Psychological Tests & Measurements

Why are Psychological Tests Important ?

Tests are used to make decisions :

Early School Placement

College Entrance Decisions

Military Job Selections

Career Choices

Psychological Adjustment

Three Characteristics of a Psychological Test

1. A psychological test is a sample of behavior

2. The behavior sample is obtained under standardized conditions.

3. There are established scoring rules for obtaining quantitative information from the behavior sample.

Characteristics of Psychological Tests

1. A psychological test is a sample of behavior

All Psychological Tests require the respondent to do something.

Psychological Tests are not exhaustive measures.

A good Psychological test is a representative sample of the measured behavior.

There should be a clear connection between the test and the measured behavior in a real world setting.

Characteristics of Psychological Tests (continued)

2. The behavior sample is obtained under standardized conditions.

Each individual taking a psychological test should be tested under essentially identical conditions.

For example, SAT administration instructions pertain to:

Seating Arrangements

Lighting Conditions

Noise Levels


Answering common questions

Standardization is vital because many test results are referential in nature : Your performance is measured relative to everybody else’s performance.

Standardization reduces between subject variability due to extraneous variables.

Standardization is easier to obtain with tests designed to be administered en masse.

Tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, which are administered individually , are less standardized.

The individual giving the test is an important variable.

Often, they take special training to standardize the way they give the test.

3rd Characteristic  of Psychological Tests

3. There are established scoring rules for obtaining quantitative information from the behavior sample.

Objective Scoring Rules : Most mass produced tests fall into this category. Different qualified examiners will all come to the same score for an identical set of responses.

Subjective Scoring Rules : When the judgement of the examiner is an important part of the test, different examiners can legitimately come to different conclusions concerning the same sample of behavior. There conclusions should be similar, however.

Good standardized psychological tests all have a set of rules or procedures for scoring responses to a test.

Three  more  Categories of Psychological Tests

1. Specific Task Performance Tests : Writing an essay, answering multiple-choice items, mental rotation of objects. SAT, GRE, ACT

These are referred to as "Tests of maximal performance"

Two underlying assumptions :

The subject understands what is required of the test.

The subject exerts maximal effort to succeed.

    Performance tests are designed to uncover what an individual can do, given the specific test conditions.

2. Observations of the subject’s behavior within a particular context. Examiner might observe subject having a conversation or some other social interaction.

Companies recruit observers to pose as salespeople to observe employee’s behaviors. Subject’s may be unaware they are being tested.

3. Self-Report Measures: Subject describes their feelings, attitudes, beliefs, or interests.

Many personality inventories such as the MMPI and the 16PF measures are based on self-report.

Clinicians include self-report measures as part of their initial examinations of presenting clients.

Self-Report measures are frequently subject to self-censorship.

People know their responses are being measured and wish to be seen in a favorable light.  (self-serving bias)

Items are frequently included to measure the extent to which people provide socially desirable responses.

History of Psychological Testing

circa 1000 BC. Chinese introduced written tests to help fill civil service positions

1850 The United States begins civil service examinations.

1890 James Cattell develops a "mental test" to assess college students . Test includes measures of strength, resistance to pain, and reaction time.

1905 Binet-Simon scale of mental development used to classify mentally retarded children in France.

1914 World War I produces need in U.S. to quickly classify incoming recruits. Army Alpha test and Army Beta test developed.

1916 Terman develops Stanford - Binet test and develops the idea of Intelligence Quotient

1920 - 1940 factor analysis, projective tests, and personality inventories first appear.

1941-1960 vocational interest measures developed

1961-1980 item response theory and neuropsychological testing developed

1980 - present : Wide spread adaptation of computerized testing.
                            "Smart" Tests which can give each individual different test items develop

Three Common Areas of Psychological Testing

Educational Testing : Intelligence tests and achievement tests are used from an early age in the U.S.. From kindergarten on, tests are used for placement and advancement.

Personnel Testing : Following WW I, business began taking an active interest in testing job applicants. Most government jobs require some civil service examination.

At the Lally School of Management, the Myers -Briggs type indicator is used extensively to assess managerial potential. Type testing is used to hopefully match the right person with the job they are most suited for.

Clinical Testing: Tests of Psychological Adjustment and tests which can classify and/or diagnose patients are used extensively. Neuropsychological tests which examine basic mental function also fall into this category.

Psychological disciplines and testing

Different fields within psychology use different types of tests.

Clinical Psychologists Assessment of Intelligence,

Assessment of Psychopathology

Counseling Psychologists Career Interest Inventories,

Skill Assessment

School Psychologists Assessment of academic progress,

Readiness for School

Social Adjustment

I/O Psychologists Managerial potential

Training Needs

Cognitive Ability

Neuropsychologists :  Brain Damage