Get access

Social dimensions of judgments of integrity in public figures


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Paul Sparks, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK (e-mail:


The notion of ‘integrity’ remains relatively unexplored in the social psychological literature, despite it being central to some important theoretical perspectives (notably, self-affirmation theory). It is an eminently positive – and well-used – epithet in descriptions of public figures. The two studies reported here addressed laypeople's conceptions of integrity. The findings indicate that in relation to eight public figures, the best general predictor of judgments of integrity was perceptions of ‘sincerity’ (characterized by attributes such as genuine and honest). For three of the public figures strongly linked to civil rights issues, judgments of integrity were also predicted by perceptions of ‘standing for something’. The findings suggest that the social character of integrity merits further psychological research attention.