Item formats and social desirability in personality assessment: A review of the place of forced-choice items

Richard E. Hicks*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Impression management is an issue in recruitment and selection and in other areas in the workplace. Often we teach people how to present themselves to best advantage of self or the company. However, problems related to impression management might well be seen when personality questionnaires are used as part of the process of selection. Falsification or distortion of responses to items in personality questionnaires is part of impression management (or social desirability responding) and test-users often wish to take into account the extent of any such distortion. Attention has been given to item formats in personality questionnaires over many years. The usual approach in such assessment has been to use Single-Stimulus item formats, and the use of Forced-Choice items has been frowned upon (cf., Anastasi & Urbina, 1997). However different Forced- Choice formats are now increasingly being used in practice and are thought to reduce the effects of ipsativity that lead to earlier repudiation of the use of such item formats. To describe how the new forced-choice item patterns seem to function is the purpose of this paper. This paper examines how the specialised Forced-Choice items operate. Conclusions are drawn for further research which will assist in understanding the place of Forced-Choice item formats and their value in personality questionnaires.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPersonality down under
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from Australia
EditorsS. Boag
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781604567946
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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