Not as Different as We Want to Be: Attitudinally Consistent Trait Desirability Leads to Exaggerated Associations Between Personality and Sociopolitical Attitudes

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Abstract

Research connecting sociopolitical attitudes to personality typically relies exclusively on self-report measures of personality. A recently discovered mechanism of bias in self-reports highlights a particular challenge for this approach. Specifically, individuals tend to report exaggerated levels of a trait to the extent that they view that trait as desirable. In a community sample of 443 participants, differences in sociopolitical attitudes were associated with differences in the extent to which individuals provided biased self-reports for a given trait (relative to trait levels indicated by peer-report or an objective measure) as well as differences in views of the desirability of that trait. Further, the tendency to misrepresent traits in a manner consistent with one's sociopolitical attitudes was mediated by differences in views of trait desirability. Thus, although meaningful personality differences exist among those with differing sociopolitical attitudes, those differences may not be as large as people with opposing sociopolitical attitudes might like them to be.

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