A college counselor at a large university uses computer-administered personality test(s) as a primary source in helping students select careers suited to their personality. Although the counselor uses the assessment(s) with all students seeking counseling, they do not include qualitative interviews as part of the evaluation. My immediate reaction is to question if one or multiple tests are used as both terms are used to present the scenario. While both can be used interchangeably in some circumstances, a psychological assessment refers to the process of using more than one test to make a decision (Urbina, 2014).
A major concern in the scenario provided is one applicable to all psychological testing; in what environment was the test administered? The physical testing environment is a contributing factor in psychological testing (Urbina, 2014). Additionally, if the computer-administered personality test(s) are the primary source of information as described, what are the additional methods used? Why does the counselor not use a qualitative interview as part of the evaluation? Are the tests extensive enough to understand “the nature of why personality measures correlate with real-world outcomes” (Kumar, 2016, p. 19)?
Factors that Impact Performance on Object Tests
Accepted theory (O’Neill et al., 2013) supports using standardized personality tests in making hiring and other employment decisions. However, a study by Elliot and Grieve (2013) showed that participants believed they were more than capable of manipulating the results of a computer-administered psychological test. O’Neill and team (2013) found that “evidence suggests that job applicants often ‘fake’ on pre-employment personality tests by attempting to portray an exceedingly desirable impression” (p. 162). Therefore, the test taker’s truthfulness factors into performance on objective psychological testing. An integrity test is “highly reliable” (p.
167) method of predicting potential deception (O’Neill et al., 2013) when used in conjunction with personality testing. Additionally, an integrity test could bolster results that are considered effective “criterion-focused occupational personality scales” (Kumar, 2016, p. 61).
Self-efficacy is the “sole significant predictor of decisional anxiety” (p. 190) and, as such, plays a noteworthy role in test performance (Lent et al., 2019). In some people, a lack of self-efficacy and decisional anxiety manifests as extreme test anxiety. Objective personality tests, by design, force participants to choose between limited options provided, which can “become[s] debilitating or even incapacitating” (Groth-Marnat & Wright, 2016), to an individual who lacks self-efficacy. Students knowledgeable in applicable practices are more confident and exhibit less decisional anxiety (Lent et al., 2016). Therefore, it is paramount that the counselor be able to explain the assessment and answer any questions before a test is started.
Whereas self-efficacy is an individual’s confidence to do well, conscientiousness is an individual’s desire to do well. Conscientiousness is the “single best, generalizable Big Five factor on job performance” (Ones et al., 2007, p. 1002), which in turn places it high on the list of factors that impact test performance. Though performance is based on more than they want to do well, those who practice “non-negative” thinking generally experience more favorable outcomes (Ones et al., 2007). The counselor will likely not be able to effectively mitigate the impact of a student’s self-efficacy or lack thereof.
Reliability and Validity Concerns
Integrity in testing, which factors into individual performance, creates a reliability and validity concern. Long-term deceit in testing can change expected norms (Urbina, 2014).
Integrity tests effectively detect deception and predict disruptive behavior (Kumar, 2016). By adding an integrity test to their battery, the counselor will likely be able to protect the overall reliability of the assessment.
In The Wiley Handbook of Personality Assessment, Kumar (2016) notes that personality tests are designed to “provide descriptive measures of underlying contracts that account for systematic differences” (p. 19). However, these tests cannot account for all individual differences. While Ones et al. (2007) concluded that “the accumulated evidence supports the use of self-report personality scales in organizational decision-making” (p. 1010), typical personality tests may be insufficient for some individuals. Statistically, the computer-administered personality test used by the counselor will be invalid for some students. To compensate for these individuals, multiple tests should be administered and evaluated.
Potential bias in testing presents a validity concern. Standard testing “may be biased towards or alternatively not accommodate different ethnic or cultural respondents” (Montalto, 2014, p. 129). Therefore, results from electronic testing are often significantly less accurate for ethnic groups (Montalto, 2014). To remedy this issue, the college counselor needs to be aware of what potential biases exist in the testing methods chosen.
Potential bias is also an ethical issue. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2017) Rule 3.01 on Unfair Discrimination provides that psychologists should not be prejudiced by a patient’s race, religion, age, or gender. This is further expanded on in Rule 9.06 (APA,2017), where psychologists are warned against biases in interpreting assessment results. Again, to correct this, the counselor must make themselves aware of what biases may exist in the chosen testing methods.
Another concern is psychologist knowledge of general testing practices. Whether purposely or due to incompetence, some psychologists work under the assumption that they do not need specialized training for electronic testing (Montalto, 2014). This is in direct violation of Rule 2.01(a) regarding practicing “within the bounds of [their] competence” (APA, 2017). Further, Rule 2.01(b) directs that psychologists maintain competency through “training, experience, consultation, or supervision” (APA, 2017). Although some states may have continuing education requirements, it is ultimately the responsibility of the psychologist to maintain competency to practice. As such, the college counselor should seek out the necessary training to fully understand the selected tests prior to administering them.
Specific to computer-based testing is the ethical concern of informed consent and data collection. Psychologists have “increasingly came to recognize that test takes…need to be informed of their rights and responsibilities in the testing process” (Urbina, 2014, p. 282). Rule
9.03 instructs psychologists to obtain informed consent (except when testing is required by law or consent is implied) prior to administering testing, while Rule 9.04 warns against the unauthorized release of information (APA, 2017). Montalto (2014) poignantly noted:
When considering the potential pitfalls and ethical concerns regarding the use of online testing, three parties need to be considered: the psychologist, the client, and the ether in the middle, which is the unknown processes and people providing the medium and service that is being used. (p. 128).
The counselor should be fully knowledgeable about “the ether,” including who owns the test, how it was developed, and what protections exist for the student. That is to say that for a student to consent to the test, the counselor must make them aware of whether their right to confidentiality is compromised when using electronic testing.
College counselor uses personality testing as their primary source of information when advising students on potential careers. These tests can be an incredibly effective tool in identifying potential careers. However, formalized testing is only one piece of a “well-planned decision-making strategy” (Urbina, 2014, p. 23) since they only evaluate the targeted traits (O’Neill et al., 2013). While qualitative interviews alone are not reliable, researchers suggest using self-reporting measures and observer ratings to “produce[s] validities that are comparable to the most valid selection measures” (Ones et al., 2007, p. 1020). Students would likely benefit from a clinical interview that reached past the traits measured in a computer-based personality test. The college counselor should seek out the required training to implement qualitative reviews with students since it is the only way “to know the nature of why personality measures correlate with real-world outcomes” (Kumar, 2016, p. 19).
American Psychological Association. (2017, January 1). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, Section 9. Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/
Elliott, J. & Grieve, R. (2013). Cyberfaking: I can, so I will? Intentions to fake in online psychological testing. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 16(5), 364– 369. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0271
Groth-Marnat, G., & Wright, A. J. (2016). Handbook of psychological assessment. Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Kumar, U. (2016). The Wiley Handbook of Personality Assessment. Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Lent, R., Morris, T., Penn, L., & Ireland, G. (2019). Social-cognitive predictors of career exploration and decision-making: Longitudinal test of the career self-management model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66(2), 184–194. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000307
Montalto, M. (2014). The Ethical Implications of Using Technology in Psychological Testing and Treatment. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 16(2), 127–136. https://doi.org/10.1891/1559-43126.96.36.199
O’Neill, T., Lee, N., Radan, J., Law, S., Lewis, R., & Carswell, J. (2013). The impact of “non- targeted traits” on personality test faking, hiring, and workplace deviance. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(2), 162–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2013.02.027
Ones, D. S., Dilchert, S., Viswesvaran, C., & Judge, T. A. (2007). In Support of Personality Assessment in Organizational Settings. Personnel Psychology, 60(4), 995-1027.
Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/docview/220138210?accountid=8289
Urbina, S. (2014). Essentials of Psychological Testing. Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
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In this case study, you will analyze a testing scenario using your knowledge of testing and ethics.
Part A: Review the Case
A college counselor for a large university helps students select careers matched to their personalities. She uses computer-administered personality tests as the primary source of information. The counselor uses the assessment with all students who seek counseling. Qualitative interviews are not part of the assessment process.
Part B: Case Analysis
1. Describe your immediate reaction to the scenario. What are the details you immediately noticed? What questions did the scenario raise about testing?
2. Identify and explain 3 factors that impact performance on objective tests.
3. Identify and discuss 3 reliability and validity concerns with the scenario.
4. Identify and explain at least 3 ethical concerns as per the APA Ethical Codes and how you would resolve the concerns.
Integrate 5 academic sources on psychological assessment to support your position.
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