skip to main content skip to footer

Secular Trends in an Adjective Checklist

Hofstee, William K. B.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research, Adjectives, Check Lists, Forced Choice Technique, Response Style (Tests), Social Desirability, Test Wiseness


Secular trends in tests were redefined as effects of systematic changes in response to test items resulting from experience with similar items, rather than from learning outside the testing situation. In the present study, two such trends were investigated in a list of 180 trait-descriptive adjectives: a trend for items to be responded to more desirably as the list continues, and a trend for items to be responded to more or less desirably depending upon the desirability of the preceding item. The method consisted of comparing item popularities, as found in the original format, with the popularities of the same items presented in forced-choice format: if item popularities had been biased through the operation of secular trends in the original list, such bias should to some extent be detectable in the responses to the forced-choice format. The results showed no evidence for the first trend; with respect to the second, it was clearly demonstrated that items in the original list were responded to more desirably as the preceding item was more desirable. The importance of controlling and studying secular trends was discussed.

Read More