Subjective Confidence in the Response to Personality Questions: Some Insight Into the Construction of People’s Responses to Test Items

Asher Koriat, Monika Undorf, Eryn Newman, Norbert Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on research on subjective confidence, we examined how the confidence and speed in responding to personality items track the consistency and variability in the response to the same items over repeated administrations. Participants (N = 57) responded to 132 personality items with a true/false response format. The items were presented five times over the course of two sessions. Consistent with the Self-Consistency Model, the confidence and speed with which an item was endorsed at its first presentation predicted the likelihood of repeating that response across the subsequent presentations of the item, thus tracking test-retest reliability. Confidence and speed also predicted the likelihood that others will make the same response, thus tracking inter-person consensus. However, confidence and speed varied more strongly with within-person consistency than with inter-person consensus, suggesting some reliance on idiosyncratic cues in response formation. These results mirror, in part, findings obtained in other domains such as general knowledge, social attitudes, and personal preferences, suggesting some similarity in the decision processes underlying the response to binary items: responses to personality items are not retrieved ready-made from memory but constructed at the time of testing, based on the sampling of a small number of cues from a larger population of cues associated with the item’s content. Because confidence is based on the consistency with which the cues support a response, it is prognostic of within-person consistency and cross-person consensus. Theoretical and methodological implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1250
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 24 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Miriam Gil for her help in the analyses of the results, and Etti Levran (Merkine) for her help in copyediting. Funding. The work reported in this study was supported by Grant 2013039 from the United States—Israel Binational Science Foundation to AK and NS. MU's contributions to this work were supported in part by a Margarete von Wrangell fellowship from the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Koriat, Undorf, Newman and Schwarz.


  • State-Trait debate
  • consistency and variability
  • response latency
  • self-report measures of personality
  • subjective confidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Subjective Confidence in the Response to Personality Questions: Some Insight Into the Construction of People’s Responses to Test Items'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this