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Integrity is a personality trait and comprises the personal inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character. The etymology of the word relates it to the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Evaluators, of course, usually assess integrity from some point of view, such as that of a given ethical tradition or in the context of an ethical relationship.

Integrity is consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcome. As a holistic concept, it judges the quality of a system in terms of its ability to achieve its own goals. A value system's abstraction depth and range of applicable interaction may also function as significant factors in identifying integrity due to their congruence or lack of congruence with empirical observation. A value system may evolve over time while retaining integrity if those who espouse the values account for and resolve inconsistencies.

Integrity may be seen as the quality of having a sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one's actions. The term "hypocrisy" is used in contrast to integrity for asserting that one part of a value system demonstrably conflicts with another, and to demand that the parties holding apparently conflicting values account for the discrepancy or change their beliefs to improve internal consistency.

Testing of integrity

One can test a value system's accountability either:

  1. subjectively, by a person's individual measures or
  2. objectively, via the Scientific Method or standardized mathematical measure

Integrity in relation to value systems

A value consists of an assumption from which one can extrapolate implementation or other values. A value system comprises a set of consistent values and measures. The Scientific Method assumes that a system with perfect integrity yields a singular extrapolation (a hypothesis) that one can test against observed results.

Testing theories via the Scientific Method

Formal measures of integrity rely on a set of testing principles known as the Scientific Method. To the extent that a proof follows the requirements of the method, scholars consider that proof scientific. The Scientific Method include measures to ensure unbiased testing and a requirement that the hypothesis have falsifiability.

One tests the integrity of a value system scientifically by using the values, methods and measures of the system to formulate a hypothesis of an expected cause-and-effect relationship. When the cause creates the expected effect consistently amongst multiple unbiased testers, the value system is said to have integrity.

For example, Newtonian physics, general relativity and quantum mechanics are three distinct systems, each scientifically proven to have integrity according to their base assumptions and measures. None of them claim to be absolute truth. Scientific testing is not useful for identifying "absolute truth" because scientific tests assume principles, values, methods and measures outside of the scope of the test. Rather, the Scientific Method is used to proof the integrity of a value system and to establish its conclusions as consistent with the assumptions used, thereby enabling further extrapolation within that domain.

Integrity in ethics

Ethical meanings of integrity used in medicine and law refer to the wholeness of the human body with respect for "sacred" qualities such as a sense of unity, consistency, purity, unspoiledness and uncorruptedness.

In discussions on behavior and morality, one view of the property of integrity sees it as the virtue of basing actions on an internally-consistent framework of principles. This scenario may emphasize depth of principles and adherence of each level to the next.[How to reference and link to summary or text] One can describe a person as having integrity to the extent that everything that that person does or believes: actions, methods, measures and principles — all derive from the same core group of values.

In the context of accountability, integrity measures consistency between one's actions and one's principles and methods used when an expected result appears incongruent with observed outcome. Some regard integrity as a virtue in that they see accountability and moral responsibility as necessary tools for maintaining such consistency.

In the context of value theory, integrity provides the expected causation from a base value[How to reference and link to summary or text] to its extrapolated implementation or other values. A value system emerges as a set of values and measures that one can observe as consistent with expectations.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Some commentators[attribution needed] stress the idea of integrity as personal honesty: acting according to one's beliefs and values at all times. Speaking about integrity can emphasize the "wholeness" or "intactness" of a moral stance or attitude. Some views of wholeness may also emphasize commitment and authenticity.

Popular views of integrity

According to Mr. Raza Sarwar Many people appear to use the word "integrity" in a vague manner as an alternative to the perceived political incorrectness of using blatantly moralistic terms such as "good" or ethical. In this sense the term often refers to a refusal to engage in lying, blaming or other behavior generally seeming to evade accountability.

Popular discussions of integrity often see the concept as an all-or-nothing affair: one describes an approved person as "having integrity" (as an absolute), but condemns an enemy or a collective enemy organization as "completely lacking in integrity".

English-speakers may measure integrity in non-enumerated units called "scraps", speaking of preserving one's "last scraps of integrity" or having "not a scrap of integrity". This may imply that integrity in such situations can appear brittle or fragile — and apt to tarnish or decay.

Integrity in modern ethics

In a formal study of the term "integrity" and its meaning in modern ethics, law professor Stephen L. Carter sees integrity not only as a refusal to engage in behavior that evades responsibility[How to reference and link to summary or text], but as an understanding of different modes or styles in which some discourse takes place, and which aims at the discovery of some truth[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Carter writes:

Integrity [...] requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.[...] Integrity [...] is not the same as honesty [...][1]


An adversarial process can have general integrity when both sides demonstrate willingness to share evidence, follow guidelines of debate and accept rulings from an arbitrator in a good-faith effort to arrive at either the truth or a mutually equitable outcome. An honorable presentation of the case measures both sides of the argument with a consistent set of principles. Failure to present principles in accordance with observation or to try them unequally can weaken a case.

Ethical integrity as measured by psychological/work-selection tests[2]

Integrity (honesty)[3] tests aim to identify which prospective employees may hide negative or derogatory events from their past (such as doing prison time, getting psychiatric treatment, alcohol problems, drugs abuse, etc.) and to identify for the employer which demands that such tests be conducted which work candidates are likely causes of strife for such employer. Integrity tests make certain assumptions, namely[4] that the persons who have a low integrity report more dishonest behaviour, they try to find reasons in order to justify such behaviour, they think others more likely to commit crimes (like theft, for example)[5], they exhibit impulsive behaviour, and tend to think that society should severely punish deviant behaviour[6].

The pretension of such tests to detect fake answers[7] plays a crucial role in respect of detecting people with a low integrity, because the naive respondents really believe such pretence and behave accordingly, reporting some of their past deviance and their thoughts about the deviance of others, because of their fear if they do not answer truthfully their untrue answers will reveal their low integrity. The more Pollyannaish the answers, the higher the integrity score.[8]

Other integrities

Disciplines and fields with an interest in integrities include philosophy of action, philosophy of medicine, the mind, cognition, consciousness, materials science, structural engineering and politics.

Popular psychology identifies personal integrity, professional integrity, artistic integrity, and intellectual integrity.

Another use of the term "integrity" defines it as a model of workability.[9]

One line thoughts

"Integrity is doing the right thing, especially when no one is watching."

See also

External links

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  1. Carter, Stephen L (1996). Integrity, 7, 10, New York: BasicBooks/HarperCollins. On page 242 Carter credits influence "to some extent by the fine discussion of integrity in Martin Benjamin's book Splitting the Difference: Compromise and Integrity in Ethics and Politics (Lawrence University Press of Kansas, 1990).
  2. I.e., tests which aim to measure the integrity of a prospective employee, in order to know if he/she is likely to be a trustworthy employee for the enterprise which demands that such tests are conducted.
  3. It is true that integrity is not exactly the same thing as honesty, but integrity tests are sometimes called honesty tests by the work selection professionals which test prospective employees, as demanded by employers who want to acquire new employees, according to van Minden (2005:206-208).
  4. van Minden, Jack J.R. (2005). Alles over psychologische tests (in Dutch), 207, Business Contact.
  5. Since people are unlikely to sincerely declare to a prospective employers their past deviance, the integrity tests found a way around such issue, namely letting the work candidates talk about what they think of the deviance of other people, considered in general, as a written answer demanded by the questions of the integrity test.
  6. I.e. the assumption of the integrity tests is that people who have a history of deviance are reporting inside such test that they support harsher measures applied to the deviance done by other people.
  7. Integrity tests cannot detect false answers, but in order to properly test the candidates a (noble) lie is told, namely that such test are really able to detect false answers.
  8. This is what van Minden (2005:207) affirms in his treatise on psychological tests. According to a HRM college of the UvA Associate Professor drs. R.J.A.M. Hulst, van Minden is an authority in his field, becoming so precisely by unmasking the tricks of his own trade and publishing books about such tricks, books which have become enduring best-sellers on the Dutch book market.
  9. See abstract of Harvard Business School NOM Research Paper NO. 06-11 and Barbados Group Working Paper NO. 06-03 at: (2007). Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics and Legality. Social Science Research Network. URL accessed on 2008-12-03.
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