Ashraf Kagee & Loraine Townsend
After studying this chapter you should be able to:
•understand the process of psychological assessment
•differentiate between a clinical interview, objective assessment and projective assessment
•discuss some of the controversies in personality assessment
•describe the types of validity and the types of reliability that a measurement instrument may have.
Yolisa found that learning about personality assessment made her feel both interested and nervous at the same time. It was exciting to think that it was possible to accurately identify, interpret and measure her own personality traits. On the other hand, it was a bit scary to think that someone could test her and discover what she was really like — maybe that they could even see things about herself that she didn’t know.
Yolisa spoke to some friends after class about this whole idea of being able to establish a person’s personality characteristics. They agreed that personality tests were not magical tools that you could use to read people’s minds, but that they might be helpful in the complicated task of trying to find out who somebody is and what they are capable of. Yolisa and her friends ended up laughing about how personality tests might have come in useful in checking out some of their less successful romantic partners. Afterwards, though, Yolisa thought more seriously about how she might be able to make better choices about jobs, careers and courses — maybe even relationships — if she understood a bit more about herself.
As a discipline and profession, psychology has always been concerned with the measurement of mental and behavioural phenomena. The measurement of personality is therefore an important concern to personality theorists.
Ways to assess personality
The three most popular ways of conducting an assessment of personality are the clinical interview, objective personality assessment and projective personality assessment.
The clinical interview
The most common method of assessing the nature of a patient’s personality is the clinical interview. The purpose of an interview is to evaluate the patient’s verbal and non-verbal behaviour in order to understand what might be done to help the patient. An interview usually involves at least two people: the interviewer and the patient. An assessment interview is a conversation with the purpose of gaining an understanding of the personality dynamics of the patient. The challenge then is for the interviewer to have a clear goal in mind and to proceed with the interview in a way that will achieve that goal.
Often people seek psychological help for serious personal problems, frequently brought about because of certain personality traits. The interviewer begins by asking the patient to describe the problem and pays special attention to the way he/she understands and interprets the problem. The interviewer may ask about the history of the problem, and in this way gain insight into the circumstances surrounding the origin of the problem, when the problem became worse, and situations in which the patient is less bothered by the problem. This kind of information is useful in deciding about treatment options to help alleviate the problem or disorder that the patient is found to have. Information of this nature is also likely to be informative about the personality of the patient and how he/she engages with the world.
Assessment interviews may be unstructured, semi-structured, or highly structured.
Figure 6.1 An assessment interview is conducted to gain an understanding of the patient
An unstructured interview often takes the form of a conversation in which any issue that comes up is pursued. The interviewer is minimally directive and considers most of what the patient says as important information that will help to gain a better understanding of the patient.
A semi-structured interview involves the use of some questions to provide structure to the interview and may help guide the patient’s responses. The interviewer is interested in the patient’s general responses to the questions and considers them to be a way to get the patient to talk about him- or herself. Open-ended questions are typical in semi-structured interviews. In other words, the interviewer often asks questions to which the patient might respond in any way (e.g. ’How do you feel about school?’). This kind of conversation is helpful for the interviewer to get to know the patient better.
A structured interview is exactly that — a highly structured encounter in which the interviewer asks only a specific set of questions, to which exact answers are of interest. In many ways a structured interview is like a questionnaire that is verbally administered. Questions are asked that will elicit responses that can fit into pre-determined categories. Therefore the questions are closed (e.g. ’Do you feel sad or depressed a lot of the time?’). The answer to a question such as this may either be ’yes’ or ’no’, or possibly ’sometimes’.
Structured interviews usually provide the interviewer with the exact words to use when asking questions as well as highly specific guidelines about how to score or code the patient’s answers. A popular structured interview that is used in both clinical and research settings is the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM (SCID), developed by Spitzer and his colleagues. Versions of this, updated for the DSM-5, are now available. Structured interviews of this nature are often used in research or clinical settings to establish whether or not people have disorders. Thus, the interview questions are designed to elicit responses from the patient that would allow the interviewer to determine whether the patient has the symptoms of a particular disorder. For this reason, interviewers have to undergo specific training in psychology with a particular emphasis on psychopathology (the psychological functioning of disordered persons), as well as training in the administration of the specific structured interview that is used.
•Personality is most commonly assessed through some combination of the clinical interview, objective personality assessment and projective personality assessment.
•The clinical interview is used to evaluate the patient’s verbal and non-verbal behaviour in order to understand the personality dynamics of the patient. The interviewer gathers information about all aspects of the problem.
•Unstructured interviews are a free-flowing conversation with minimal direction from the interviewer. A semi-structured interview uses some questions to structure the interview. Structured interviews are like questionnaires that are verbally administered; they typically contain a series of questions with a set of pre-determined answers.
6.1EXAMPLES OF OBJECTIVE PERSONALITY TESTS
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a widely used paper-and-pencil personality test that has 566 statements which respondents have to endorse as ’true’ or ’false’ or ’undecided’. The statements include topics like ’I sleep badly at night’ and ’I chew my food well’.
The MMPI is based on an empirical approach to test construction. The content of respondents’ answers to individual test items is usually of little interest to the psychologist. Instead the developers matched the patterns of people’s answers to the patterns of responses of criterion groups. These criterion groups were people who had characteristics of special interest, for example a psychological diagnosis such as depression or schizophrenia. Thus, if an individual respondent showed a pattern of responses similar to a criterion group of depressed individuals, this would constitute important data suggesting that the respondent might be at risk for depression. The MMPI is therefore an example of what is called a criterion-based approach to personality assessment. Items on the MMPI were not selected on the basis of what their content seemed to mean, but on the basis of empirical findings relating to the pattern of responses.
One of the innovative aspects of the MMPI is the inclusion of a validity scale designed to detect suspicious response patterns such as misrepresentation, dishonesty, defensiveness and evasiveness. An interpreter of an MMPI profile would first check the validity scale and determine whether the results are valid before proceeding to interpret the rest of the profile.
Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory
The Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory Revised (NEO-PI-R, or just NEO for short) was originally designed to assess personality characteristics in adult normal populations. The NEO is based on the assumption that there are five basic dimensions underlying the traits that people use to describe themselves and others (De Raad, 2000; McCrae & Costa, 1992) (also see Chapter 5). Some available research suggests that these five basic dimensions may be found in cultures other than those considered to be Western. The five dimensions of personality, or the Big Five (Costa & McCrae, 1992), are as follows:
•The extraversion dimension discerns between people who are gregarious, warm and positive versus those who are quiet, reserved and shy.
•The agreeableness dimension describes people who are straightforward, compliant and sympathetic versus those who are quarrelsome, oppositional and unfeeling.
•The conscientiousness dimension refers to achievement-oriented and self-disciplined people compared to those who are frivolous and irresponsible.
•The neuroticism dimension differentiates between people who are anxious and depressed, on the one hand, and those who are calm, contented and self-assured, on the other.
•Finally, the openness-to-experience dimension refers to those people who are creative, open-minded and intellectual versus those who are unimaginative, disinterested and narrow-minded.
These dimensions are derived from the early trait theories of personality. The strength of the Big Five model is that it is easy to understand because the five dimensions were developed from natural language. The NEO-PI-R, which assesses the Big Five dimensions, has been tested with samples using different languages and has been shown to have some validity in a variety of cultures (Cheung, Van de Vijver & Leong, 2011). Like the MMPI, the NEO-PI-R consists of a set of statements which the testee must rate on a five-point scale from ’strongly agree’ to ’strongly disagree’.
Objective personality assessment
Objective personality assessment instruments refer to psychological tests that consist of questions, possible response options, scoring procedures and methods of interpretation, all of which are highly structured and standardised. For this reason they can be administered, scored and even interpreted in a reliable and accurate manner by both professionals and trained lay persons. Objective tests are used to assess either people functioning within the normal range, such as job applicants, or those considered to be psychologically disordered, such as residents in a psychiatric hospital.
Figure 6.2 An example of a questionnaire
6.2USING THE HOPKINS SYMPTOM CHECKLIST
As part of an assessment procedure, a clinician could ask a patient to complete the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25), which is another example of an objective personality assessment tool.
The HSCL is a paper-and-pencil test intended to provide health care providers with a means of detecting symptoms of anxiety and depression in their patients. Possible scores on this measure range from 25 to 100. Previous research suggests that most people in the normal range of functioning score below 44 on the HSCL and therefore persons whose scores fall above 44 may require more intensive attention from a mental health professional.
For example, a particular patient may score 55 on the HSCL, clearly higher than the cut score of 44. This would suggest that the patient may have an elevated level of distress and therefore be eligible for a psychological diagnosis of anxiety or depression. In such a case, assessment using a structured interview would be necessary to determine whether or not the person should be diagnosed with a particular disorder.
A major benefit of objective tests is their efficiency. Whereas an interview must usually be administered by a trained professional, an objective test does not need to be, and in many cases is self-administered by the respondent. This makes objective tests much more cost effective than interviews, especially when large numbers of people need to be assessed in a short time.
A large variety of tests are available for use in clinical, research, educational and vocational settings. The Mental Measurements Yearbook (Buros Institute of Mental Measurements, 2014), now in its 19th edition, is a catalogue of available tests and brief evaluations of their quality and usefulness. Each entry includes descriptive information about the test, reviews by professional reviewers and a list of references to literature that is pertinent to the test.
Tests that do not require an examiner for administration, and are therefore self-administered by the test-taker, are called self-report inventories.
There is considerable research data available for many objective tests. These data have been used to develop standardised rules to interpret test scores in relation to previously established criteria, such as group norms. An important benefit of objective tests is that they permit the comparison of people on various personality dimensions. Thus an objective test that has been standardised and normed may help an evaluator make statements about whether an individual has more or less of the characteristic in question. The use of cut scores is important here. The cut score on a scale is the point below which most people would score. If a person’s score falls above the established cut score, their performance would be interpreted as lying outside the normal range.
Projective personality assessment
Projective personality assessment techniques use stimuli that can be interpreted in different ways, and the patient is asked to offer any response that comes to mind. The assumption with projective techniques is that responses are likely to reflect aspects of the patient’s personality (their characteristics and needs, values and beliefs) that are usually concealed (Bain, Amod & Gericke, 2013). Psychologists who use projective assessment methods find them useful because it is difficult for patients to provide socially desirable responses. This is because the content of the test is ambiguous, and it is therefore less apparent what the psychologist wants to find out. The person might be shown a series of stimuli (e.g. abstract patterns or incomplete pictures) and asked to provide interpretations or responses to them. Responses to these stimuli are said to be projections of the person’s inner feelings, personal motives and conflicts. These are derived from prior life experiences that are considered to be unconscious and therefore unable to be assessed directly.
One famous projective instrument is the Rorschach test, which uses symmetrical inkblots as ambiguous stimuli to which the patient is asked to respond. These responses are then interpreted and statements are generated regarding the person’s underlying personality traits. There has been a great deal of debate over the use of the Rorschach. On one side, many clinicians find the test useful for clinical or forensic assessment (Weiner, 2004). On the other side, there are several theorists who argue that the reliability and validity of projective tests are much lower than objective tests (Bain et al., 2013; Lilienfeld, Wood & Garb, 2000). This is because there are no standardised norms. In addition, the interpretation may be influenced by context and by cross-cultural factors. As a result, these theorists believe the test should no longer be used or taught to trainees. However, they continue to be used in some clinical settings.
In the South African context, these tests should be applied with caution (Bain et al., 2013). In addition, from a social constructionist perspective, some argue that examiners need to know and understand ’the lived world of the examinee’ before assuming to interpret their test results (Bain et al., 2013, p. 349). Bain et al. (2013) add that it is important for examiners to be well trained in the projective technique; they should establish rapport and be cautious and thoughtful if interpreters need to be used.
Criticisms of personality assessment
Tests are dehumanising
Not all psychologists are in favour of personality assessment. Some consider personality tests to be dehumanising in that they force respondents to choose answers from a range of options that are imposed by the person who constructed the test. Thus the criticism is that tests try to pigeon-hole people into pre-existing categories.
Tests invade privacy
It is important to conduct an interview under conditions of confidentiality. Self-report measures are easier in that a secretary or assistant may administer these, a patient may complete them in a clinic’s waiting room if necessary, and usually no words are exchanged so that privacy becomes less of an issue. However, when a person responds to a test, that person’s privacy is always to some extent compromised.
Tests can be biased
Tests can be biased in many ways. For example, tests that require the ability to read are biased against non-literate persons. In societies in which the literacy level is low, it may not be appropriate to use paper-and-pencil personality tests. Instead, the interview-based method of assessment may be more appropriate. However, interviews are more resource intensive to administer than self-report measures, as they require the interviewer to be trained and a specific meeting time to be arranged. Interviews are also not necessarily free from bias.
Tests may be culturally inappropriate
Personality assessment may also be culturally inappropriate in some contexts. For example, in many highly industrialised societies, values such as individual independence and autonomy are highly regarded. However, in some less technologically developed countries, many people value interdependence and communalism as the bases for the functioning of their society. Thus a personality assessment procedure developed in an industrialised country may place a great emphasis on independence, and high scores on this measure may be regarded more positively than low scores. When administered in a culturally different context, respondents may score low on this measure and may be considered to have personality problems such as difficulty individuating or separating from their families of origin. The usefulness of various assessment procedures should be considered from the perspective of local traditions, customs, values and beliefs (see below for a more in-depth discussion of this critique).
•Objective personality assessment involves tests with highly structured and standardised questions, possible response options, scoring procedures and methods of interpretation. This makes their scoring and interpretation more reliable. They can be used with both normal and disordered patients.
•Projective personality assessment uses tests with ambiguous stimuli. The patient is asked to respond in any way that comes to mind. The assumption behind these tests is that patients will project their inner feelings, personal motives and conflicts. There are issues with the reliability and validity of projective tests.
•Personality assessments have been criticised from a number of perspectives. Some consider personality tests to be dehumanising in that they try to force people into pre-existing categories. They also involve some invasion of privacy. Tests and interviewers may also be biased in various ways. Lastly, personality assessment inevitably occurs within a cultural context; tests developed in that context may not be appropriate for people from a different culture.
The reliability and validity of psychological measurement instruments
It is important to consider the reliability and validity of any psychological measurement instrument (of which personality assessment instruments form but one category).
The accuracy and consistency of a measurement instrument (its ability to provide similar results over repeated administrations) is referred to as its reliability. A good example is a bathroom scale. You expect the scale to give a consistent measure each time you use it. Unfortunately, no psychological measurement scale is perfect, and scores on even the best-known scales are influenced by error to a greater or lesser degree. These shortcomings are summarised neatly in one of the most fundamental equations of classical psychometric theory:
observed score = true score + error score
This equation makes an important distinction between observed scores and true scores. The score a participant obtains on a measurement scale is his/her observed score. If one person is evaluated with the same scale on a number of different occasions, it can be expected that his/her scores will not be exactly the same every time. However, he/she should be similar. If it were possible to evaluate a person with the scale an infinite number of times, the mean (or average) of these scores would represent his/her true score. As it is impossible to test people an infinite number of times, the true score is thought of as a hypothetical score.
There are many reasons why respondents’ observed scores might differ from their true scores. These reasons are largely due to measurement error, represented by the error score in the equation above. The relative influence of error in a set of observed scores is determined by means of a reliability coefficient.
6.3CONTROVERSIES IN THE ASSESSMENT OF PERSONALITY
Can psychological experiences be measured in the same manner as physical objects? Many psychologists believe that if a psychological phenomenon exists, it also exists in some amount and thus one should be able to measure it. Therefore all personality attributes, if they exist at all, should be observable in some way and therefore measurable. Other psychologists dismiss this notion and are critical of the practice of reducing complex psychological experiences to a set of numbers. These psychologists feel that the quantification of personality results in a loss of meaning and may even dehumanise the person.
Using psychological tests for job applicants
Some companies administer a battery of psychological tests to job candidates and, on the basis of their performance on these, invite some of them to be interviewed for the job. Those candidates whose scores fall outside the desirable range will not be invited for an interview. Defenders of this practice say that interviewing is a resource-intensive and time-consuming task, and therefore employers want to be reasonably sure that interview candidates are within the acceptable range in terms of their personality attributes. Opponents of this practice feel that one can only really get to know someone in a face-to-face context, and that pre-testing with personality tests is reductionist and dehumanising. They feel that the human personality exists in relation to other people, and that the interaction between the interviewer and the candidate best represents how the candidate will perform in a work environment.
Making psychological tests for psychologists
In psychotherapy process research, the empathy of the therapist towards the client has been the focus of measurement. Many psychologists have criticised this effort, saying that empathy is an intangible phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a single number. Yet, it may be said that therapist A is consistently more empathetic than therapist B. This kind of statement automatically assumes some form of quantification, even if this is less precise than the measurement of length, weight or volume. Thus, those psychologists who are determined to measure as many constructs as possible, advocate the development of psychometric instruments that assess phenomena such as empathy, love and trust.
Making psychological tests for other qualities that are difficult to measure
The questions of how to measure compatibility between romantic partners, trust between co-workers, or the bond between a parent and a child seem to defy quantification. Some psychometricians view these situations as challenges for their field, while other psychologists think that it is futile to try and measure these kinds of concepts. What do you think?
There are four types of reliability: test-retest, parallel forms, split-half and internal consistency.
Test-retest reliability is the type of reliability that is related to the degree to which individuals’ scores remain constant over repeated administrations of a scale. As the name suggests, the same measurement scale is completed by the same group of people on more than one occasion. Usually, only two administrations are conducted, the second one between five and 10 days after the first. If people’s scores are very similar on both occasions, the measurement scale has high test-retest reliability, and the reliability coefficient will be close to +1 (the maximum). In this instance, measurement error has had little influence on the scores. If the measurement scale has low test-retest reliability, the reliability coefficient will be close to —1 (the minimum). Here, measurement error will have had a great deal of influence on the scores.
There are a number of problems with this method for testing the reliability of a scale. First, people may remember their previous answers and merely repeat them (known as reactivity). This will produce a high test-retest reliability that may have nothing to do with the consistency and thus the reliability of the scale. Second, people may have changed in the period between administrations (called maturation), and may provide different answers because of this change. This will produce a low test-retest reliability that may have nothing to do with the reliability of the scale.
Parallel forms reliability
Instead of administering the same measurement scale on one or more occasions, in this instance a researcher would administer, on one occasion only, two different scales that measure exactly the same thing. If scores on one form of the scale were very similar to the scores on the other form of the scale, the tests would have high parallel forms reliability, and a reliability coefficient close to +1. This method addresses the problem of reactivity found with test-retest methods as the items on the two forms are likely to be completely different despite the fact that they measure the same thing.
If all the items in a measurement scale measure exactly the same degree of the relevant characteristic, researchers can find the scale’s split-half reliability by splitting the scale in half and comparing the two halves. To do this, researchers typically divide the items of the scale randomly into two halves, and then calculate a reliability coefficient that compares the scores from the one half with scores from the other half.
A high split-half reliability coefficient (one that is close to +1) indicates that the two halves measure the same things. A low split-half reliability coefficient (one that is close to —1) indicates that the two halves probably measure different things.
This type of reliability overcomes the problems of reactivity and maturation. However, it is not without shortcomings. The reliability of a scale is often determined by the number of items it contains such that the reliability of a scale increases as more items are added to it. The split-half method effectively reduces the number of items in a scale by half, and the reliability may be reduced because of the smaller number of items, rather than an indication that the scale is unreliable. A statistical formula can be applied to correct this.
Internal consistency reliability
Internal consistency reliability is the most commonly reported measure of reliability. It is calculated by determining the degree to which the score on each single item in a measurement scale is related to every other one in the scale. Each item will then have a measure of its relation to all the other items in the scale. The average of these measures of relation is the reliability coefficient, which provides an indication of the degree to which the items in a scale are all related to the same construct. When the scores for the various items are closely related, the reliability will be high (close to +1). In the field of personality measurement, coefficients of 0.8 and higher are desirable. Questionnaire-type scales with a coefficient greater than 0.7 are considered reliable (internally consistent).
While reliability is an important characteristic of any psychological measuring instrument, it does not guarantee the validity of the scores obtained by that instrument. Validity is the extent to which the scale measures what it is supposed to measure (one would not use a personality test to measure intelligence, for example). In other words, if an individual has less of a characteristic than another person, a scale that measures that characteristic in a satisfactory manner will reflect this difference.
There are several types of validity, the main ones being content validity, criterion-related validity, construct validity, and convergent and divergent validity.
The content validity of a measurement scale refers to the degree to which it represents the domain of interest. How does one ensure content validity? First, the person constructing the scale should have a thorough theoretical knowledge of what is to be measured. Second, no important aspects of the domain of interest should be left out, and no aspects should be included that are not part of the domain of interest. The content validity of a measurement scale is satisfactory only if the chosen items adequately represent the domain of interest. Content validity cannot be expressed numerically and can only be judged by experts in the particular domain of interest.
Convergent and divergent validity
A measurement scale will have convergent validity if its scores are strongly related to the scores on another scale that measures the same behaviour or phenomenon. Similarly, a measurement scale will have divergent validity if its scores are not related to scores on another scale that measures a different behaviour or phenomenon.
The criterion-related validity of a measurement scale is assessed by comparing it to another measure that has already been shown to be valid. This other measure is called a criterion measure. The more closely the scores on the measure in question match the scores on the criterion measure, the better the criterion validity of the measure in question.
We can distinguish between two types of criterion-related validity. When the measure in question and the criterion measure are administered at the same time, concurrent validity of the measure in question will be assessed. When the criterion measure is administered some time after the measure in question, and the scores on the two measures match closely, we can say that the measure in question was able to predict the scores on the criterion measure. In this instance, the validity of the measure in question is called predictive validity.
The term ’construct validity’ refers to the degree to which a measurement scale succeeds in measuring what it intends to measure. To ensure construct validity, a researcher should first identify all other variables that have been shown (theoretically, empirically and logically) to be strongly related to the variable in question. They should then measure all the variables and determine the relationships between them. On the basis of the strength (or weakness) and number of these relationships, they will be able to demonstrate the construct validity of the variables measured by their measurement scale.
It is clear that construct validity employs some of the same methods that are used to obtain criterion-related validity. The difference is based on the reason for which the validity is sought. Criterion-related validity is mostly used to assess the practical utility of the measurement scale, whereas construct validity is used to assess the scientific utility of the scale.
However, contemporary psychometricians view all types of validity as different manifestations of construct validity. Hence, if a measurement scale predicts a criterion in a theoretically meaningful way, and the content validity of the scale is judged to be satisfactory, then this evidence also supports the construct validity of the scale.
Figure 6.3 Construct validity
•The reliability and validity of any psychological measurement instrument must be evaluated.
•Reliability refers to the consistency of measurements produced by the test; that means its ability to provide similar results over repeated administrations. No psychological scale is entirely reliable; the observed score is made up from a true score and an error score.
•There are four types of reliabilities: test-retest reliability, parallel forms reliability, split-half reliability, and internal consistency reliability.
•Validity refers to how well the scale measures what it is supposed to measure.
•The main types of validity are content validity, criterion-related validity, construct validity, and convergent and divergent validity.
The assessment of personality can take several forms, such as interviews, standardised psychometric tests and projective techniques. The interview is probably the most thorough method of personality assessment, in that it permits the interviewer to take time to get to know the person in a face-to-face encounter. An important limitation is that it is time consuming and interviewers need to be trained professionals. For this reason, self-report psychometric measures are often used for personality assessment. Two of the most popular instruments are the MMPI and the NEO-PI-R. When using a psychometric instrument to assess personality it is important that the measure has good reliability and validity, otherwise the assessment may yield inaccurate results. In most cases, projective methods of assessment have limited utility because of inadequate reliability and validity. Generally, persons who conduct personality assessments should be trained in personality theory, psychopathology, psychometric theory and statistics.
agreeableness: the dimension of personality that describes whether people are straightforward, compliant and sympathetic, or quarrelsome, oppositional and unfeeling
clinical interview: an interview between a psychologist and a patient where the psychologist evaluates the patient’s verbal and non-verbal behaviour in order to understand what might be done to help the patient
concurrent validity: a type of criterion-related validity where a criterion measure, and a measurement scale for which criterion-related validity is being sought, are administered at the same time
conscientiousness: the dimension of personality that describes whether people are achievement oriented and self-disciplined, or frivolous and irresponsible
construct validity: the validity of a research instrument that refers to the degree to which an instrument succeeds in measuring what it purports to measure, and is supported by examining the pertinent variables and the relationships between them
content validity: the validity of a research instrument that refers to the degree to which it represents the domain of interest
convergent validity: the validity of a research instrument that refers to how its scores are related to scores on another scale that measures the same behaviour or phenomenon
criterion groups: groups of people who have characteristics of special interest, such as a psychological diagnosis such as depression or schizophrenia
criterion measure: a measurement scale or instrument that has already been shown to be valid, against which another measurement scale’s criterion-related validity is assessed
criterion-related validity: the validity of a research instrument that refers to how it compares with another instrument that has already been shown to be valid
cut score: the point on a scale that indicates the highest point of the normal range
divergent validity: the validity of a research instrument that refers to how its scores are not in any way related to scores on another scale that measures a different behaviour or phenomenon
error score: the score on a measurement scale that represents the difference between a hypothetical true score and an observed score
extraversion: the dimension of personality that describes whether people are gregarious, warm and positive, or quiet, reserved and shy
Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25): a paper-and-pencil test that detects anxiety and depression
internal consistency reliability: the reliability of a research instrument that refers to the degree to which the items in a measurement scale are all related to the same construct
maturation: a problem that may occur when assessing the test-retest validity of a measurement scale where people may change in the period between the first and second administrations of a measurement scale causing their answers to differ greatly from one administration to the other
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI): a widely used paper-and-pencil personality test that has 566 statements that respondents have to endorse as ’true’ or ’false’ or ’undecided’
neuroticism: the dimension of personality that describes whether people are anxious and depressed, or calm, contented and self-assured
Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory Revised (NEO-PI-R): an inventory used to assess personality characteristics in adult normal populations, and which is based on the assumption that there are five basic dimensions underlying commonly described personality traits
objective personality assessment instruments: psychological tests that consist of highly structured and standardised questions, possible response options, scoring procedures and methods of interpretation
observed score: the score a participant obtains on a measurement scale
openness to experience: the dimension of personality that describes whether people are creative, open-minded and intellectual, or unimaginative, disinterested and narrow-minded
parallel forms reliability: the reliability of two research instruments that refer to each one’s ability to reflect the results of the other one, which also tests for the same phenomenon or behaviour
predictive validity: a type of criterion-related validity where a measurement scale for which criterion-related validity is being sought, is administered some time after a criterion measure
projective personality assessment techniques: assessment techniques where the patient is asked to respond to ambiguous stimuli
psychometricians: psychologists who have undergone additional training in the design, administration and interpretation of measurement scales
reactivity: a problem that may occur when assessing the test-retest validity of a measurement scale where people may remember their answers on the first administration of the measurement scale, and merely repeat them on the second administration of the scale causing their answers to be almost identical on both administrations
reliability: the accuracy and consistency of a measurement instrument (its ability to produce similar results over repeated administrations)
Rorschach test: a projective assessment technique that uses symmetrical inkblots as ambiguous stimuli to which the patient is asked to respond, thus generating statements that can be interpreted to discern the patient’s underlying personality traits
semi-structured interview: an interview in which some questions are asked to provide structure to the interview, which may help guide the patient’s responses
split-half reliability: the reliability of a research instrument that refers to whether its randomly divided items are found to be related to each other
structured interview: an interview in which questions are asked that will elicit responses that can fit into pre-determined categories
test-retest reliability: the reliability of a research instrument that refers to whether the same test produces similar results when completed by the same respondents on two separate occasions
true score: the hypothetical score that would be the average of the infinite number of scores a person received after doing a particular personality test an infinite number of times
unstructured interview: an interview in which any issue that comes up is pursued in conversation
validity: the extent to which a measurement instrument actually measures what it is meant to measure
Multiple choice questions
1.Which of the following is incorrect?
a)A clinical interview is a popular way of assessing personality.
b)A projective test is a popular way of assessing personality.
c)An objective test is a popular way of assessing personality.
d)Free association is a popular way of assessing personality.
2.One famous projective test is the:
a)Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
b)NEO Personality Inventory
c)Hopkins Symptom Checklist
d)Rorschach inkblot test.
3.Which objective test of personality is based on the assumption that there are five basic dimensions underlying the traits that people use to describe themselves and others?
a)the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
b)the Minnesota Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory
c)the Neurotic Personality Inventory
d)the Neurotic-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory.
4.Which of the following describes why some psychologists are not in favour of personality assessment?
a)Personality tests are dehumanising.
b)Personality tests are biased against people who cannot read, or have difficulty reading.
c)Personality assessment may be culturally inappropriate in some contexts.
d)All of the above are correct.
5.Which of the following is not a form of reliability?
b)equivalent forms reliability
6.The extent of correspondence between what a test measures and what it is supposed to measure is called:
d)the correlation coefficient.
7.A type of criterion-related validity where a criterion measure and a measurement scale for which criterion-related validity is being sought are administered at the same time is called:
d)internal consistency validity.
8.The most fundamental equation of classical psychometric theory states that:
a)observed score = true score + error score
b)observed score — error score = true score
c)true score = observed score — error score
d)true score — error score = observed score.
9.The reliability of a measurement scale refers to:
a)the accuracy and consistency of the measurement instrument
b)the correspondence between what the scale measures and what it is supposed to measure
c)its ability to produce similar results over repeated administrations
d)both a and c are correct.
10.Although construct validity employs some of the same methods that are used to obtain criterion-related validity, what is the basic difference between the two?
a)Construct validity is mostly used to assess the practical utility of the measurement scale, whereas criterion-related validity is mostly used to assess the scientific utility of the scale.
b)Criterion-related validity is mostly used to assess the accuracy of the measurement scale, whereas construct validity is mostly used to assess the practical utility of the measurement scale.
c)Criterion-related validity is mostly used to assess the practical utility of the measurement scale, whereas construct validity is used to assess the scientific utility of the scale.
d)Construct validity is mostly used to assess the accuracy of the measurement scale, whereas criterion-related validity is mostly used to assess the scientific utility of the scale.
1.Differentiate between the three most popular methods of personality assessment.
2.Name and describe two examples of objective personality assessment.
3.Briefly describe any three types of reliability.
4.Briefly describe any three types of validity.
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