Making a Positive Impression About the Mission of an Urban, Catholic University: Gender, First-generation College, and Religious Preference Comparisons

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This study investigates how research participants’ desire to make a positive social impression may affect their responses to survey questions. Specifi cally, participants may react in socially appropriate ways to create a positive social impression for those persons reviewing their responses. This concept is termed “impression management,” or more commonly, “social desirability.”1 At an urban Catholic university, students (1,070 women, 616 men: M age = 21.61, SD = 5.49) completed measures of impression management and perceptions of the school’s mission identity and mission-related activities. Impression management scores were found to be signifi cantly related to survey responses, and were then entered as a covariate in subsequent analyses of gender, fi rst generation college student status, and religious preference. Controlling for impression management tendencies, student responses on mission identity and mission-related perceptions showed signifi cant differences related to gender, fi rst-generation status, and religious preference. For administrators at Catholic universities interested in students’ perceptions of their institutions’ mission and values, the present study suggests the utility in examining social desirability infl uences among different groups of students.

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