Psychology and Testing

Three Types of Decisions Important for Psychology or/and Education

There are three types of decisions important for psychology or/and education. These are college admission decisions, diagnostic or hiring decisions, and vocational decisions. Various psychological tests aimed to assist in making such decisions were designed. It is important to highlight the most significant one of them. Diagnosis and employment selection play a crucial role in our society. Hence, decisions on that matter should be made more accurately.

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Everybody makes mistakes, and the purpose of such tests is to reduce the number and seriousness of a wrong choice. Psychology provides people with practical techniques to implement this goal. Approximately 18% of companies conduct individual tests while hiring (Dattner, 2013). The number is increasing every year. Individual tests, if conducted properly, improve the chances to hire a person who will be successful. Incompetent personnel cost too much. Therefore, companies strive to find employees with a great potential. Unfortunately, many organizations perform incorrect evaluations. Hence, it is highly necessary to carefully learn such specific techniques, adapt them to existing needs and implement them in a proper and effective manner.

Assumptions of Psychological Assessments

Psychologists have two prominent assumptions regarding an assessment process. The first one is psychological constructs exist (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). A construct means a characteristic that might be measured by a special test. Usually, there are several constructs that have to be determined. For example, these are beliefs, mental conditions or the level of intelligence. Hence, this assumption admits the existence of certain constructs.

The second assumption claims that psychological constructs can be measured. There is a statement among psychologists, “If a thing exists, it exists in some amount. If it exists in some amount, it can be measured.” (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). This makes professionals believe that they can create measurement methods.

In spite of the fact that this assumption sounds reasonable, it is a highly debatable question whether designed tests can effectively determine required constructs. Different specialists prefer different techniques. Hence, there is no a universally approved approach. However, it does not mean that it is impossible to create such an approach. It has to be a comprehensive, elaborate system that embraces various concepts.

Key Historical Events in the Development of Intelligence Testing

The first significant moment is creating the Gaussian curve. Gauss was a talented scholar who studied math and astronomy (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). He was faced with a problem during tracking star trajectories. His colleagues provided a little different data. Gauss noted a specific system in the frequency of the locations of stars. This system was embodied in a mathematical curve, revealing that each measurement contained minor mistakes and the accurate location might have been determined taking into account average figures (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). It was the first technique assisting in the error measurement.

The second important historical event refers to Alfred Binet. Binet was a French scientist who designed the first intelligence quotient test (known as the IQ test). Binet worked with sensory-motor measurements, but these experiments were not successful and later, he gave up them. Instead, he focused on the assessment of intelligence (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). Theodor Simon, who was Binet’s colleague, assisted him in developing the first test that could foretell academic achievements. This work became highly popular throughout the world.

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Reducing Cultural Bias in Testing

The issue of cultural bias in testing comes from the main principles of psychology and education. Psychology focuses on internal personal processes that cannot be clearly observed but only concluded from specific behaviors. The problem of cultural bias occurs due to the procedures of psychological testing. Such tests cannot objectively measure the person’s characteristics and therefore provide only relative results. However, there are several methods aimed to avoid cultural bias in testing.

First, it is necessary to apply culturally impartial evaluating tools, taking into account individual traits, skills and experience (Parrack, 2017). The first main principle is to avoid using concepts that do not exist in other cultures. The second one is to make concepts easily understandable. Finally, they should be made translatable. Specialists with different cultural backgrounds should participate in developing cultural-bias-free tests.

Also, designed methods have to be tested across various countries. Second, it is crucial to use local standards (Parrack, 2017). Assessment techniques should take into account values that vary across cultures. Finally, it is very important to increase the cultural awareness of assessors (Parrack, 2017). Specialists involved in evaluating process should undergo training that gives them knowledge about cultural specificity.

Psychologists and Testing

There are different methods of psychological assessment besides tests. However, the main principle of proper evaluation is objectiveness, and individuals cannot perform it completely impartially. The first impression often turns out to be wrong as all people have prejudices. For example, positive traits of a person influence evaluation, making an assessor to miss negative characteristics, and vice versa. It is called the “halo effect.”

Therefore, most psychologists use tests as they demonstrate a more realistic picture. There are several facts that were highlighted as the main reasons to make assessments via tests. First, patients usually do not reveal all necessary information because it is difficult to admit socially unacceptable behaviors (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). On the other hand, some people can exaggerate certain facts. Second, tests give quantitative data that helps to determine the most prominent characteristics.

Also, they allow comparing patients with similar cases. Third, tests provide information about numerous traits that might be missed during a clinical interview. Finally, psychological tests are standardized (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013). Hence, the collecting data does not depend on a person who performs an assessment. Specialists can be sure that they evaluate all necessary criteria.

I’m interested in studying abnormal psychology. This branch focuses on abnormal behaviors and attitudes that might lead to mental disorders. Professional psychologists usually apply different tests to diagnose and evaluate the degree of a dysfunction. There are several tests that are widely used by such specialists. For example, behavioral and adaptive functioning tests help to identify and analyze specific behavioral deviations (Cash, n.d.).

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Another example is the children behavior checklist that evaluates childhood disorders. Testing is a useful instrument of a professional psychologist. This method was approved by most specialists in this field. Therefore, learning such techniques is crucial to become a skilled psychologist specializing in abnormal psychology.

Bias in Testing

The term bias might be understood differently by professionals and the general public. Normally, a bias implies prejudices and subjectivism. Regarding a bias in testing, it might be explained as a systematic error in the results of a test. Hence, a bias in tests devalues their importance. When a bias refers to cultural aspects like ethnicity or gender, it is called a cultural bias. For example, a test assessing academic achievements shows different results depending on an ethnic group. If these results are based on the underestimating achievements of one group, the test has a cultural bias (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013).

The differences among groups might take place due to socioeconomic, race or some demographic issues as well. For example, white and black people have slightly different IQ test results. However, if the test takes into account demographic variables, the difference significantly reduces. Hence, the gap might become less, depending on a cultural bias. Such differences could be seen in other pairs like white and Latin people or Native Americans and Asian Americans.

Cultural specificities depend on different mentalities. Asian and Western people understand intelligence in their own way. Europeans and Americans perceive intelligence as an average characteristic that is necessary to initiate various discussions. However, Asians “see it as a way for members of a community to recognize contradiction and complexity” (Benson, 2003). Many researchers throughout the world acknowledge this concept.

It is a highly controversial question whether culturally fair tests exist. Some tests that were initially recognized as culture-free later lost their status. However, there are several examples like the modern behavioral tests that were appropriately translated and made up of general and understandable for every culture concepts. It is logical to assume that methods free from cultural bias might be designed and implemented. Therefore, research in this field should be intensified.

Paraphrasing

Despite the common delusion that using tests for assessment purposes is unnecessary, a closer look reveals that their entire elimination is impossible as all kinds of assessment tools make difference not only in education but in our whole life as a society. It is hard to imagine any professional sphere without tests. For example, people would easily become surgeons without having to prove their ability to perform operations since no one would assess their skills. Everyone would receive a driving license without even learning to drive. Pilots will fly commercial jets without proving their professionalism.

The value of tests therefore cannot be diminished, in spite of the fact that some of them are not a matter of life and death. Even though psychological tests can be referred to this group, they still make their contribution to the society. An effective treatment of any mental or psychological conditions is impossible until the right diagnosis is made. The same is applicable to personality testing. If the client is assessed as per his/her educational or career inclinations, it will be much easier for him/her to opt for those occupations that are most likely to bring about happiness, and success (Reynolds & Livingston, 2013).

Quiz

I attempted to create a test for identifying symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

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  1. “Are you excessively concerned with arranging things in particular patterns?” Being obsessed with order is one of the major symptoms of OCD.
  2. “Are you always worried about getting infected or contaminated?” OCD patients often imagine horrible things that might happen to them.
  3. “Are you afraid of accidentally killing someone (infecting, hitting with a car, etc.)?” The patient feels too awkward in the presence of others (to the point of being afraid of harming them).
  4. “Do you often buy new things?” OCD patients stick to their possessions.
  5. “Do you happen to perform an unplanned action?” OCD makes people cautious of senseless impulses.
  6. “Do you inspect rubbish before discarding it?” All things surrounding OCD patients are perceived as an extension of their personality.
  7. “Do you double-check taps, locks, and switches?” The patient is afraid of being deprived of the familiar environment.
  8. “Do you feel that you always have signs of illnesses?” OCD patients often become hypochondriac.
  9. “Do you repeat actions until you do them correctly?” Perfectionism is another symptom of OCD.
  10. “Do you avoid physical contact?” Fear of harming or being harmed is expressed in avoidance of touching others.

References

Benson, E. (2003). Intelligence across cultures. Web.

Cash, A. (n.d.). 3 Psychological tests to measure abnormal behavior, achievement, and personality. Web.

Dattner, B. (2013). How to use psychometric testing in hiring. Web.

Parrack, L. (2017). 4 Ways to avoid cultural bias in international people assessments. Web.

Reynolds, C. R., & Livingston, R. B. (2013). Mastering modern psychological testing: Theory & methods. Canada: Pearson Higher Ed.

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