Psychological Testing

Psychological Testing, measurement of some aspect of human behavior by procedures consisting of carefully prescribed content, methods of administration, and interpretation. Test content may be addressed to almost any aspect of intellectual or emotional functioning, including personality traits, attitudes, intelligence, or emotional concerns. Tests usually are administered by a qualified clinical, school, or industrial psychologist, according to professional and ethical principles. Interpretation is based on a comparison of the individual`s responses with those previously obtained to establish appropriate standards for the test scores. The usefulness of psychological tests depends on their accuracy in predicting behavior. By providing information about the probability of a person`s responses or performance, tests aid in making a variety of decisions.

History of Testing

The primary impetus for the development

The primary impetus for the development of the major tests used today was the need for practical guidelines for solving social problems. The first useful intelligence test was prepared in 1905 by the French psychologists Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. The two developed a 30-item scale to ensure that no child could be denied instruction in the Paris school system without formal examination. In 1916 the American psychologist Lewis Terman produced the first Stanford Revision of the Binet-Simon scale to provide comparison standards for Americans from age three to adulthood. The test was further revised in 1937 and 1960, and today the Stanford-Binet remains one of the most widely used intelligence tests.

The need to classify soldiers during World

The need to classify soldiers during World War I resulted in the development of two group intelligence testsArmy Alpha and Army Beta. To help detect soldiers who might break down in combat, the American psychologist Robert Woodworth designed the Personal Data Sheet, a forerunner of the modern personality inventory.

During the 1930s controversies over the

During the 1930s controversies over the nature of intelligence led to the development of the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale, which not only provided an index of general mental ability but also revealed patterns of intellectual strengths and weaknesses. The Wechsler tests now extend from the preschool through the adult age range and are at least as prominent as the Stanford-Binet.

As interest in the newly emerging field

As interest in the newly emerging field of psychoanalysis grew in the 1930s, two important projective techniques introduced systematic ways to study unconscious motivation: the Rorschach or inkblot testdeveloped by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschachusing a series of inkblots on cards, and a story-telling procedure called the Thematic Apperception Testdeveloped by the American psychologists Henry A. Murray and C. D. Morgan. Both of these tests are frequently included in contemporary personality assessment.

During World War II the need for improved

During World War II the need for improved methods of personnel selection led to the expansion of large-scale programs involving multiple methods of personality assessment. Following the war, training programs in clinical psychology were systematically supported by U.S. government funding, to ensure availability of mental-health services to returning war veterans. As part of these services, psychological testing flourished, reaching an estimated several million Americans each year. Since the late 1960s increased awareness and criticism from both the public and professional sectors have led to greater efforts to establish legal controls and more explicit safeguards against misuse of testing materials.

Uses of Tests

In educational settings

In educational settings, intelligence and achievement tests are administered routinely to assess individual accomplishment and to improve instruction and curriculum planning. Elementary schools use kindergarten and first-grade screening procedures to determine readiness for reading and writing programs. Screening tests also identify developmental, visual, and auditory problems for which the child may need special assistance. If the child`s progress in school is unusually slow, or if he or she shows signs of a learning disability or behavior disorder, testing may clarify whether the difficulty is neurologically or emotionally based. Many high schools administer interest inventories and aptitude tests to assist in the students` educational or vocational planning.

In clinics or hospitals

In clinics or hospitals, psychological tests may be administered for purposes of diagnosis and treatment planning. Clinical tests can provide information about overall personality functioning and the need for psychotherapy; testing also may focus on some specific question, such as the presence or absence of organically based brain disorder. Clinical testing usually involves a battery of tests, interpreted as a whole, to describe intellectual and emotional states. Decisions about treatment do not depend exclusively on psychological test results but are based on the judgment of relevant staff members with whom the psychologist collaborates.

Tests are also used in industrial and organizational

Tests are also used in industrial and organizational settings, primarily for selection and classification. Selection procedures provide guidelines for accepting or rejecting candidates for jobs. Classification procedures, which are more complex, aim to specify the types of positions for which an individual seems best suited. Intelligence testing is usually supplemented by methods devised expressly to meet the needs of the organization.

Types of Tests


Currently, a wide range of testing procedures is used in the U.S. and elsewhere. Each type of procedure is designed to carry out specific functions.

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