What Makes a “Good Faker”? And Do We Want Them?

Topic(s): Faking

Topic: FakingPersonality Assessment
Publication: Human PerformanceArticle: Individual differences in the ability to fake on personality measures.
Author: P.H. Raymark, T.L. Tafero
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

One common criticism of personality testing is its susceptibility to faking. Faking (i.e., response distortion) occurs when job applicants intentionally misrepresent themselves (e.g., respond in ways that present themselves as more attractive job candidates).

In a recent study, Raymark and Tafero (2009) investigated the role of several individual differences thought to explain why certain job applicants are more able to fake on personality measures than others. Specifically, the authors investigated:

(1) Openness to ideas (individuals high in openness are described as being curious, intelligent, and having a high need for cognition)

(2) Self-monitoring (the extent to which individuals actively monitor their self-presentation and behavior – social chameleons)

(3) Prior  knowledge of the personality factors being measured

(4) Prior  knowledge of the job an applicant is applying for

Raymark and Tafero utilized a sample of 342 students from a university in the U.S., roughly half of which were instructed to fake their personality in a generally “good” direction and the other half to fake “good” for a specific job – accountant. In addition to completing the personality test while faking, all participants were also instructed to complete the test by responding honestly at a different time during the study.

As expected, the results of the study suggest that certain individual differences are related to the ability to fake. While self-monitoring was not related to faking, individuals who reported being more open to ideas and having more prior knowledge of the personality characteristics being measured tended to have increased scores on the personality measure when to instructed to fake “good” in general. Moreover, openness to ideas predicted faking for the specific job (accountant).

BUT…It is unknown whether this type of faking is actually a “bad” thing (reduces the validity and usefulness of the personality tests) or “good” (actually relates to job performance). Now wait a  second… How can faking be “good?”

Consider this: Although we may assume that faking is always a “bad” thing, it is plausible (and some have argued this) that the ability to fake personality tests is actually predictive of job performance. That is, perhaps it is beneficial from a performance point of view to have curious, intelligent and open applicants who are able to fake! So, which is it? According to Raymark and Tafero the answer is still up for debate.

Raymark, P.H., & Tafero, T.L. (2009). Individual differences in the ability to fake on personality measures. Human Performance, 22, 86-103.