Social desireability: this is when you answer questions (either in a personality test or interview (job)) the way you think a good citizen would answer.
Do you drink?
Every other night.Socially.
Do you engage in casual sex?
Sadly too often.Almost never.
Do you think all people are equal?
Episodic memory: memories of life experience, like how you learnt to ride a bike, what the sunset was like yesterday, or how you felt when you were ignored at the party.
Semantic memory: this contains facts and general knowledge, like one’s shoe size, the birthday of your favourite comedian, the capital of Angola, or how people generally feel when ignored at the party.
Due to many factors, among them vast experience of taking personality tests, the resulting boredom, my innate tendency to make boring things more varied, increasing ability/tendency to avoid desireable untruth in self-assessment, have led me to answer to personality questionnaires in a different way.
I now use episodic memory over semantic memory. That is, I don’t automatically and without questioning tick the box of “I agree” to socially desireable answers. I try to strike at the actual truth of it and consider if I truly agree, at all times and circumstances, or do I just like to think I agree. Conversely, I suspect (but am not sure) that when people employ semantic memory in answering personality tests, it might be much more prone to error. One doesn’t think then but just goes with things automatically based on one’s identity, which can be quite static and slow to adapt to change. Plus, even if something isn’t part of identity and one would need to employ episodic memory in answering, social desireability would still interfere.
This explanation is tiresome.
But having started to answer this way has led to the exact same consequences I’ve experienced in real life situations, where a truth-sayer is either pitied for having an unideal life or ostracized for negativism, even if all they do is look at life and themselves more truthfully than common or tolerated. Namely, truthfulness leads to peculiar discrepancies.
Returning to personality tests, I scored in the bottom 2% for conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model. I was quite stunned by being worse than 98% people in conscientiousness. It has also led to a noticeable drop in my agreeableness/sociability scores. This is such complete bollocks it does not deserve refutation.
It is very problematic for personality tests if a more truthful answering style makes the results much more untrue. It makes me think that I can’t really operate on this level of analysis when test-makers and answerers operate on a lower level. Or there should be a social desireability coefficient (that works!).
Alternatives to personality analysis are something I’d like to know more about one day. To date, I’ve not found one that convinced me and could replace the classic way of thinking (trait theory, I suppose it’s called?). It is too static, too governed by self-schema.
I don’t know much about personality psychology really, but I just wanted to record the anomaly I experienced as I shifted from traditional normal person answering style to very truthful episodic-memory-based answering style.
A negativity shift in testing?
The purpose of this test is to confirm that human beings have many bad traits, but are afraid to say so. If you are a good test subject, pay attention to your desire to answer like a good person and focus on how you are actually like. It’s a dare. Don’t be a coward. Every time you spot yourself at a socially desireable lie and correct it, indicate it.
Leading to….social undesireability bias?