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Psychological Testing: Beneficial or Harmful?

How are tests used for good?

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Within the context of what can be defined as “good,” psychological tests can fall under this category when utilized in instances involving the testing of an individual in order to determine whether potential aberrations in their behavior exist. In such situations, psychological tests act as instruments that facilitate the implementation of proper care and guidance for such an individual resulting in either the mitigation of their symptoms of mental illness or at least a partial repression so as to enable them to live a somewhat normal life (Werthman, 1995). It is normally the case that through generalized psychological testing within educational institutions, a child’s cognitive and emotional functioning is examined so as to determine whether particular individuals display certain characteristics that may cause them to be maladaptive towards future social circumstances (Butcher, Perry, & Hahn, 2004). In such instances, psychological testing acts as an instrument of prevention wherein through early identification of people with obvious social interaction deficiencies, some means of “correction” can be implemented wherein they can be helped to better adjust to future social settings through various sessions with a psychologist.

How are they used for harm?

Psychological tests can, at times, be harmful when they delve into topics that are considered taboo, illicit a certain degree of discomfort from certain individuals or are introduced far too early within an individual’s life. For example, it was seen in a case within the U.S. where a psychological test was given to students 10 years of age that contained highly detailed questions involving sexual matters (Schell-Apacik et al., 2008). This, in effect, introduces children to early-onset sexualization, which should not be the case given how this can dramatically and often negatively impact their growth and development.

It must also be noted that the various psychological tests a child takes throughout their schooling are kept by the school within a file that represents their overall psychological profile as determined by the tests they took. The problem with this is that the accuracy of such tests is often highly debatable, given that the answers given may not necessarily reflect the real psychological profile of the child. Unfortunately, such results often follow a child through their school years and even their eventual employment, which may result in either denying the child enrollment into particular educational institutions based on his/her psychological profile or even preventing them from getting a decent job due to their negative psychological assessment which may not be necessarily accurate or even true (Ellyson & Shaw, 1970).

Should testing be eliminated altogether?

It is not that testing should be eliminated altogether since it helps to detect individuals with mental health problems early on; rather, what is necessary is that the relevancy of such tests should not impact an individual’s educational or work related opportunities. Psychological testing should be exclusively isolated within the realm of evaluation and treatment and should not be utilized as a means of gauging whether an individual is fit for schooling or for a particular type of job without actually having a professional psychologist evaluate them (Pittenger, 2002). The reason behind this is quite simple, psychological tests have never been considered 100% accurate in evaluating a person’s true mental state; however, for some reason, educational institutions and corporations take the generalized results as being completely accurate (Mook, 1996). This has, of course, led to several problems in enrollment and hiring practices and is indicative of a problem with psychological testing that should be addressed via the aforementioned solution presented at the start of this paragraph.

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Reference List

Butcher, J. N., Perry, J., & Hahn, J. (2004). Computers in clinical assessment: Historical developments, present status, and future challenges. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 60(3), 331-345.

Ellyson, R. C., & Shaw, B. S. (1970). The psychological assessment and staff recruiting. Journal Of Accountancy, 129(3), 35-42.

Mook, J. R. (1996). Personality testing in today’s workplace: Avoiding the legal pitfalls. Employee Relations Law Journal, 22(3), 65.

Pittenger, D. J. (2002). Preserving the Ethical Propriety of Statistical Devices. Journal Of Psychology, 136(2), 117.

Schell-Apacik, C., Cohen, M., Vojta, S., Ertl-Wagner, B., Klopocki, E., Heinrich, U., & Von Voss, H. (2008). Gomez-Lopez-Hernandez syndrome (cerebello-trigeminal-dermal dysplasia): description of an additional case and review of the literature. European Journal Of Pediatrics, 167(1), 123-126.

Werthman, M. J. (1995). A managed care approach to psychological testing. (cover story). Behavioral Health Management, 15(5), 15.

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