Social Desirability in Spouse Ratings

Vaka Vésteinsdóttir, Adam Joinson, Ulf Dietrich Reips, Fanney Thorsdottir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whether or not socially desirable responding is a cause for concern in personality assessment has long been debated. For many researchers, McCrae and Costa laid the issue to rest when they showed that correcting for socially desirable responding in self-reports did not improve the agreement with spouse ratings on the Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness to Experience Personality Inventory. However, their findings rest on the assumption that observer ratings in general, and spouse ratings in particular, are an unbiased external criterion. If spouse ratings are also susceptible to socially desirable responding, correcting for the bias in self-rated measures cannot be assumed to increase agreement between self-reports and spouse ratings, and thus failure to do so should not be taken as evidence for the ineffectiveness of measuring and correcting for socially desirable responding. In the present study, McCrae and Costa’s influential study was replicated with the exception of measuring socially desirable responding with the Marlowe–Crowne Social Desirability Scale, in both self-reports and spouse ratings. Analyses were based on responses from 70 couples who had lived together for at least one year. The results showed that both self-reports and spouse ratings are susceptible to socially desirable responding and thus McCrae and Costa’s conclusion is drawn into question.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Reports
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2018


  • content overlap
  • personality
  • response bias
  • Socially desirable responding
  • spouse ratings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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