Response latency to computer-administered personality inventory items: A method to control for reading speed and item length

Matthew Martin Casey, Fordham University


Recent research on personality inventory item response latency has evaluated response latency as a behavioral manifestation of cognitive self-schemas and has reported the validity of personality scale-specific, average response latencies in relationship to total scale scores and other independent measures of personality traits (e.g., Fekken & Holden, 1992; Popham & Holden, 1993). While this research suggests that response latency can be of clinical value to objective personality assessment, methodological problems exist with the reliable and valid measurement of this variable. Prior studies have employed several different methodologies with varying rationales and inconsistent results. Of primary importance in measuring response latency is the method used to control for potentially confounding subject variables (e.g., reading speed) and inventory item variables (e.g., item length). The purpose of the current study was to implement a new Double-Press Method (DPM) for separately measuring reading time and psychological response time by requiring subjects to respond twice to each item: first to indicate that the item has been read and second to choose a response alternative. By measuring and controlling for reading time, this technique has been able to avoid the practical and statistical problems that may have flawed previous methodologies. The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1989) and seven scales from the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI; Morey, 1991) were computer-administered with subjects' reading times (RT), psychological response times (PRT), and item responses recorded for analysis. The practicality of the DPM has been demonstrated by collecting reliable and valid response latency data associated with answering personality items without requiring administration of an excessive number of extra items, statistical correction for outlying RTs, or the application of statistical adjustments to control for item length and reading speed. Correlational analyses have shown that the DPM measures PRT independently from RT. Acceptable coefficient alpha values for PRTs indicate the reliability of a DPM of measuring response latency. Factor analyses reveal a single factor underlying subject PRTs that has been interpreted as cognitive speed and a single factor underlying RTs that has been interpreted as representing subject reading speed. The DPM has been further validated by demonstrating an inverted-U effect, wherein subjects' response latencies are shorter for extreme response alternatives than for more neutral alternatives. Finally, previous research (e.g., Holden & Fekken, 1991; Popham & Holden, 1990) showing significant relationships between inventory domain scores and average PRTs has been partially replicated.

Subject Area

Psychological tests

Recommended Citation

Casey, Matthew Martin, "Response latency to computer-administered personality inventory items: A method to control for reading speed and item length" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9903718.