The relation between category breadth and social desirability: A contest between two explanations

WKB Hofstee

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    Hampson, Goldberg and John (1987) reported a positive correlation between category breadth and social desirability of trait descriptive adjectives. Two possible explanations for this finding are as follows. (a) Undesirable traits represent denials of desirable traits, and are thus more difficult to process cognitively; therefore, fewer instances of negative traits can be imagined. (b) Undesirable behaviours are less frequent; therefore, fewer instances spring to mind. With respect to root/negation pairs of traits in which the negation is socially desirable (e.g. Unenvious/Envious), Hypothesis (a) predicts a lower category breadth for the negation, whereas Hypothesis (b) predicts the reverse. Using the relevant trait pairs in Table 1 from Hampson et al. (1987), Hypothesis (b) appeared to be victorious in 10 of the 12 cases (p <0.05).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-73
    Number of pages3
    JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-1995

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