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Response Sets

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Response Style (Tests), Test Format, Test Validity, Testing Problems


Response style is a consistency in the manner of response to some aspect of test form, other than specific item content. In addition, it is relatively enduring over time and displays some generality to response, both in other tests and in non-test behavior. Response sets have been detected in ability and achievement tests, personality measures, interest inventories, performance ratings, and attitude scales. Some of the major kinds of response sets are: (1) tendency to gamble or guess; (2) speed versus accuracy; (3) evasiveness, indecision, and indifference; (4) differences in the interpretation of judgment categories; (5) extremeness; (6) confidence; (7) impulsiveness; (8) criticalness; (9) acquiescence; (10) tendency to respond desirably; (11) tendency to fake; and (12) tendency to deviate. Response sets do tend to introduce errors of measurement that should be avoided and controlled. Procedures for controlling response sets include changing the test form, modifying directions, and using special scoring. Multiple choice and fixed choice item formats are also recommended.

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