Social desirability scales: More substance than style

Robert R. McCrae, Paul T. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

493 Scopus citations


Many psychologists still regard correlations with social desirability (SD) scales as evidence of the invalidity of measures, despite 20 yrs 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 27-89 yr olds 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 (the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Inventory). When self-reports were "corrected" using scores from the Eysenck Personality Inventory Lie scale and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, validity coefficients decreased in most cases. Both scales were substantively related to neuroticism and, to a lesser degree, to extraversion and closedness. 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. (32 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

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


  • extraversion &
  • females, implications for social desirability scale validity
  • openness, adult males &
  • self reports vs spouse ratings of neuroticism &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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