Constructed response formats and their effects on minority-majority differences and validity

Filip Lievens*, Paul R. Sackett, Jeffrey A. Dahlke, Janneke K. Oostrom, Britt De Soete

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The inflow of immigrants challenges organizations to consider alternative selection procedures that reduce potential minority (immigrants)-majority (natives) differences, while maintaining valid predictions of performance. To deal with this challenge, this paper proposes response format as a practically and theoretically relevant factor for situational judgment tests (SJTs). We examine a range of response format categories (from traditional multiple-choice formats to more innovative constructed response formats) and conceptually link these response formats to mechanisms underlying minority-majority differences. Two field experiments are conducted with SJTs. Study 1 (274 job seekers) contrasts minority-majority differences in scores on a multiple-choice versus a written constructed response format. Written constructed responses produce much smaller minority-majority differences (d = .28 vs. d = .92). In Study 2 (269 incumbents), scores on a written constructed versus an audiovisual constructed format are compared. The audiovisual format further reduces minority-majority differences (d = .09 vs. d = .41), with validities remaining the same. Results are suggestive of cognitive load as a contributor to the reduction in minority-majority differences, as are rater effects: Scores of raters evaluating transcribed audiovisual responses, which anonymized test takers, produce larger differences. In sum, altering response modality via more realistic response formats (i.e., the audiovisual constructed format) leads to significant reductions in minority-majority differences without impairing criterion-related validity. Implications for selection theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-726
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


Part of the funding for the studies reported came from a PhD fellowship of the Research Foundation-Flanders (1162012N) and from the SIOP Foundation via the 2014 Adverse Impact Reduction Research Initiative and Action (AIRRIA) grant. We are indebted to Anne Marie Ryan for her excellent suggestions on a draft of this paper. We also thank Christoph N. Herde and Pat Sackett for their editorial assistance.

FundersFunder number
2014 Adverse Impact Reduction Research Initiative and Action
Research Foundation-Flanders
Research Foundation–Flanders1162012N
Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Foundation


    • Immigrants
    • Minorities
    • Response format
    • Situational judgment tests
    • Subgroup differences


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