A Social Desirability Item Response Theory Model: Retrieve–Deceive–Transfer

  • Cheng-Han Leng
  • Hung-Yu Huang
  • Grace YaoEmail author


In this study, a new item response theory model is developed to account for situations in which respondents overreport or underreport their actual opinions on a positive or negative issue. Such behavior is supposed to be a result of deception and transfer mechanisms. In the proposed model, this behavior is simulated by incorporating a deception term into a multidimensional rating scale model, followed by multiplication by a transfer term, with the two operations performed by an indicator function and a transition matrix separately. The proposed model is presented in a Bayesian framework approximated by Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms. Through a series of simulations, the parameters of the proposed model are recovered accurately. The methodology is also implemented within an online experimental study to demonstrate the methodology’s application.


socially desirable behavior (SDB) item response theory (IRT) model multidimensional rating scale (MRS) model 



This research was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST 104-2410-H-002-059-MY2, MOST 106-2410-H-002-081-SSS, and MOST 108-2410-H-002-100-) for Grace Yao. We would like to thank Dr. Hsiu-Ting Yu, Dr. Yu-Wei Chang, and all the reviewers for giving valuable comments on this paper.

Supplementary material

11336_2019_9689_MOESM1_ESM.csv (33 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (csv 32 KB)
11336_2019_9689_MOESM2_ESM.csv (55 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (csv 55 KB)
11336_2019_9689_MOESM3_ESM.csv (20 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (csv 19 KB)


  1. Abelson, R. P., Loftus, E. F., & Greenwald, A. G. (1992). Attempts to improve the accuracy of selfreports of voting. In J. M. Tanur (Ed.), Questions about Questions (pp. 138–153). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  2. Bäckström, M., & Björklund, F. (2013). Social desirability in personality inventories: Symptoms, diagnosis and prescribed cure. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 54(2), 152–159.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Belli, R. F., Traugott, M. W., Young, M., & McGonagle, K. A. (1999). Reducing vote overreporting in surveys: Social desirability, memory failure, and source monitoring. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 63(1), 90–108.Google Scholar
  4. Böckenholt, U. (2014). Modeling motivated misreports to sensitive survey questions. Psychometrika, 79(3), 515–537.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks, S. P., & Gelman, A. (1998). General methods for monitoring convergence of iterative simulations. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 7(4), 434–455.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, J. D. (1986). Evaluations of self and others: Self-enhancement biases in social judgments. Social Cognition, 4(4), 353–376.Google Scholar
  7. Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. (1992). The aggression questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(3), 452–459.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Chan, J. C.-C., & Jeliazkov, I. (2009). MCMC estimation of restricted covariance matrices. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 18(2), 457–480.Google Scholar
  9. Cronbach, L. J. (1950). Further evidence on response sets and test design. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 10(1), 3–31.Google Scholar
  10. Dwyer, J., Krall, E., & Coleman, K. (1987). The problem of memory in nutritional epidemiology research. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 87, 1509–1512.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Emmons, R. A. (1984). Factor analysis and construct validity of the narcissistic personality inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48(3), 291–300.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Fenigstein, A., Scheier, M. F., & Buss, A. H. (1975). Public and private self-consciousness: Assessment and theory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43(4), 522–527.Google Scholar
  13. Fisher, R. J. (1993). Social desirability bias and the validity of indirect questioning. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(2), 303–315.Google Scholar
  14. Friedenreich, C. M., Slimani, N., & Riboli, E. (1992). Measurement of past diet: Review of previous and proposed methods. Epidemiologic Reviews, 14(1), 177–196.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Ganster, D. C., Hennessey, H. W., & Luthans, F. (1983). Social desirability response effects: Three alternative models. Academy of Management Journal, 26(2), 321–331.Google Scholar
  16. Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The development of markers for the big-five factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 4(1), 26–42.Google Scholar
  17. Harris, J. A. (1997). A further evaluation of the aggression questionnaire: Issues of validity and reliability. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35(11), 1047–1053.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hebert, J. R., Ma, Y., Clemow, L., Ockene, I. S., Saperia, G., Stanek, E. J, I. I. I., et al. (1997). Gender differences in social desirability and social approval bias in dietary self-report. American Journal of Epidemiology, 146(12), 1046–1055.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Holtgraves, T. (2004). Social desirability and self-reports: Testing models of socially desirable responding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(2), 161–172.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Jobe, J. B., & Mingay, D. J. (1989). Cognitive research improves questionnaires. American Journal of Public Health, 79(8), 1053–1055.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Kang, T., & Chen, T. T. (2008). Performance of the generalized s-x2 item fit index for polytomous irt models. Journal of Educational Measurement, 454, 391–406.Google Scholar
  22. Krueger, J. (1998). Enhancement bias in descriptions of self and others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(5), 505–516.Google Scholar
  23. Lang, F. R., John, D., Lüdtke, O., Schupp, J., & Wagner, G. G. (2011). Short assessment of the big five: Robust across survey methods except telephone interviewing. Behavior Research Methods, 432, 548–567.Google Scholar
  24. Leary, M., & Kowalski, R. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107(1), 34–47.Google Scholar
  25. Mesmer-Magnus, J., Viswesvaran, C., Deshpande, S., & Jacob, J. (2006). Social desirability: The role of over-claiming, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence. Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, 48(3), 336–356.Google Scholar
  26. Mick, D. G. (1996). Are studies of dark side variables confounded by socially desirable responding? The case of materialism. Journal of Consumer Research, 23(2), 106–119.Google Scholar
  27. Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371–378.Google Scholar
  28. Moorman, R. H., & Podsakoff, P. M. (1992). A meta-analytic review and empirical test of the potential confounding effects of social desirability response sets in organizational behaviour research. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 65(2), 131–149.Google Scholar
  29. Morand, C., Young, S. N., & Ervin, F. R. (1983). Clinical response of aggressive schizophrenics to oral tryptophan. Biological Psychiatry, 18(5), 575–578.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Nadler, A., Goldberg, M., & Jaffe, Y. (1982). Effect of self-differentiation and anonymity in group on deindividuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(6), 1127–1136.Google Scholar
  31. Paulhus, D. L. (1984). Two-component models of socially desirable responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(3), 598–609.Google Scholar
  32. Paulhus, D. L. (1986). Self-deception and impression management in test responses. In A. Angleitner & J. S. Wiggins (Eds.), Personality assessment via questionnaires (pp. 143–165). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  33. Paulhus, D. L. (1993). Bypassing the will: The automatization of affirmations. In D. Wegner & J. Pennebaker (Eds.), Century psychology series. Handbook of mental control (pp. 573–587). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.Google Scholar
  34. Paulhus, D. L. (2002). Social desirable responding: The evolution of a construct. In H. I. Braun, D. N. Jackson, & D. E. Wiley (Eds.), The role of constructs in psychological and educational measurement (pp. 44–69). New Jersey: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  35. Paulhus, D. L., & John, O. P. (1998). Egoistic and moralistic biases in self-perception: The interplay of self-deceptive styles with basic traits and motives. Journal of Personality, 66(6), 1025–1060.Google Scholar
  36. Thompson, F. E., Metzner, H. L., Lamphiear, D. E., & Hawthorne, V. M. (1990). Characteristics of individuals and long term reproducibility of dietary reports: The tecumseh diet methodology study. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 43(11), 1169–1178.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Uziel, L. (2010). Rethinking social desirability scales: From impression management to interpersonally oriented self-control. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(3), 243–262.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Williams, K. M., Paulhus, D. L., & Nathanson, C. (2002). The nature of over-claiming: Personality and cognitive factors. In Poster Presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association. Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  39. Zimbardo, P. G. (1969). The human choice: Individuation, reason, and order versus deindividuation, impulse, and chaos. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 17, 237–307.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Psychometric Society 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan
  2. 2.University of TaipeiTaipeiTaiwan

Personalised recommendations