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Psychological testing

Psychological testing

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Psychological testing is a field characterized by the use of samples of behavior in order to assess psychological construct(s), such as cognitive and emotional functioning, about a given individual. The technical term for the science behind psychological testing is psychometrics
Psychometrics
Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement...

. By samples of behavior, one means observations of an individual performing tasks that have usually been prescribed beforehand, which often means scores on a test. These responses are often compiled into statistical tables that allow the evaluator to compare the behavior of the individual being tested to the responses of a norm group
Norm-referenced test
A norm-referenced test is a type of test, assessment, or evaluation which yields an estimate of the position of the tested individual in a predefined population, with respect to the trait being measured. This estimate is derived from the analysis of test scores and possibly other relevant data...

.

Psychological tests


A psychological test is an instrument designed to measure unobserved constructs, also known as latent variables. Psychological tests are typically, but not necessarily, a series of tasks or problems that the respondent has to solve. Psychological tests can strongly resemble questionnaires, which are also designed to measure unobserved constructs, but differ in that psychological tests ask for a respondent's maximum performance whereas a questionnaire asks for the respondent's typical performance. A useful psychological test must be both valid
Test validity
Test validity concerns the test and assessment procedures used in psychological and educational testing, and the extent to which these measure what they purport to measure...

 (i.e., there is evidence to support the specified interpretation of the test results) and reliable (i.e., internally consistent or give consistent results over time, across raters, etc.).

It is important that people who are equal on the measured construct also have an equal probability of answering the test items correctly. For example, an item on a mathematics test could be "In a soccer match two players get a red card; how many players are left in the end?"; however, this item also requires knowledge of soccer to be answered correctly, not just mathematical ability. Group membership can also influence the chance of correctly answering items (differential item functioning
Differential item functioning
Differential item functioning occurs when people from different groups with the same latent trait have a different probability of giving a certain response on a questionnaire or test. DIF analysis provides an indication of unexpected behavior by item on a test...

). Often tests are constructed for a specific population, and this should be taken into account when administering tests. If a test is invariant to some group difference (e.g. gender) in one population (e.g. England) it does not automatically mean that it is also invariant in another population (e.g. Japan).

Psychological assessment


Psychological assessment is similar to psychological testing but usually involves a more comprehensive assessment of the individual. Psychological assessment is a process that involves the integration of information from multiple sources, such as tests of normal and abnormal personality, tests of ability or intelligence, tests of interests or attitudes, as well as information from personal interviews. Collateral information is also collected about personal, occupational, or medical history, such as from records or from interviews with parents, spouses, teachers, or previous therapists or physicians. A psychological test is one of the sources of data used within the process of assessment; usually more than one test is used. Many psychologists do some level of assessment when providing services to clients or patients, and may use for example, simple checklists to assess some traits or symptoms, but psychological assessment is a more complex, detailed, in-depth process. Typical types of focus for psychological assessment are to provide a diagnosis for treatment settings; to assess a particular area of functioning or disability often for school settings; to help select type of treatment or to assess treatment outcomes; to help courts decide issues such as child custody or competency to stand trial; or to help assess job applicants or employees and provide career development counseling or training.

Interpreting scores


Psychological tests, like many measurements of human characteristics, can be interpreted in a norm-referenced or criterion-referenced manner. Norms are statistical representations of a population. A norm-referenced
Norm-referenced test
A norm-referenced test is a type of test, assessment, or evaluation which yields an estimate of the position of the tested individual in a predefined population, with respect to the trait being measured. This estimate is derived from the analysis of test scores and possibly other relevant data...

 score interpretation compares an individual's results on the test with the statistical representation of the population. In practice, rather than testing a population, a representative sample or group is tested. This provides a group norm or set of norms. One representation of norms is the Bell curve
Bell curve
Bell curve can refer to:* A Gaussian function, a specific kind of function whose graph is a bell-shaped curve* Normal distribution, whose density function is a Gaussian function...

 (also called "normal curve"). Norms are available for standardized psychological tests, allowing for an understanding of how an individual's scores compare with the group norms. Norm referenced scores are typically reported on the standard score
Standard score
In statistics, a standard score indicates how many standard deviations an observation or datum is above or below the mean. It is a dimensionless quantity derived by subtracting the population mean from an individual raw score and then dividing the difference by the population standard deviation...

 (z) scale or a rescaling of it.

A criterion-referenced
Criterion-referenced test
A criterion-referenced test is one that provides for translating test scores into a statement about the behavior to be expected of a person with that score or their relationship to a specified subject matter. Most tests and quizzes written by school teachers are criterion-referenced tests. The...

 interpretation of a test score compares an individual's performance to some criterion other than performance of other individuals. For example, the generic school test typically provides a score in reference to a subject domain; a student might score 80% on a geography test. Criterion-referenced score interpretations are generally more applicable to achievement
Achievement test
An achievement test is a test of developed skill or knowledge. The most common type of achievement test is a standardized test developed to measure skills and knowledge learned in a given grade level, usually through planned instruction, such as training or classroom instruction...

 tests rather than psychological tests.

Often, test scores can be interpreted in both ways; a score of 80% on a geography test could place a student at the 84th percentile, or a standard score of 1.0 or even 2.0.

IQ/achievement tests


IQ tests purport to be measures of intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

, while achievement test
Achievement test
An achievement test is a test of developed skill or knowledge. The most common type of achievement test is a standardized test developed to measure skills and knowledge learned in a given grade level, usually through planned instruction, such as training or classroom instruction...

s are measures of the use and level of development of use of the ability. IQ (or cognitive) tests and achievement test
Achievement test
An achievement test is a test of developed skill or knowledge. The most common type of achievement test is a standardized test developed to measure skills and knowledge learned in a given grade level, usually through planned instruction, such as training or classroom instruction...

s are common norm-referenced tests. In these types of tests, a series of tasks is presented to the person being evaluated, and the person's responses are graded according to carefully prescribed guidelines. After the test is completed, the results can be compiled and compared to the responses of a norm group, usually composed of people at the same age or grade level as the person being evaluated. IQ tests which contain a series of tasks typically divide the tasks into verbal (relying on the use of language) and performance, or non-verbal (relying on eye–hand types of tasks, or use of symbols or objects). Examples of verbal IQ test tasks are vocabulary and information (answering general knowledge questions). Non-verbal examples are timed completion of puzzles (object assembly) and identifying images which fit a pattern (matrix reasoning).

IQ tests (e.g., WAIS-IV
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale intelligence quotient tests are the primary clinical instruments used to measure adult and adolescent intelligence. The original WAIS was published in February 1955 by David Wechsler, as a revision of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale...

, WISC-IV
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children , developed by Dr. David Wechsler, is an individually administered intelligence test for children between the ages of 6 and 16 inclusive that can be completed without reading or writing...

, Cattell Culture Fair III
Cattell Culture Fair III
In seeking to develop a culture-fair intelligence or IQ test that separated environmental and genetic factors, Raymond B. Cattell created the CFIT or Culture Fair Intelligence Test. Cattell argued that general intelligence exists and that it consists of fluid intelligence and crystallized...

, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities-III, Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales V) and academic achievement tests (e.g. WIAT
Wechsler Individual Achievement Test
The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test Second Edition developed by David Wechsler, assesses the academic achievement of children, adolescents, college students and adults, aged 4 through 85. The test enables the assessment of a broad range of academics skills or only a particular area of need...

, WRAT
Wide Range Achievement Test
The Wide Range Achievement Test 4 is an achievement test which measures an individual's ability to read words, comprehend sentences, spell, and compute solutions to math problems. The test currently is in its fourth revision....

, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement-III) are designed to be administered to either an individual (by a trained evaluator) or to a group of people (paper and pencil tests). The individually-administered tests tend to be more comprehensive, more reliable, more valid and generally to have better psychometric
Psychometrics
Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement...

 characteristics than group-administered tests. However, individually administered tests are more expensive to administer because of the need for a trained administrator (psychologist, school psychologist, or psychometrician).

Public safety employment tests


Vocations within the public safety field (i.e., fire service, law enforcement, corrections, emergency medical services) often require Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Industrial and organizational psychology
Industrial and organizational psychology is the scientific study of employees, workplaces, and organizations. Industrial and organizational psychologists contribute to an organization's success by improving the performance and well-being of its people...

 tests for initial employment and advancement throughout the ranks. The National Firefighter Selection Inventory - NFSI
National Firefighter Selection Inventory - NFSI
In the United States, vocations within the public safety sector, , often require Industrial and Organizational Psychology employment testing for initial employment and advancement throughout the ranks...

, the National Criminal Justice Officer Selection Inventory - NCJOSI
National Criminal Justice Officer Selection Inventory - NCJOSI
In the United States, vocations within the public safety sector, often require Industrial and Organizational Psychology employment testing for initial employment and advancement throughout the ranks...

, and the Integrity Inventory
Integrity Inventory
The Integrity Inventory , is a nationally normed entry-level personnel selection tool that incorporates employment integrity testing. It was developed by industrial organizational psychologist Fred Rafilson, Ph.D., CEO and Founder of I/O Solutions, Inc...

 are prominent examples of these tests.

Attitude tests


Attitude test assess an individual's feelings about an event, person, or object. Attitude scales are used in marketing to determine individual (and group) preferences for brands, or items. Typically attitude tests use either a Thurston Scale, or Likert Scale to measure specific items.

Neuropsychological tests


These tests consist of specifically designed tasks used to measure a psychological function known to be linked to a particular brain structure or pathway. Neuropsychological tests
Neuropsychological test
Neuropsychological tests are specifically designed tasks used to measure a psychological function known to be linked to a particular brain structure or pathway. Tests are used for research into brain function and in a clinical setting for the diagnosis of deficits. They usually involve the...

 can be used in a clinical context
Clinical neuropsychology
Clinical neuropsychology is a sub-field of psychology concerned with the cognitive function of individuals with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Neuropsychological assessment examines cognitive function in the broadest sense, including the behavioural, emotional, social and functional status...

 to assess impairment after an injury
Brain damage
"Brain damage" or "brain injury" is the destruction or degeneration of brain cells. Brain injuries occur due to a wide range of internal and external factors...

 or illness known to affect neurocognitive
Neurocognitive
Neurocognitive is a term used to describe cognitive functions closely linked to the function of particular areas, neural pathways, or cortical networks in the brain substrate layers of neurological matrix at the cellular molecular level...

 functioning. When used in research, these tests can be used to contrast neuropsychological abilities across experimental groups.

Personality tests


Psychological measures of personality are often described as either objective test
Objective test
An objective test is a psychological test that measures an individual's characteristics in a way that is independent of rater bias or the examiner's own beliefs, usually by the administration of a bank of questions that are marked and compared against exacting scoring mechanisms that are completely...

s or projective test
Projective test
In psychology, a projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, presumably revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts. This is different from an "objective test" in which responses are analyzed according to a universal standard...

s. The terms "objective test" and "projective test" have recently come under criticism in the Journal of Personality Assessment. The more descriptive "rating scale or self-report measures" and "free response measures" are suggested, rather than the terms "objective tests" and "projective tests," respectively.

Objective tests (Rating scale or self-report measure)


Objective tests have a restricted response format, such as allowing for true or false answers or rating using an ordinal scale. Prominent examples of objective personality tests include the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is one of the most frequently used personality tests in mental health. The test is used by trained professionals to assist in identifying personality structure and psychopathology....

, Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III, Child Behavior Checklist
Child Behavior Checklist
The Child Behavior Checklist is a widely-used method of identifying problem behavior in children.It is a component in the Achenbach System of Emperically Based Assessment developed by Thomas M. Achenbach....

, Symptom Checklist 90
Symptom Checklist 90
The Symptom Checklist-90-R is a relatively brief self-report psychometric instrument published by the Clinical Assessment division of the Pearson Assessment & Information group. It is designed to evaluate a broad range of psychological problems and symptoms of psychopathology...

 and the Beck Depression Inventory
Beck Depression Inventory
The Beck Depression Inventory , created by Dr. Aaron T. Beck, is a 21-question multiple-choice self-report inventory, one of the most widely used instruments for measuring the severity of depression...

. Objective personality tests can be designed for use in business
Business
A business is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit...

 for potential employees, such as the NEO-PI, the 16PF, and the OPQ
OPQ
The Occupational Personality Questionnaires, OPQ or OPQ32, are widely-used occupational personality questionnaires. The authors were Saville et al., including Roger Holdsworth, Gill Nyfield, Lisa Cramp and Bill Mabey, and they were launched by Saville and Holdsworth Ltd. in 1984...

 (Occupational Personality Questionnaire), all of which are based on the Big Five
Big Five personality traits
In contemporary psychology, the "Big Five" factors of personality are five broad domains or dimensions of personality which are used to describe human personality....

 taxonomy. The Big Five, or Five Factor Model of normal personality, has gained acceptance since the early 1990s when some influential meta-analyses (e.g., Barrick & Mount 1991) found consistent relationships between the Big Five personality factors
Big Five personality traits
In contemporary psychology, the "Big Five" factors of personality are five broad domains or dimensions of personality which are used to describe human personality....

 and important criterion variables.

Another personality test based upon the Five Factor Model is the Five Factor Personality Inventory – Children (FFPI-C.). aa

Projective tests (Free response measures)


Projective tests allow for a freer type of response. An example of this would be the Rorschach test
Rorschach test
The Rorschach test is a psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning...

, in which a person states what each of ten ink blots might be.

Projective testing became a growth industry in the first half of the 1900s, with doubts about the theoretical assumptions behind projective testing arising in the second half of the 1900s. Some projective tests are used less often today because they are more time consuming to administer and because the reliability and validity are controversial.

As improved sampling and statistical methods developed, much controversy regarding the utility and validity of projective testing has occurred. The use of clinical judgement rather than norms and statistics to evaluate people's characteristics has convinced many that projectives are deficient and unreliable (results are too dissimilar each time a test is given to the same person). However, many practitioners continue to rely on projective testing, and some testing experts (e.g., Cohen, Anastasi) suggest that these measures can be useful in developing therapeutic rapport. They may also be useful in creating inferences to follow-up with other methods. The most widely used scoring system for the Rorschach is the Exner system of scoring. Another common projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which is often scored with Westen's Social Cognition and Object Relations Scales and Phebe Cramer's Defense Mechanisms Manual. Both "rating scale" and "free response" measures are used in contemporary clinical practice, with a trend toward the former.

Other projective tests include the House-Tree-Person Test, the Animal Metaphor Test
Animal Metaphor Test
The Animal Metaphor Test is a projective psychological test created by Dr. Albert Levis, the director and founder of the Museum of the Creative Process . The Animal Metaphor Test is one of many tests that are part of Levis' Conflict Analysis Battery, a book of psychological tests .The Animal...

, the Roberts Apperception Test, and the Attachment Projective.

Sexological tests


The number of tests specifically meant for the field of sexology is quite limited. The field of sexology
Sexology
Sexology is the scientific study of human sexuality, including human sexual interests, behavior, and function. The term does not generally refer to the non-scientific study of sex, such as political analysis or social criticism....

 provides different psychological evaluation devices in order to examine the various aspects of the discomfort, problem or dysfunction, regardless of whether they are individual or relational ones.

Direct observation tests


Although most psychological tests are "rating scale" or "free response" measures, psychological assessment may also involve the observation of people as they complete activities. This type of assessment is usually conducted with families in a laboratory, home or with children in a classroom. The purpose may be clinical, such as to establish a pre-intervention baseline of a child's hyperactive or aggressive classroom behaviors or to observe the nature of a parent-child interaction in order to understand a relational disorder. Direct observation procedures are also used in research, for example to study the relationship between intrapsychic variables and specific target behaviors, or to explore sequences of behavioral interaction.

The Parent-Child Interaction Assessment-II (PCIA) is an example of a direct observation procedure that is used with school-age children and parents. The parents and children are video recorded playing at a make-believe zoo. The Parent-Child Early Relational Assessment (Clark, 1999) is used to study parents and young children and involves a feeding and a puzzle
Puzzle
A puzzle is a problem or enigma that tests the ingenuity of the solver. In a basic puzzle, one is intended to put together pieces in a logical way in order to come up with the desired solution...

 task. The MacArthur Story Stem Battery (MSSB) is used to elicit narratives from children. The Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System-II (Eyberg, 1981) tracks the extent to which children follow the commands of parents and vice versa and is well suited to the study of children with Oppositional Defiant Disorders
Oppositional defiant disorder
Oppositional defiant disorder is a diagnosis described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as an ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior toward authority figures which goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior...

and their parents.

Test security


Many psychological tests are generally not available to the public, but rather, have restrictions both from publishers of the tests and from psychology licensing boards that prevent the disclosure of the tests themselves and information about the interpretation of the results. Test publishers consider both copyright and matters of professional ethics to be involved in protecting the secrecy of their tests, and they sell tests only to people who have proved their educational and professional qualifications to the test maker's satisfaction. Purchasers are legally bound from giving test answers or the tests themselves out to the public unless permitted under the test maker's standard conditions for administration of the tests.

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