Friday, May 9, 2014

Introduction to Psychological Testing

Tests are an important component of psychology and psychological tests provide psychologist with critical information in regard to the thoughts, personality, and behavior of humans. There are several major categories of tests, with several major uses and users of tests. Tests used in and for psychological purposes have to be reliable and valid; therefore, reliability and validity are also important concepts of psychology that affect psychological testing.
Defining the Term Test
          Test is an Old French word originally used in English in 1368 as a means of referring to a cup purposed to smelt silver or gold ore (Hogan, 2007). However, this is an inaccurate definition in terms of psychology. Today, several definitions of what a test is exist. However, to have a precise definition of the term, that definition must include six elements. These six elements are process or device, yields information, behavior or cognitive processes, sample of, standardized, and quantified (Hogan, 2007). Including these six elements to form a definition of the term “test” can explain what it is exactly, what information it provides, and how it provides that information. Hogan (2007), “a test is a standardized process or device that yields information about a sample of behavior or cognitive processes in a quantified manner” (p. 41).
Major Categories of Tests
          The major categories of tests consist of five categories that are neuropsychological, interests, personality, achievement, and mental ability tests (Hogan, 2007). As for neuropsychological tests, these tests are a means of providing information concerning the function of the central nervous system, specifically the functions of the human brain (Hogan, 2007). As for interest tests, these tests are a means of measuring the attitudes and interests of humans. As for personality tests, these types of tests provide information about the personalities of humans. As for achievement tests, these tests are a means of assessing an individual’s skills or knowledge in a specific area. As for mental ability tests, that is, in relation to psychological testing these tests are a means of testing varies cognitive functions that include creative thinking, spatial visualization, and memory (Hogan, 2007). These five major categories have deferring purposes and separately test for specific information in regard to humans.  
Major Uses and Users of Tests
          The major uses of tests are for clinical, educational, personnel, and research purposes. In regard to clinical purposes which include the fields of neuropsychology, school psychology, counseling, and clinical psychology, psychologists try helping individuals who are having certain types of problems (Hogan, 2007). As for educational purposes, users such as parents, educational administrators, and teachers use tests to determine the level at which students are learning. Also, they use tests predicting how successful an individual will be academically. In regard to personnel purposes, individuals such as military personal and business professionals use tests for selecting qualified individuals for varying employment opportunities based on skill levels. Also, these individuals use tests for assigning employees for a specific task.
          As for research purposes, researchers use tests to conduct research in psychology, other sciences, and in education to determine the dependent variable in research studies (Hogan, 2007). Also, for describing samples in research studies, and for researching tests to develop new tests.
Comparing and Contrasting Reliability and Validity
          Reliability and validity are two significant concepts regarding tests and psychological testing. It is critical that tests have reliability and validity. The concern of validity is what tests measure; whereas, the concern of reliability is a measure of consistency (Hogan, 2007). Validity refers to if tests measure what they claim to measure or do not and if one can interpret test scores in a meaningful way for a certain purpose (Hogan, 2007). When tests do not measure what they claim and their scores do not serve a meaningful purpose than those tests do not possess validity. Reliability refers to how consistent a measurement is. Tests are reliable if achieving the same results occurs after retesting or repeated testing. Tests can be reliable but may not be valid and are only valid when reliable.
          Reliability and validity affect psychological testing because such tests have to be reliable and valid in order for a psychologist to measure a particular trait; although, a psychologist may receive constant results from tests when they are not both reliable and valid. However, tests cannot measure for a particular personality trait that they supposed to measure.
          Tests or testing is critical in psychology. Tests are a means of obtaining, providing and gathering significant information, especially in regard to human thoughts, personality, and behavior. The major categories of tests provide important information for major users of such tests in regard to the fields that use tests. Reliability and validity are critical measures for tests and for psychological testing in regard to gathering reliable and valid measures. 
Hogan, T. P. (2007). Psychological testing: A practical introduction (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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