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DEFECTIVE VALIDITY OF THE MACHIAVELLIANISM SCALE*



The Journal of Social Psychology, 1983, 119, 291-292.

University of New South Wales, Australia

JOHN J. RAY

There are two types of forced-choice scales: those purporting to yield a score on a single dimension and those purporting to yield scores on several dimensions. One of the former is Christie and Geis's (1) "Mach V" scale for the measurement of Machiavellianism. Such scales embody an assumption that the answers between which the respondent chooses are opposite in implication. Both answers are keyed to give a score on the one construct; one earns a high and the other a low score. Evidence should normally be available to show that the statements of supposedly opposite meaning are in fact responded to oppositely. If persons who receive high scores on the "positive" items do not also tend to receive low scores on the "negative" items, the two sets of items can hardly be said to tap the one concept. Gatz and Good (2), however, have recently shown that one widely used forced-choice scale -- to measure internal-external control -- in fact fails the test when the positive and negative items are administered not as alternative choices but as Likert-type items that can be responded to independently. They found that the "Internal" and "External" items were measuring unrelated things and in effect had nothing in common. This raises the question of how well other widely used forced-choice scales fare in this respect. If items that are supposed to be measuring one attribute in fact are measuring different attributes, the entire construct validity of the scale must be in doubt. Any predictions it provides will be of unknown meaning. With most forced-choice scales, administering separately items that are designed to be administered as alternatives has some degree of artificiality. We are fortunate, however, in having the Machiavellianism scale already available in a fully worked-out Likert form, the "Mach IV." The present study, therefore, proposed to examine the meaning opposition of purportedly "Machiavellian" items by the use of the "Mach IV."

Data obtained by the present author in two existing applications of the scale were subjected to fresh analyses. Since it is not usual to examine the validity of a scale on each occasion of its use, some results had already been published which assumed the validity of the scale. In the first study (3), a general population sample of 87 Australians received only the 10 strongest items of the scale. These items were reduced to eight when two items were found not to correlate significantly with the scale total. The three negative and five positive items resulting were observed at the time (4) to correlate poorly, but it seemed likely that this could be attributed to the drastic abbreviation of the scale. When the full 10 items were reanalyzed for the present article, the correlation between the two oppositely-keyed subscales was .105 (n.s.). The reliability (alpha) was .49 for the scale as a whole.

Given the apparent bad effects of shortening the scale, a second study used the full scale. So extensive is the body of work with the scale that it seemed that this should be sufficient to set validity doubts at rest. The Ss of the study (4) were a random mail-out sample of 128 Australians. The reliability of the full scale was .65 and the retrospective validity analysis now shows that its two halves correlated .122 (n.s.) only.

The findings are, then, that the Mach IV had low reliability and no construct validity (cf. Christie, Havel, and Seidenberg (5)). The cautious conclusion is that the Christie and Geis Machiavellianism scales are not useful when applied to general population samples. Further investigation of how widely such scales are applicable to student respondents might also be seen as warranted by the present findings. The fact that the respondents in the present work were Australians might have some bearing, but the many basic similarities between Australians and Americans would make great differences in responding between the two populations rather unlikely.

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1. Christie, R., & Geis, F. Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic, 1970.

2. Gatz, M., & Good, P. R. An analysis of the effect of the forced-choice format of Rotter's internal-external scale. J. Clin. Psychol., 1978, 34, 381-385.

3. Ray, J.J. (1979) The authoritarian as measured by a personality scale: Solid citizen or misfit? J. Clinical Psychology 35, 744-746; Ray, J. J. Of Machiavellianism, forced-choice formats and the validity of the F scale: A reply to Bloom. J. Clin. Psychol., 1982, 38, 779.

4. Ray, J.J. & Ray, J.A.B. (1982) Some apparent advantages of sub-clinical psychopathy. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 135-142.

5. Christie, R., Havel, J., & Seidenberg, B. Is the F scale irreversible? J. Abn. Soc. Psychol., 1956, 56, 141-158.




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