Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Validity of the Reid Report for Selection of Corrections Staff

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Validity of the Reid Report for Selection of Corrections Staff

Article excerpt

Although estimates for industry losses from employee theft and counter-productivity vary across reports, employee honesty and integrity is a serious concern for many employers. The solution for most organizations concerned with integrity issues has been honesty testing. Sackett, Burris, and Callahan (1) have distinguished between two types of honesty tests: disguised purpose tests and overt integrity tests. Disguised purpose tests use personality-based measures to predict future counterproductivity. Overt tests, also known as clear purpose tests, ask direct questions about applicants' attitudes regarding dishonest behavior. Most, including the Reid Report, request admissions to past transgressions. (2) Some overt integrity tests are also designed to measure drug use, job satisfaction, burnout, potential for violence, etc. Still, overt tests are generally designed to measure a narrow construct--namely, theft potential.

Honesty tests eliminate applicants by considering responses in relation to a "profile" of employee thieves. These potential criminals think about stealing more often than others, are more tolerant and less punitive towards others who steal, and accept rationalizations for theft. Overt integrity tests make direct inquiries relating to these attitudes such as "I often think about stealing something even though I do not actually take it."

Factor analysis of the Reid Report, one of the three most popular overt integrity tests, shows that the test contains two major factors that Cunningham, Wong, and Barbee (3) have labeled "punitiveness" and "projectiveness." The "punitiveness factor" contends that honest people maintain high personal standards and expect relatively severe punishment for those who are dishonest. The "projectiveness factor" has items that indicate honest individuals project their honesty and believe that most others are honest as well.

Integrity Test Validity

Early validity research of integrity tests compared scaled scores to admissions in polygraph interviews and to polygraph outcomes (i.e., pass-fail). Sackett and Harris (4) found validity coefficients ranging from .29 to .86 using polygraphs as the criterion, with a mean validity coefficient of .49. Serious questions exist, however, about the usefulness of polygraph tests as criterion. Another popular but questionable criterion for evaluating overt tests has been anonymous admissions of past theft. Sackett and Harris found validity coefficients ranging from .29 to .86 when theft admissions were the criterion. However, they warn that numerous factors are likely to influence correlations using this criterion. For example, some studies include admissions in both the predictor and the criterion. Thus, correlations with self-reports are potentially enhanced by common method variance. (5)

Guastello and Rieke (6) warn that use of the theft admission criterion is especially susceptible to the effects of "faking good." Since overt integrity tests do very little to disguise their intent, it is possible for applicants to lie or assume an honest "role" when completing the form. A study by Lobello and Sims (7) found that convicted felons instructed to "fake good" on an honesty test significantly outscored both those instructed to be honest and those given no instructions. Also, correlations of .43 have been found between the Reid Report and the 16PF faking good scale. (8) Therefore, Guastello and Rieke argue that correlations between subjects' responses to attitude questions and their admissions to past transgressions may be a better measure of candor or ingenuousness than dishonesty. They contend that scoring any overt integrity test without correcting for faking is useless for predicting behavior.

A better criteria to examine integrity test validities has been external, nonpolygraph criteria. Such criteria can include production records, supervisory ratings, absences, turnover, disciplinary action, and detected theft on the job. …

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