Rise & Fall of Psychological Testing Essay Sample

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Trace the rise and fall of Psychological testing in the last century. Make note of significant historical events that played part in the development of testing as a major field.

1) It all began with the need to help intellectually challenged individuals. Alfred Binet and T.Simon came up with the first general intelligence test ‘the 1905 Binet-Simon Scale’ introducing norms- by standardizing administrative conditions, and using a sample representative of the target population- to compare future scores. Along with the revisions- of a larger standardized sample and more items to increase its validity- that followed, was the norm of ‘mental age.’ It allowed one to compare a child’s intelligence score relative to others’ of the same age. Terman of Stanford University then made the revision that presented it to the United States.

2) In WWI the need to screen the intellectual ability of large groups of recruits led to Army Alpha, and Army Beta (alpha did the literate, Beta the illiterate)

3) Group tests led to standardized achievement tests for schools. In comparison to the essay versions, the standardized structure of multiple choice questions, ease of administration under identical conditions and objectivity scoring made it more popular in terms of reliability and validity. In 1923 the structured group tests evolved into the Stanford Achievement Test (by L. M. Terman and others)

4) Despite their superior standards however, the group tests underwent heavy criticism on their validity, which led to more revisions that culminated in the 1939 Wechsler-Bellevue Test. It contained various scales to analyze an individuals abilities. Among them was the performance test, which prompted the Binet test to be revised again and include subtests.

5) Around that time of WWI (1920’s- 1940’s) when personality tests were coming out the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet came to be the first structured one to simplify the interview screening of military recruits. However, problems with accepting the Woodworth test (and the others spurred by the Woodworth) at face value led to their decline in the late 1930’s-to early 1940’s.

6) In the meantime, Projective Personality Tests slowly gained momentum when the student Sam Beck, scientifically investigated his professor David Levey’s Rorschach Inkblot. Still the Inkblot test’s ambiguity and scoring subjectivity prompted the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), a projective test with some structure (to measure human needs, ie. individual differences in motivation). Still, ambiguity led to superior acceptance of the structured Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). A test that revolutionized and consecrated the notion of empirical methods as the way to validity, in Personality testing.

7) In the1940’s with the MMPI came the statistical process of factor analysis to reduce redundancy in personality descriptions and group them under the measurement of one dimension. This technique led to Catell’s Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 PF) and marked the historical point for its usage in validating future designs of personality tests from then on.

8) The full picture of: standardization, techniques, and applications to multiple branches came together in 1949 when federal funding helped in the development of training standards for University students in psychological testing and the American Psychological Association (APA), which affirmed their place in a clinical setting.

9) However, the excitement of Post WWII clinical psychologists felt a backlash with the potential side effects of misuse and intrusiveness of these tests. The clinical psychologists themselves- feeling secondary to Psychotherapy doctors- were further motivated to disassociate themselves to the field of testing, leading to another decline in late 1950’s that lasted until the 1970’s. (10) However, the heavy usage of psychological testing by new branches in applied psychology like Forensics, revived testing. Currently, testing is seen as a necessity to understand the measurements that studies provide in the decision-making process: from making parental decisions -to Attorneys learning the effects of cultural differences on verdicts.

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