Faking on Questionnaires

Faking involves the motivated distortion of answers on a questionnaire. When personality questionnaires are used to make important decisions about people's lives (e.g., hire them for a job, promote them, decide that they are not guilty by reason of insanity, or allow prisoners to be paroled), then there is always the possibility of faking. Some people may be motivated to "fake good" in order to appear to be better of f or better adjusted than they really are. Others may be motivated to "fake bad" in order to appear to be worse of f or more maladjusted than they really are. For example, a worker suing a company for mental anguish caused by a poor working condition might be motivated to appear very distressed to the court-appointed psychologist.

Questionnaire developers have attempted to devise ways to detect faking good and faking bad. In constructing the 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire, for example, Cattell, Eber, and Tatsouoka (1970) had groups of participants complete the questionnaire under specific instructions. One group of participants was instructed to fak good, to appear to be as well adjusted as possible. Another group of participants was instructed to fake bad, to try to appear as maladjusted as possible. The data for these two groups were then used to generate a "faking good profile" and a "faking bad pro file." The data from real participants can then be compared with those in these two faking profiles, and the psychologist can calculate just how much a person s responses fit the profile of the groups asked to fake their answers This approach of fers psychologists an imperfect but nevertheless reasonable method for determining the likelihood that a person is faking his or her responses to the questionnaire.

There are two ways for psychologists to make a mistake when seeking to distinguish between genuine and faked responses. They may conclude that a truthful person was faking and reject that person' s data (called a false negative). Or they may decide that a person who was faking was actually telling the truth (called a false positive). Psychologists do not know for certain how well their faking scales perform when it comes to minimizing the percentages of false positives and false negatives. Because of this problem of undetected faking, many psychologists are suspicious of self-report questionnaire measures of personality .

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