Washington, October 8 : A team of Canadian psychologists has created a personality inventory that can help detect people who can excel in academic and creative domains, even when respondents are trying hard to fake their answers.
The researchers say that their inventory can offer a better tool than the traditional personality questionnaires that have been plagued by the problem of biased responding.
"It's very common for people to try and make themselves look better than they actually are on these questionnaires, especially if they know they are being evaluated," said Jordan B. Peterson, psychology professor at the University of Toronto.
"This sort of faking can distort the predictive validity of these tests, with significant negative economic consequences. We wanted to develop a measure that could predict real-world performance even in the absence of completely honest responding," added the study's co-author.
The researchers say that traditional personality inventories fail to predict performance outcomes when respondents have strong incentive to fake their scores.
They say that the new measure retains its ability to predict success, even when respondents are consciously trying to make themselves look good.
"Personality remains an important factor in predicting performance. Trait conscientiousness has consistently emerged as a major predictor of academic success and workplace performance, while trait openness is a good predictor of creative achievement," said Jacob Hirsh, lead author of the paper and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto.
The studies' authors have revealed that using formulas derived by Frank Schmidt of Iowa University and John Hunter of Michigan State enabled them to estimate the potential productivity gain associated with using the new measure in a workplace setting.
"Because people differ widely in their individual abilities," notes Hirsh, "even a small degree of accuracy in testing can produce significant economic gains."
The researchers say that the tests conducted as part of the present study were accurate beyond that small degree.
In fact, Schmidt and Hunter's formulas indicate that the use of the bias-resistant test over currently available personality assessment methods could result in a productivity gain of 23 per cent per hired employee, when response faking is an issue.
"Potential gains of this magnitude should not be ignored. It is very important that the right people be chosen for any competitive position. This questionnaire is a step in the right direction," said Hirsh.