Advantages of Covert Assessment of Highly Desirable or Undesirable Traits

Overt personality tests (i.e., tests with items that obviously relate to the traits being measured) may be inadequate in many applied situations. This is especially the case when the traits being assessed are either highly desirable (e.g., achieving tendency, emotional empathy, integrity, affiliative tendency) or highly undesirable (violence risk, aggressiveness, trait anxiety, depression). This section provides information on ways to assess such desirable or undesirable traits when it is important to minimize faking by those being tested.

The PAD Temperament Model, described in the following link, provides covert, indirect, and camouflaged ways for assessing various aspects of personality and psychopathology.

The PAD Temperament Model and Tests
The three basic scales of the model are Trait Pleasure-Displeasure (P), Trait Arousability (A), and Trait Dominance-Submissiveness (D). For covert assessments, participants are administered the PAD scales which bear little surface resemblance to traits that require measurement (e.g., violence risk). Next, equations such as those given in the material below are used to calculate scores for the desired traits.

All the computational work is done in a software package that uses scores on the PAD scales to derive estimated scores on 41 personality traits (including highly desirable or undesirable traits). The software includes additional safeguards that detect when respondents attempt to slant their answers to make good impressions. When respondents slant answers, scores on socially desirable traits become inflated or greater than they would have been in the absence of response slanting; similarly, scores on socially undesirable traits are decreased. The PAD Temperament software includes a built-in feature to help detect when such response slanting/faking occurs and warns the tester when results become "unacceptable."

Detailed information about the software is given in the following link:

Software That Employs the PAD Model to Compute Estimated Scores on 41 Personality Tests
Computation of Trait Scores Using PAD Scores
Using the software, participants are first administered the three PAD scales. Next, equations 1 through 3 are used to convert participant scores to z-scores (i.e., standardized scores that have mean values of zero and standard deviations of one).

Once standardized PAD scores are available for a particular participant, covert trait scores are computed using equations that are based on data reviewed by Mehrabian (1996b). The following 4 equations illustrate the general approach for desirable traits. Each of the following equations is written for standardized Trait Pleasure-Displeasure (P), Trait Arousability (A), and Trait Dominance-Submissiveness (D) scores. Also, to aid the interpretation of computed scores, coefficients in these equations are adjusted so the computed trait scores are also standardized (with mean values of zero and standard deviations of one).

Equation 4 is taken from Mehrabian and O'Reilly (1980, equation 20), except that all coefficients are multiplied by 1.628 to yield standardized Achieving Tendency scores. Equation 5 is based on findings by Mehrabian (1997b, equation 5) showing that the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale is essentially an equally weighted sum of Trait Pleasure and Trait Arousability scores. Equation 6 is taken from Mehrabian and O'Reilly (1980, equation 8), except that, once again, all coefficients are multiplied by 1.895 to yield standardized Affiliative Tendency scores. Finally, equation 7 is based on findings obtained by Mehrabian (1996a, equation 3C) showing that Conscientiousness is a nearly equally weighted sum of Trait Pleasure and Trait Dominance scores.

Computation of undesirable trait scores is illustrated by the following equations:

Equation 8 is founded on findings relating the PAD scales to the Mehrabian Trait Anxiety, the Spielberger, Gorsuch, and Lushene Trait Anxiety, and the Eysenck Neuroticism scales (Mehrabian, 1996b, equations 34-36). The coefficient for P in equation 8 is the average of the three P coefficients given by Mehrabian (1996b, equations 34-36). The coefficient for A in equation 8 is similarly the average of the three A coefficients in the aforementioned equations. Finally, the coefficient for D in equation 8 is the average of the D coefficients in the same three equations. The multiplying factor of 1.662 is used so that computed Trait Anxiety scores are standardized for easy interpretation.

Equation 9 is based on findings relating an extremely broad-based and multi-factor measure of Depression to the PAD scales (Mehrabian, 1997b, equation 9). Equation 10 is taken from Mehrabian and O'Reilly (1980, equation 30). Finally, equation 11 is taken from Mehrabian (1997b, equation 2).

Overall, equations 4 through 11 illustrate the PAD-based covert assessment of personality traits. Details of the PAD Temperament Model are given in the section below. Information regarding covert assessment of other traits can be obtained from Albert Mehrabian (see contact information at the end of this page).

Mehrabian, A. (1987). Eating characteristics and temperament: General measures and interrelationships. Springer-Verlag, New York.

Mehrabian, A. (1991). Outline of a general emotion-based theory of temperament. In J. Strelau and A. Angleitner (Eds.), Explorations in temperament: International perspectives on theory and measurement (pp. 75-86). Plenum Press, New York.

Mehrabian, A. (1995a). Framework for a comprehensive description and measurement of emotional states. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 121, 339-361.

Mehrabian, A. (1995b). Relationships among three general approaches to personality description. Journal of Psychology, 129, 565-581.

Mehrabian, A. (1996a). Analysis of the Big-five personality factors in terms of the PAD Temperament Model. Australian Journal of Psychology, 48, 86-92.

Mehrabian, A. (1996b). Pleasure-arousal-dominance: A general framework for describing and measuring individual differences in temperament. Current Psychology, 14, 261-292.

Mehrabian, A. (1997a). Comparison of the PAD and PANAS as models for describing emotions and for differentiating anxiety from depression. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 19, 331-357.

Mehrabian, A. (1997b). Relations among personality scales of aggression, violence, and empathy: Validational evidence bearing on the Risk of Eruptive Violence Scale. Aggressive Behavior, 23, 433-445.

Mehrabian, A. (2000). Beyond IQ: Broad-based measurement of individual success potential or "emotional intelligence." Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 126, 133-239.

Mehrabian, A., & O'Reilly, E. (1980). Analysis of personality measures in terms of basic dimensions of temperament. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 492-503.

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