News

Fake personalities



23 August 2011

How can you avoid people who are fakers? We're one step closer with a new book by Dr Carolyn MacCann, from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, along with Dr Richard D. Roberts from the Educational Testing Service, USA, and Professor Matthias Ziegler from Humboldt University, Germany, called 'New perspectives on faking in personality assessments'.

Fake personalities have much more serious consequences than simply being socially annoying - now that personality tests are so widespread in job application procedures, forensic psychology and diagnosis in clinical psychology, the implications of personality faking can be significant.

The new book by Dr Carolyn MacCann, from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, along with Dr Richard D. Roberts from the Educational Testing Service, USA, and Professor Matthias Ziegler from Humboldt University, Germany, will help overcome faking on personality tests.
The new book by Dr Carolyn MacCann, from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, along with Dr Richard D. Roberts from the Educational Testing Service, USA, and Professor Matthias Ziegler from Humboldt University, Germany, will help overcome faking on personality tests.

"Personality tests are used in many domains of everyday life and so the possibility of faking on these tests strongly affects many aspects of society," said Dr Carolyn MacCann.

"Although practitioners using personality tests try to detect or correct faking, there is a lot of disagreement about the effectiveness of different methods. Our hope is that the book highlights which areas there is agreement on, in the hopes of forming a set of guidelines for practitioners and researchers using personality tests," explained Dr MacCann.

The book contains 19 chapters by authors from around the world including USA, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Singapore and Australia, working in the area of personality and response distortion.

"The possibility of candidates being able to fake results on personality tests throws all sorts of decisions into disarray, because we rely on personality testing in so many areas," said Dr MacCann.

"Personality tests are used to make decisions in areas such as human resources for job selection and placement, forensic psychology for legal decisions about diminished responsibility and also compensation for mental illness or trauma, clinical psychology for diagnosis, education for decisions about special consideration based on personality-related disorders, and even dating now that online dating websites often include personality assessments," explained Dr MacCann.

"So you can see that faking on personality tests can have widespread impacts and is of real concern to professionals who regularly use personality tests in their work."

The idea for the book came from the authors' work on personality models. Dr MacCann has collaborated with Dr Richard D. Roberts, from the Educational Testing Service, for the last ten years and the two are joint authors on 14 journal articles and eight book chapters. The third author of the new book, Professor Matthias Ziegler, from Humboldt University, has recently started collaborating with Dr MacCann and Dr Roberts on a project examining how narrow personality traits fit together to form a coherent model of personality. The team are particularly interested in seeing whether such a model holds cross-culturally across the US, German and Australian samples.

"The book took several years of work. We first started discussing it in 2006, sent a prospectus to Oxford University Press in 2008, and the book has just now been published in 2011," said Dr MacCann.

The three authors provide recommendations in their book to practitioners using personality scales in their work and for researchers looking at the problem of faking.

Dr Carolyn MacCann, from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, along with Dr Richard D. Roberts from the Educational Testing Service, USA, and Professor Matthias Ziegler from Humboldt University, Germany, has published a new book called 'New perspectives on faking in personality assessments'.
Dr Carolyn MacCann, from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, along with Dr Richard D. Roberts from the Educational Testing Service, USA, and Professor Matthias Ziegler from Humboldt University, Germany, has published a new book called 'New perspectives on faking in personality assessments'.

"We have four recommendations for practitioners," said Dr MacCann.

"First, the use of 'lie scales' to catch people who fake on personality scales is really quite counter-productive. Items on a lie scale ask things like 'Have you ever stolen anything, even a pin or a button?' or 'Do you ever litter?'. The logic of lie scales is that people who say they never steal or never litter are actually lying. However, research shows that the truly ethical, kind and rule-abiding people are likely to get unfairly caught out by these scales, such that using lie scales for selection rules out the very people that a wise employer might want to fill their jobs.

"Second, when using existing methods of faking detection to identify fakers, practitioners are advised to re-test or interpret personality scores cautiously, rather than exclude the identified fakers or try to correct their scores.

'Third, practitioners are advised to implement strategies designed to minimise faking, such as asking about verifiable facts, or using observer reports instead of self-reports.

"Fourth, practitioners using personality tests for job selection are advised to use personality tests to 'screen out' the most undesirable applicants, rather than to select only the exceptional ones, as this procedure will give 'fakers' a small chance of displacing the desirable employees in the selection procedure."

The three authors also have four recommendations for researchers in the book.

"First, when tests are developed for high-stakes applications like job selection, formal processes to neutralise the evaluative content of personality test items should be introduced, as this should make it harder to 'fake' on those items," said Dr MacCann.

"Second, researchers should consider models of test-taker motivation when considering faking.

"Third, researchers should concentrate on developing a theoretical model of faking that considers both person and situation aspects.

"Fourth, research findings from lab studies should be replicated in real life settings to make sure that results are relevant in the contexts where personality tests are actually being used."

Read more about the new book 'New perspectives on faking in personality assessments' at: www.oup.com.au/titles/academic/medicine/9780195387476


Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

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