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Detect socially desirable-answers with the Normative-Ipsative Split Technology® in The Bridge Personality

Wednesday 03 January 2024

What is socially-desirable answering behavior?

During selection procedures, many candidates will try to provide 'socially-desirable' answers when filling out a personality test. They will opt for statements that leave a favorable impression. For instance, they might choose the statement 'No one works as hard as I do' over 'I don't always help colleagues at work'. However, answering in this manner is unbeneficial. Organizations will recognize the dishonesty when they review the test report.

When completing a Big Five personality test, bear in mind that the test also includes items that assess the extent of socially-desirable answering. This is termed the social desirability scale. The items of this scale don't measure personality; they measure socially-desirable answering behavior.

An example is the statement 'No one works harder than I do'. It's likely that this statement doesn't genuinely apply to anyone. If someone answers 'strongly agree', it can be an indication of socially-desirable answering.

This item doesn't genuinely apply to anyone. If someone answers 'strongly agree', it can be an indication of socially-desirable answering. Most personality tests indicate the extent of socially- desirable answers on a scale, typically ranging from one (not socially desirable) to ten (very socially- desirable). More advanced personality tests, like The Bridge Personality, go much beyond this. This test also provides a score on agreeable answering behavior and the consistency between normative and ipsative answers. These scales help determine the candidate's honesty, which is useful information during recruitment and selection with a personality test.

This technique is also available in the Competency Test, the 16 Personality Test and the 4-Color Personality Test.

Recognize socially-desirable answers in a personality test with Normative-Ipsative Split Technology®

The Bridge Personality, in addition to the above three scales (indicative of 'directive answering behavior'), also utilizes Normative-Ipsative Split Technology®. Normative-Ipsative Splits are indicators that denote the extent of directive answering behavior at the level of a personality dimension (trait). This reveals, for example, if someone is truthful about their attention to detail but perhaps not about their result orientation. This offers valuable insights during a selection process.

If a candidate struggled to choose among statements related to a particular dimension, a normative-ipsative split will appear in the report next to that dimension. The 'N' (for normative) is beneath the normative score, while the 'I' (for ipsative) is below the ipsative score. Such a dimension indicates the candidate's difficulty in making choices. It's interesting to understand why. Multiple reasons could be at play (like the explanations given above). It's up to the feedback provider and the candidate to explore this together. A normative-ipsative split isn't negative; it simply provides more information.

Example of a Normative-Normative-Ipsative Split

In the below example page of The Bridge Personality report, there is a normative-ipsative split at the competency: Abstract. Here the normative score is 7, where the ipsative score is 4. Hence, the split appears in the report, representing a certain doubt that the participant had while completing the questionnaire. This doubt can either be intentional faking (this may occur with job applicants in recruitment procedures), or it may represent a doubt that the participant has on the specific competency (Abstract). For example, the normative score (N) may represent the behavior in social environments (at home) and the ipsative (I) represents the behavior at work. Of course, there can be many other reasons why a participant displays a certain amount of doubt on a competency.  The normative-ipsative will help you to recognize the doubt and discuss it with the participant.

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