological Review, 102, 652-670.
Jin, K. Y., & Wang, W. C. (2014). Generalized IRT models for
extreme response style. Educational and Psychological
Joubert, T., Inceoglu, I., Bartram, D., Dowdeswell, K., & Lin, Y.
(2015). A comparison of the psychometric properties of the
forced choice and Likert scale versions of a personality instrument.
International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 23,
Khorramdel, L., & von Davier, M. (2014). Measuring response
styles across the Big Five: A multiscale extension of an
approach using multinomial processing trees. Multivariate
Behavioral Research, 49, 161-177. doi:10.1080/00273171.
Messick, S. J. (1967). The psychology of acquiescence: An interpretation
of research evidence. In I. A. Berg (Ed.), Response
set in personality assessment (pp. 115-145). Chicago, IL:
Paulhus, D. L. (2002). Socially desirable responding: The evolution
of a construct. In H. I. Braun, D. N. Jackson, & D. E.