Response latency to computer-administered personality inventory items as a measure of perceived evocativeness

Daniel Edward Temple, Fordham University


The use of computers in personality assessment has become increasingly popular since the 1970's. Computers offer advantages over clinicians in the areas of speed, accuracy, and objectivity in administering and scoring personality inventories. Computers also allow the measurement of response latency to personality inventory items. The present study explored two models of the relationship between item evocativeness and response latency. The first model suggests that more emotionally evocative personality inventory items provoke longer response latencies. The second, more complex model suggests that examinees' self-schema and choice of True/False responses are determinants of response latency, with responses that are congruent with one's self-schema made rapidly and responses that are incongruent with one's self-schema made slowly. Subjects were 98 undergraduate college students. The items used in the study consisted of five practice statements, twenty Reading Speed Assessment items, 240 Basic Personality Inventory (BPI) items, and 36 items used by Temple and Geisinger (1990). The results suggest that the hypothesis that more emotionally evocative items induce longer response times is not valid for personality inventory items. Instead, items that are perceived as moderately evocative or ambiguous in the degree of evocativeness elicit longer response times than items that are perceived as clearly evocative or clearly neutral. This suggests that the amount of emotional ambivalence that an item induces may have a more potent effect on response time than the degree of evocativeness. An alternative explanation is that moderately rated items require greater decision-making time than clearly neutral or evocative items. Thus, cognitive factors may have a more potent effect on RT than emotional factors. These results also suggest that the degree of congruence between a subject's self-schema and his/her answer to schema-related items has an influence on RT. Subjects who are high scorers on a scale probably view themselves as being high in the trait that the scale measures, and therefore they perceive their occasional denial of items on that scale as alien to their self-schema. This conflict between their self-image and their reply leads to a longer RT for the dissonant responses.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Personality|Psychological tests

Recommended Citation

Temple, Daniel Edward, "Response latency to computer-administered personality inventory items as a measure of perceived evocativeness" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9324631.