Correlations between person-descriptive items are predictable from the product of their mid-point-centered social desirability values

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



This paper presents a series of pre-registered analyses testing the same theoretically derived hypothesis: If (a) the attitudes that perceivers have toward targets contribute to the variance of judgments on most items, and (b) items’ rated social desirability values align very closely with the extent to which that is the case, then the product of two items’ mid-point-centered social desirability values should predict the amount of shared variance, and thus the correlation, between these items. This hypothesis applies equally to other ratings and self-ratings. Across samples, effect sizes ranged from r = .36 to r = .80 (average r = .61) and were statistically significant in every single case. We also found that the average effect is much larger for other-ratings (r = .71) than for self-ratings (r = .49). This difference was also replicable and is likely rooted in the greater relative importance of the attitude factor in other-ratings, as compared to self-ratings. An exploratory item resampling analysis suggested that scales may achieve good internal consistency, and correlate substantially with other scales, based solely on shared attitude variance. We discuss the relevance of these findings across different domains of psychological assessment, and possible ways of dealing with the issue.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-689
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020



  • item, correlation, social desirability, attitude, pre-registration