The validation of two social desirability questionnaires in the South African context
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Respond bias has always been a risk when it comes to interpreting personality data. For this reason two social desirability measures were created to combat this problem during research and workplace application. The first of these measures is the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale created to measure a need for approval. The second of these measures is Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding, which stems from a theory that describes social desirability as both a deception towards others and towards the self. For either of these measures to be usable, however, they need to be reliable and valid. This study then is intended to validate these two instruments in a diverse South African population sample and to look at the reliability of the items in these instruments and their factor structure. The objective of this study was to investigate both of these measures and to determine their psychometric properties and how they compare to the theory in literature. A convenient and purposive sample of N = 359 individuals from across South Africa was contacted via electronic means and asked to partake in this study. A questionnaire survey was forwarded to them with the intention of measuring social desirability. This included both the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSDS) and Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR) measure. In addition a demographical questionnaire was included (gender, race, language group and age). The statistical analysis was done via the SPSS program during data examination: descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis (with Maximum Likelihood as extraction method), Cronbach’s alpha coefficients, and product-moment correlations were conducted. The results of this analysis indicated that although these measures are widely accepted and used internationally, the full version of both the measures is not valid and reliable within this South African sample. Although not all items from the scales could be validated, there were items that indicated very acceptable psychometric properties. Various recommendations were made for the context of using these measures to ascertain an individual’s response bias and for future research. A person attempting to use these measures should only focus on using the reliable items from this study. These items could be applied in developing a shortened version of these measures. It is recommended that further research into these measures could be done by using a traditional paper-and pencil format, a larger sample or by focusing on a specific population group within South Africa.