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Psychology and Methodology of Response Styles MMPI

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Style, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Personality, Psychology


The responses a person makes to a test are a function not only of item content but of item form, as well as other aspects of the assessment context. A test presumed to measure one characteristic may also be inadvertently measuring another characteristic (response set) that might not have contaminated the score if some other form of the test had been given. A number of response sets have been empirically identified. These include tendencies to acquiesce when in doubt on true-false or agree-disagree formats; to be inclusive in self-attribution to respond desirably; to fake or manage the impression presented; to respond deviantly; to be critical; to be confident; to be evasive; indecisive, or indifferent, to respond extremely as opposed to moderately on rating scales or Likert-type formats of strongly agree to strongly disagree; to gamble or guess; to emphasize speed versus accuracy; and, to interpret judgment categories differentially. Response sets became more and more influential to the degree that the respondent is at a loss to answer in terms of specific content. Response styles predict serious consequences for psychological measurement. There is a running controversy about the roles of content and style in personality assessment. The purported nature of response styles and some of their behavior correlates are considered. Dimensions of acquiescence and desirable responding are discussed. The controversy over the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) arose when it was claimed that the two major factors of the MMPI could be rotated into positions interpretable as response styles of desirability and acquiescence. The factorial interpretation of the MMPI is discussed, as is stylistic interpretation of the MMPI factors. Behavorial correlates of MMPI factors are also considered. (SGK) (60pp.)

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