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Psychological Personality Tests: Objective Judgment

Why do Psychologists administer Personality tests and how do they apply the information obtained from Personality tests in real-world settings?

Psychologists administer personality tests because these allow for producing more objective judgments about individuals (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). Patients often tell their history poorly, in a biased manner, whereas tests provide a more objective evaluation, which makes them essential (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). Also, interviews usually differ considerably, whereas tests let a psychologist simultaneously assess a multitude of characteristics in a standardized manner to get the needed information (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). Finally, utilizing tests along with interviews and other methods means that more than one source of information is used (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

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Personality tests are used in real-world settings because they should help psychologists make decisions that better help the patient (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). There are several key areas where tests can be highly useful: diagnosing, and planning of effective treatment (clinicians); planning of instruction, placement of students (educators); selection (e.g., during college admission or hiring process); classification (e.g., classifying learners for special education); better self-understanding and performance assessment; licensing (e.g., for lawyers, doctors); program evaluation; and scientific method (data collection; Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

What are some limitations that should be considered when drawing conclusions based on the results of Personality tests?

Utilizing psychological tests has several disadvantages. For instance, their results might be impacted by a particular condition of a person on a given day (Weiten, Dunn, & Hammer, 2016). Answers to certain tests may be influenced by cultural circumstances; for example, a person who does not know English very well may misinterpret some questions in a test in English; or, e.g., one’s socioeconomic status may be different from what the test assumes to be the standard, causing the scores to deviate more from the “norm” (Weiten et al., 2016). Also, because the contemporary world is changing rapidly, some tests may become obsolete. Also, some tests may have limited validity (i.e., they measure not quite what they are intended to measure) or low reliability (they yield inconsistent results when administered repeatedly). Finally, tests must be indirect measurements, i.e., they only measure some artificial constructs, rather than truly “real-world characteristics” (Weiten et al., 2016). Therefore, tests should be interpreted with caution, and the consistency of their results should be verified via other sources if possible (Weiten et al., 2016).

Objective Personality Tests and projective Personality Tests comparison

Objective personality tests are those tests that propose respondents to answer by choosing one of the proposed responses for a question (multiple choice answers) and are scored objectively (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). For instance, tests that offer respondents to choose “true” or “false” to answer a question, or tests using a Likert scale, are objective personality tests (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

On the other hand, projective personality tests involve using ambiguous materials; a respondent may choose an answer from a wide array of possibilities (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). For instance, a patient might be presented with an unclear, ambiguous picture and then be asked to explain what is depicted on it.

While objective personality tests are rated objectively, i.e. they are rated according to a certain scale, independently of the views of an examiner and according to a certain standard, subjective personality tests are rated according to the examiner’s (professional) opinion (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). Projective personality tests are not always subjective; however, in their case, it might be important to reach a high degree of inter-rater agreement.

Behavior Assessment for Children (BASC) and its usefulness in educational settings

Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC) is a set of psychological tests that allow for evaluating multiple aspects of a child’s behavior; the test contains several versions that, on the whole, are appropriate for individuals aged from 2 to 21 (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). BASC includes several rating scales: a Parent Rating Scale (PRS), a Teacher Rating Scale (TRS), several self-reported scales, an assessment for the relationship between parents and the child, a system for classroom observation, and a structured history of the child’s development (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). It incorporates several scales that can be employed to assess numerous characteristics of a child’s behavior. Importantly, PRS and TRS can be employed separately, and have become some of the most popular behavioral assessment scales for children (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

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BASC is highly useful because it allows for detecting pathologies and abnormalities in multiple aspects of child’s behavior (e.g., in their adaptability, anxiety, depression, leadership, and many others), permitting educators to quickly find out if there are issues that need to be addressed (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

Measuring Personality

On the whole, it is probably impossible to completely measure a personality of an individual, for a personality is multi-dimensional, complex, and contains numerous aspects that cannot all be listed exhaustively (Weiten et al., 2016). Nevertheless, it is still possible to measure (with a certain degree of confidence) certain separate aspects of personality to gain an approximated picture of these aspects. This is because personality often tends to remain relatively stable over time, and individuals exhibit certain behaviors and express opinions characteristic of their personality, which means that it is possible to record these opinions and behaviors and assess them (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). It is also possible to compare these assessments to similar evaluations of other individuals. Therefore, generally speaking, using psychological tests often permits conducting more objective assessments of personality (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

An example of a personality test is the Big Five measure, which is a self-reported test (Wortman, Lucas, & Donnellan, 2012). A variant of it consists of a list of 36 adjectives; when the test is administered, respondents are asked to rate these adjectives on a seven-point Likert scale, with answers ranging from 1 (“Does not describe me at all”) through 7 (“Describes me very well”; Wortman et al., 2012, p. 874). The test includes such adjectives as “talkative,” “sympathetic,” “orderly,” “envious,” “deep,” and so on (Wortman et al., 2012, p. 874). Answers to these questions may be rather biased because an individual often might not be able to assess oneself objectively. Nevertheless, while an individual’s assessment of themselves may be prejudiced, the test, at the minimum, may allow for a better understanding of how a person views themselves, thus assisting in comprehending the personality of that individual.

Can self-assessment personality tests be objective? Why or why not?

Personality Tests

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a test that is widely employed to analyze the personality of an individual (Lloyd, 2012). The purpose of the test is to find out what psychological preferences people have while perceiving the surrounding would, and how they make various decisions (Lloyd, 2012).

The MBTI is based on the theory of Carl Gustav Jung that is presented in his book Psychological Types (Lloyd, 2012); this theory states that a person employs four main psychological functions, namely, intuition, sensation, thinking, and feeling and that only one of these functions plays the most important role for a single individual most of the time. The test represents the so-called “structured” approach to evaluating an individual’s personality; it is an objective personality test that consists of multiple-choice questions.

The MBTI sorts individuals into 16 separate categories, or psychological types (Lloyd, 2012). Each of these psychological types is considered to have several characteristic traits of personality, and their attributes, as well as the implications of being a representative of that psychological type, are usually described along with the results of the test.

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This test is rather popular in HR departments in numerous business and commercial organizations; these rely on this test for a variety of purposes, for instance, to understand if an employee is suitable for a job when hiring workers. However, it is less popular in the psychological setting due to its low validity and reliability scores (Lloyd, 2012).

A test that is somewhat similar to MBTI is the Big Five Personality Traits test. The latter is also aimed at assessing some personality traits (that is, agreeableness, openness, neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness). The four scales of MBTI correlate with four items from the Big Five, but these correlations are rarely stable

Is it useful to utilize several personality traits tests at the same time when an employee is selected for a job?

Creating a Test

There exist several behavioral assessments that allow for checking the presence of the symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adult individuals (Matte, Rohde, & Grevet, 2012; Sibley et al., 2012). For instance, some of such tests are the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS; there are several versions, i.e., self-report and informant-report versions; Alexander & Liljequist, 2013); and the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS; van de Glind et al., 2013).

The strengths of the self-report tests are that they can be administered to a patient and completed quickly, without the need for continuous observation of the patient; that they are quite objective, and do not rely on the personal opinion of the psychologist or any other individual that is doing the assessment; they can help quickly identify the areas in which the patient experiences problems, and so on (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). However, the weaknesses of such tests are that they rely on the patient’s assessment of the situation, which may be biased; that individuals may sometimes fail to correctly understand the questions in the test; that people may sometimes not remember the experiences the memories about which are necessary to properly answer the tests; that respondents may intentionally lie, especially if they wish to avoid some unpleasant consequences of a particular outcome of the test, etc. Curiously, when it comes to ADHD self-reporting, some patients may find it hard to concentrate on the test for a considerable amount of time if the test is too long. Because of these weaknesses, it is preferred to use several tests for each patient, and also to use other types of measures for the condition (Alexander & Liljequist, 2013; Sibley et al., 2012).

It might be possible to consider the quickness and easiness of self-administered tests their most significant advantages. As for the most important disadvantages, it may be the potential bias of the respondent, and the respondent’s possible inability to understand some of the questions.

There are multiple underlying assumptions for this type of testing (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). For instance, these tests assume that 1) behavioral patterns can be assessed and that 2) the results of such assessments can be generalized to reveal the underlying psychological characteristics; 3) that such behavioral patterns can be measured using a variety of methods and tests; 4) that these methods and tests are imperfect; 5) that psychological tests may be useful in providing information about adverse conditions a respondent is suffering from; and so on (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012).

On the whole, it might be stated that these assumptions are valid. For example, it is known that the ADHD tests that were mentioned above, i.e., the CAARS and ASRS, indeed allow for identifying patients who are suffering from ADHD with a high degree of sensitivity (Alexander & Liljequist, 2013; van de Glind et al., 2013); this warrants the assumptions 1 through 3. The assumption 4, that such behavioral assessments are not perfect, is justified by the fact that they do not always permit identifying individuals with the symptoms of ADHD, and sometimes may give false positives (Alexander & Liljequist, 2013; Sibley et al., 2012; van de Glind et al., 2013). The assumption 5 is warranted because, as was mentioned above, the sensitivity of such tests may be rather high, and the tests might be reliable, which means that they can be helpful for initially identifying a patient with the disorder, as well as for providing some information about a patient who has already been diagnosed earlier.

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Generally speaking, these types of psychological tests may have a considerable impact on the decisions that will be made for the respondents who take the test. If the results of the tests indicate that an individual does not have ADHD, then they will probably not be influenced greatly, although this might prove to be an advantage while, for instance, seeking employment or education. On the other hand, persons with ADHD who also obtain positive results of the test will be profoundly impacted (Matte et al., 2012). If the diagnosis is confirmed by using several different methods as well, then that individual may lose access to some types of employment or education. They might be prescribed taking some measures aimed at reducing the symptoms of ADHD (such as medications). They also may require some special types of therapy or counseling (Matte et al., 2012). On the whole, it can be hoped that, while the confirmation of the diagnosis of ADHD will probably deprive them of some opportunities (for instance, working on positions that require constant mental concentration and meticulousness), it will still be helpful, for example, because the prescribed measures will allow for reducing the symptoms of ADHD, and will not be harmful, e.g. because the person with ADHD would not be capable of appropriately accomplishing tasks required from a specialist the position of whom an individual with ADHD will not normally occupy.

It might be possible to state that testing (using the proposed self-administered test) on its own should not have such a considerable impact, due to the potentially problematic validity and reliability of these tests. However, using such tests to preliminary identify a person who may be suffering from ADHD, so that the diagnosis (if any) could be further confirmed and specified, appears quite justified.

The Mini-Test

Please answer the following questions. Please choose the response that best describes what you feel about the provided statements.

  1. I usually find it hard to plan my activities for the day and the week.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  2. I find it difficult to focus when I have to read, make calculations, or do a similar task that requires concentration for a prolonged amount of time.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  3. I often find myself avoiding doing the task that I have to do (for instance, by browsing the Internet, eating, checking email, chatting with friends, and so on).
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  4. I often become frustrated when I have to do a task, especially a large task that requires a considerable amount of sustained effort.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  5. I feel bored very rarely.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  6. My mood often changes multiple times within an hour or two.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  7. I never feel worried or anxious without any apparent reason.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  8. I tend to act impulsively, on my emotions, rather than to stop, think the situation over, and then act correspondingly.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  9. I find it hard to rest because I feel anxious, bored, or frustrated.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree
  10. I can easily prioritize the tasks that I need to do, and then do them in an appropriate order.
    1. Completely Disagree
    2. Disagree
    3. Neither Agree Nor Disagree
    4. Agree
    5. Completely Agree

Justifications for the Questions

On the whole, it should be observed that ADHD is a complex disorder consisting of multiple elements and symptoms that are present in individuals suffering from this condition. For instance, some of the important symptoms of ADHD among adult individuals are poor planning, procrastination, lack of concentration, the feeling of boredom and frustration, frequently occurring mood swings, restlessness, trouble prioritizing and executing tasks, and so on (Adler, Spencer, & Wilens, 2015; Maucieri & Carlson, 2014).

The proposed behavioral assessment is to be used to measure the presence of these symptoms in respondents. Also, it should be stressed that five-point Likert scale questions were employed to allow for an objective evaluation of the condition of the respondent, and also to make the questions and answers as clear as possible (Reynolds & Livingston, 2012). Finally, several reverse-scored questions (5, 7, and 10) were included in the test to ensure that the respondents more carefully read the questions and answer appropriately, instead of automatically rating the answers that they think correspond to the general tendency of the test (in this case, that greater scores, i.e., “completely agree,” usually mean greater levels of ADHD).

To calculate the overall rating of the test, the scores for the questions 1-4, 6, 8, and 9 should be added. Then the scores for the questions 5, 7, and 10 should be reversed, and then added to the total pool. This will yield the final score for the test, which will range from 10 to 50. The greater the score, the more indicative the results are of ADHD symptoms in the respondent.

The justifications for the separate questions are provided below.

  • Question 1. This question asks to assess the planning capabilities of the respondent; poor planning is one of the symptoms of ADHD in adult people (Adler et al., 2015).
  • Question 2. This question assesses the ability of the respondent to concentrate on a task that requires attention. The inability to do may be indicative of suffering from ADHD.
  • Question 3. Procrastination, that is, avoiding doing the needed task, is yet another problematic behavior that is often exhibited by persons with ADHD.
  • Question 4. Because frustration is common among individuals with ADHD, it was important to include it in the test.
  • Question 5. Persons with ADHD may often suffer from chronic boredom, so this question is aimed at identifying it in the respondents (Adler et al., 2015). The question was reversed to make sure that participants do not simply rate the questions automatically.
  • Question 6. ADHD is often characterized by sudden and frequent swings in the mood, which is why this question was included in the proposed test.
  • Question 7. Anxiety may be present in individuals with ADHD, which warrants the inclusion of this question in the test. The question is reversed.
  • Question 8. Impulsivity is yet another trait characteristic of persons with ADHD, which is why this question is provided in the test (Maucieri & Carlson, 2014).
  • Question 9. This question asks the respondents about feeling restless often, which often happens with those who suffer from ADHD.
  • Question 10. Just as people with ADHD find it difficult to plan their activities, they also have problems setting their priorities and deciding what to do first (Adler et al., 2015). This question asks whether the respondents experience trouble prioritizing their tasks.

References

Adler, L. A., Spencer, T. J., & Wilens, T. E. (Eds). (2015). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults and children. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Alexander, L., & Liljequist, L. (2013). Determining the accuracy of self-report versus informant-report using the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale. Journal of Attention Disorders, 20(4), 346-352.

Lloyd, J. B. (2012). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and mainstream psychology: Analysis and evaluation of an unresolved hostility. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 33(1), 23-34.

Matte, B., Rohde, L. A., & Grevet, E. H. (2012). ADHD in adults: a concept in evolution. ADHD: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 4(2), 53-62.

Maucieri, L., & Carlson, J. (Eds.). (2014). The distracted couple: The impact of ADHD on adult relationships. Bethel, CT: Crown House Publishing Company.

Reynolds, C. R., & Livingston, R. B. (2012). Mastering modern psychological testing: Theory & methods. New York, NY: Pearson.

Sibley, M. H., Pelham, W. E., Gnagy, E. M., Waxmonsky, J. G., Waschbusch, D. A., Derefinko, K. J.,…Kuriyan, A. B. (2012). When diagnosing ADHD in young adults emphasize informant reports, DSM items, and impairment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(6), 1052-1061.

Van de Glind, G., van den Brink, W., Koeter, M. W., Carpentier, P. J., van Emmerik-van Oortmerssen, K., Kaye, S.,…Levin, F. R. (2013). Validity of the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) as a screener for adult ADHD in treatment seeking substance use disorder patients. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132(3), 587-596.

Weiten, W., Dunn, D. S., & Hammer, E. Y. (2016). Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st century (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Wortman, J., Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2012). Stability and change in the Big Five personality domains: Evidence from a longitudinal study of Australians. Psychology and Aging, 27(4), 867-874. Web.

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