Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSD)


Although Crowne and Marlowe ( 1960) originally constructed the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability MCSD to be a measure of SDR in self-reports, their subsequent research on the construct convinced them that the scale was tapping a more general motive: They dubbed it need for approval (Crowne & Marlowe,  1964).4  In the most recent statement, Crowne (1979) refined the concept to be an avoidance of disapproval.


Crowne and Marlowe ( 1960) set out to build an SDR measure that improved upon the Edwards scale. Noting that Edwards’s items were largely pathological in content, they Although Crowne was the senior author on both reports, the scale itself was labeled the Marlowe-Crowne scale, presumably to balance the credit.

focused instead on ordinary personal and interpersonal behaviors. Fifty such items were assembled and reduced to 33 by item analyses and ratings of experienced judges. The correlations with MMPI scales were still sizable, but not as high as those shown by the Edwards scale (e.g., Katkin, 1964).

The 33 items describe either (a) desirable but uncommon behaviors (e.g., admitting mistakes) or (b) undesirable but common behaviors (e.g., gossiping). Respondents are asked to respond “True” or “False” to 18 items keyed in the true direction and 15 in the false direction. Hence, scores range from Oto 33, with higher scores representing higher need for approval.


Crowne and Marlowe (1964) reported a mean of 15.5 (s.d. = 4.4) in a sample of 300 college students. In a more recent study of I 00 students, Paulhus (1984) reported means of 13.3 (s.d. = 4.3) and 15.5 (s.d. = 4.6) in anonymous and public disclosure conditions, respectively. In a sample of 503 students, Tanaka-Matsumi and Kameoka (1986) reported means of 14.0 and 12.3 for normal and depressed respondents, respectively. In a sample of 650 Peace Corps volunteers (90% college graduates), Fisher ( 1967) found means of 16.1 (s.d. = 6.8) and 16.4 (s.d. = 6.5) for males and females, respectively.


Internal Consistency

Alpha coefficients ranged from .73 to .88 in the samples reported above.


Crowne and Marlowe (1964) reported a test-retest correlation of .88 over I month. Fisher (1967) reported a value of  .84 over a I-week interval.



The scale, as published in 1960, was intended as a measure of SDR in self-reports. A series of studies, summarized in Crowne and Marlowe (1964), uncovered a broad range of correlates suggesting the existence of an underlying motivational construct, namely, need for approval. For example, evidence showed that, compared to low scorers, high scorers on the MCSD respond more to social reinforcement, inhibit aggression, and are more amenable to social influence. Their task performance is more influenced by the evalua­ tions of others. They prefer low-risk behaviors and avoid the evaluations of others, even when there is as much possibility for positive as for negative evaluation (for reviews of the research, see Crowne, 1979; Millham & Jacobson, I 978; Strickland, I 977).


As noted in the introduction, the MCSD falls primarily on the second SDR  factor, showing only low to moderate correlations with such measures as Edwards SD and Self­ Deceptive Enhancement.


Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349-354.


The MCSD continues to sustain a dual existence as an SDR scale and a measure of the approval-dependent personality. Both interpretations are consistent with analyses showing the scale taps predominantly the second factor of SDR, that is, impression management (Paulhus, 1984).

One review (Strickland, 1977) was generally supportive of the need for approval construct, but recommended the label “approval motivation.”  Millham and Jacobson (1978) seem to prefer “evaluative dependence.” The original prefix “need” was fashion­ able when the scale was developed but now seems presumptuous.

In addition, the weight of evidence has gradually shifted the interpretation to avoiding disapproval, rather than seeking approval, as implied by the original label (Allaman et al., 1972; Crowne, 1979; Millham & Jacobson, 1978). Finally, some work has suggested that the attribution and denial items may be tapping distinct constructs (Millham,  1974; Paulhus & Reid, in press; see also Roth, Snyder, & Pace, 1986).

Use of the MCSD scale as a measure of situational demand is well-supported: Several studies have demonstrated its sensitivity to various audience effects (Davis & Cowles, 1989; Paulhus, 1984). Such effects, however, do not prove that subjects consciously modified their self-presentations.

More controversial is the question of whether high MCSD scores predict a proneness to dissimulation. A classic supporting example  is Kiecolt-Glaser and Murray  (1980): After an assertiveness training program, high MCSD scorers rated themselves as more assertive than low scorers although the program trainers rated them as less assertive. Other evidence suggests that high scorers will actually lie for reasons related to social approval (Jacobson, Berger, & Millham, 1970), but there is no clear evidence that they will lie for other reasons.

A complicating factor in interpreting certain studies is that, according to  their spouses, high MCSD scorers actually do possess such desirable qualities as good adjust­ ment, friendliness, and openness to experience (McCrae & Costa, 1983). Nonetheless, correlations in that study suggest that high MCSD scorers may further exaggerate their claims to such good qualities. A further complication is that high MCSD scorers also possess an honest demeanor: That  is, judges tend to believe them and trust them even when they are instructed to lie (Riggio, Salinas, & Tucker, 1988). Indeed there is some evidence for a self-deceptive component (Millham & Kellogg, 1980; Weinberger,  in press).

Marlowe-Crowne Scale

Listed below are a number of statements concerning personal attitudes and traits. Read each item and decide whether the statement is true or false as it pertains to you.

  • F 1. Before voting I thoroughly investigate the qualifications of all the candidates.
  • T F 2. I never hesitate to go out of my way to help someone in trouble.
  • T F • 3. It is sometimes hard for me to go on with my work if I am not encouraged.
  • T F 4. I have never intensely disliked anyone.
  • T F • 5. On occasion I have had doubts about my ability to succeed in life.
  • T F • 6. I sometimes feel resentful when I don’t get my way.
  • T F 7. I am always careful about my manner of dress.
  • T F 8. My table manners at home are as good as when I eat out in a restaurant.
  • T F • 9. If I could get into a movie without paying and be sure I was not seen, I would probably do it.
  • T F • 10. On a few occasions, I have given up doing something be­ cause I thought too little of my ability.
  • T F 11. I like to gossip at times.
  • T F 12. There have been times when I felt like rebelling against people in authority even though I knew they were right.
  • T F 13. No matter who I’m talking to, I’m always a good listener.
  • T F • 14. I can remember “playing sick” to get out of something.
  • T F • 15. There have been occasions when I took advantage of someone.
  • T F 16. I’m always willing to admit it when I make a mistake.
  • T F 17. I always try to practice what I preach.
  • T F 18. I don’t find it particularly difficult to get along with loud­ mouthed, obnoxious people.
  • T F * 19. I sometimes try to get even, rather than forgive and forget. 
  • T F 20. When I don’t know something I don’t at all mind admitting it. 
  • T F 21. I am always courteous, even to people who are disagree­ able.
  • T F * 22. At times I have really insisted on having things my own way.
  • T F • 23. There have been occasions when I felt like smashing things.
  • T F 24. I would never think of letting someone else be punished for my wrongdoings.
  • T F 25. I never resent being asked to return a favor.
  • T F 26. I have never been irked when people expressed ideas very different from my own.
  • T F 27. I never make a long trip without checking the safety of my car.
  • T F • 28. There have been times when I was quite jealous of the good fortune of others.
  • T F 29. I have almost never felt the urge to tell someone off.
  • T F • 30. I am sometimes irritated by people who ask favors of me

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Mohammed Looti, PSYCHOLOGICAL SCALES (2023) Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSD). Retrieved from DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.31575.96163