Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Several investigations were undertaken to examine the relationship between desirability responding and depressive disorders. Desirability responding was defined as the propensity of subjects to make responses to personality inventories that convey a socially favorable impression of the respondent. Some researchers (e.g. Beck, 1976; Rehm, 1977; Ruehlman, West, and Pasahow, 1985) have suggested that such response variation has theoretical importance for understanding the etiology of depression. The first study investigated individual differences in depressed patients for the salience of desirability content in their responses to self-report measures of personality. Depressed patients were differentiated from normal subjects by their nonendorsement of desirable content, rather than their endorsement of undesirable content, as has been suggested in the literature. A second study examined depressed patients' sensitivity to desirability in their judgments of personality in others. In contrast to marked differences in self-reports, there is only a very slight difference between normal and depressed subjects in their judgments of the desirability of behaviour for other people in general. It was suggested this difference may be partly due to an intrusion of self-evaluations in depressives' judgments of others, versus any major cognitive deficits. A third study examined the relationship between response latencies and social desirability. In normal subjects there is a predominant "inverted-u" shaped function between the reaction time to personality test items and the desirability content of those items, with the largest amount of time taken to respond to items of neutral desirability. This function is distinctively flatter in depressed subjects. A final study investigated the effect of removal of desirability content from MMPI scales in differentiating psychiatric patients. While MMPI scales so extricated of desirability response variation were better suited at differentiating some psychiatric diagnostic groups, MMPI scales still saturated with desirability content specifically aided in the discrimination of depressed patients. Discussion included a consideration of the implications of the desirability response style for understanding the etiology and treatment of depressive disorders.



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