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Psychological Tests

Psychological tests

Definition

Psychological tests are written, visual, or verbal evaluations administered to assess the cognitive and emotional functioning of children and adults.

Purpose

Psychological tests are used to assess a variety of mental abilities and attributes, including achievement and ability, personality, and neurological functioning.

For children, academic achievement, ability, and intelligence tests may be used as tools in school placement, in determining the presence of a learning disability or a developmental delay , in identifying giftedness, or in tracking intellectual development. Intelligence testing may also be used with teens and young adults to determine vocational ability (e.g., in career counseling).

Personality tests are administered for a wide variety of reasons, from diagnosing psychopathology (e.g., personality disorder, depressive disorder) to screening job candidates. They may be used in an educational setting to determine personality strengths and weaknesses.

Description

Psychological tests are formalized measures of mental functioning. Most are objective and quantifiable; however, certain projective tests may involve some level of subjective interpretation. Also known as inventories, measurements, questionnaires, and scales, psychological tests are administered in a variety of settings, including preschools, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, outpatient healthcare settings, and social agencies. They come in a variety of formats, including written, verbal, and computer administered.

Achievement and ability tests

Achievement and ability tests are designed to measure the level of a child's intellectual functioning and cognitive ability. Most achievement and ability tests are standardized, meaning that norms were established during the design phase of the test by administering the test to a large representative sample of the test population. Achievement and ability tests follow a uniform testing protocol, or procedure (i.e., test instructions, test conditions, and scoring procedures) and their scores can be interpreted in relation to established norms. Common achievement and ability tests include the Wechsler intelligence scale for children (WISC-III) and the Stanford-Binet intelligence scales .

Personality tests

Personality tests and inventories evaluate the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behavioral traits that comprise personality. The results of these tests can help determine a child's personality strengths and weaknesses, and may identify certain disturbances in personality, or psychopathology. Tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory for Adolescents (MMPI-A) and the Millon Pre-Adolescent Clinical Inventory III (M-PACI), are used to screen children for specific psychopathologies or emotional problems.

Another type of personality test is the projective personality assessment . A projective test asks a child to interpret some ambiguous stimuli, such as a series of inkblots. The child's responses provide insight into his or her thought processes and personality traits. For example, the Holtzman Ink blot Test (HIT) uses a series of inkblots that the test subject is asked to identify. Another projective assessment, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), asks the child to tell a story about a series of pictures. Some consider projective tests to be less reliable than objective personality tests. If the examiner is not well-trained in psychometric evaluation, subjective interpretations may affect the evaluation of these tests.

Neuropsychological tests

Children and adolescents who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, brain damage, or other organic neurological problems, are administered neuropsychological tests to assess their level of functioning and identify areas of mental impairment. Neuropsychological tests may also be used to evaluate the progress of a patient who has undergone treatment or rehabilitation for a neurological injury or illness. In addition, certain neuropsychological measures may be used to screen children for developmental delays and/or learning disabilities.

Precautions

Psychological testing requires a clinically trained examiner. All psychological tests should be administered, scored, and interpreted by a trained professional, preferably a psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in the appropriate area.

Psychological tests are only one element of a psychological assessment. They should never be used as the sole basis for a diagnosis. A detailed clinical and personal history of the child and a review of psychological, medical, educational, or other relevant records are required to lay the groundwork for interpreting the results of any psychological measurement.

Cultural and language differences among children may affect test performance and may result in inaccurate test results. The test administrator should be informed before psychological testing begins if the test taker is not fluent in English and/or belongs to a minority culture. In addition, the child's level of motivation may also affect test results.

Preparation

Prior to the administration of any psychological test, the administrator should provide the child and the child's parent with information on the nature of the test and its intended use, complete standardized instructions for taking the test (including any time limits and penalties for incorrect responses), and information on the confidentiality of the results. After these disclosures are made, informed consent should be obtained from the child (as appropriate) and the child's parent before testing begins.

Normal results

All psychological and neuropsychological assessments should be administered, scored, and interpreted by a trained professional. When interpreting test results, the test administrator will review with parents what the test evaluates, its precision in evaluation, any margins of error involved in scoring, and what the individual scores mean in the context of overall test norms and the specific background of the individual child.

Risks

There are no significant risks involved in psychological testing.

Parental concerns

Test anxiety can have an impact on a child's performance, so parents should not place undue emphasis on the importance of any psychological testing. They should speak with their child before any scheduled tests and reassure them that their best effort is all that is required. Parents can also ensure that their children are well-rested on the testing day and have a nutritious meal beforehand.

KEY TERMS

Norms A fixed or ideal standard; a normative or mean score for a particular age group.

Psychopathology The study of mental disorders or illnesses, such as schizophrenia, personality disorder, or major depressive disorder.

Quantifiable A result or measurement that can be expressed as a number. The results of quantifiable psychological tests can be translated into numerical values, or scores.

Representative sample A random sample of people that adequately represents the test-taking population in age, gender, race, and socioeconomic standing.

Standardization The process of determining established norms and procedures for a test to act as a standard reference point for future test results.

Resources

BOOKS

The American Psychological Association. Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Washington, DC: APA Press, 1999.

Braaten, Ellen and Gretchen Felopulos. Straight Talk About Psychological Testing for Kids. New York: Guilford Press, 2003.

The Buros Institute of Mental Measurements at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Fifteenth Mental Measurements Yearbook ed. Barbara S. Plake and James C. Impara. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Psychological Association. Testing and Assessment Office of the Science Directorate. 750 First St., N.E., Washington, D.C. 200024242. (202)3366000. Web site: <www.apa.org/science/testing.html>.

National Association of School Psychologists. 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301) 6570270.

WEB SITES

Buros Institute Test Reviews Online. <www.buros.unl.edu/buros/jsp/search.jsp> (accessed September 1, 2004).

Paula Ford-Martin

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"Psychological Tests." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Psychological Tests." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/psychological-tests

"Psychological Tests." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/psychological-tests

Psychological Tests

Psychological Tests

Definition

Psychological tests are written, visual, or verbal evaluations administered to assess the cognitive and emotional functioning of children and adults.

Purpose

Psychological tests are used to assess a variety of mental abilities and attributes, including achievement and ability, personality, and neurological functioning.

Achievement and ability tests

For children, academic achievement, ability, and intelligence tests may be used as a tool in school placement, in determining the presence of a learning disability or a developmental delay, in identifying giftedness, or in tracking intellectual development. Intelligence testing may be used with adults to determine vocational ability (e.g., in career counseling) or to assess adult intellectual ability in the classroom.

Personality tests

Personality tests are administered for a wide variety of reasons, from diagnosing psychopathology (e.g., personality disorder, depressive disorder) to screening job candidates. They may be used in an educational or vocational setting to determine personality strengths and weaknesses, or in the legal system to evaluate parolees.

Neuropsychological tests

Patients who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, brain damage, or organic neurological problems (for example, dementia ) are administered neuropsychological tests to assess their level of functioning and identify areas of mental impairment. They may also be used to evaluate the progress of a patient who has undergone treatment or rehabilitation for a neurological injury or illness. In addition, certain neuropsychological measures may be used to screen children for developmental delays and/or learning disabilities.

Precautions

Psychological testing requires a clinically trained examiner. All psychological tests should be administered, scored, and interpreted by a trained professional, preferably a psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in the appropriate area.

Psychological tests are only one element of a psychological assessment. They should never be used alone as the sole basis for a diagnosis. A detailed history of the test subject and a review of psychological, medical, educational, or other relevant records are required to lay the groundwork for interpreting the results of any psychological measurement.

Cultural and language differences in the test subject may affect test performance and may result in inaccurate test results. The test administrator should be informed before psychological testing begins if the test taker is not fluent in English and/or belongs to a minority culture. In addition, the subject's motivation and motives may also affect test results.

Description

Psychological tests are formalized measures of mental functioning. Most are objective and quantifiable; however, certain projective tests may involve some level of subjective interpretation. Also known as inventories, measurements, questionnaires, and scales, psychological tests are administered in a variety of settings, including preschools, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, outpatient healthcare settings, social agencies, prisons, and employment or human resource offices. They come in a variety of formats, including written, verbal, and computer administered.

Achievement and ability tests

Achievement and ability tests are designed to measure the level of an individual's intellectual functioning and cognitive ability. Most achievement and ability tests are standardized, meaning that norms were established during the design phase of the test by administering the test to a large representative sample of the test population. Achievement and ability tests follow a uniform testing protocol, or procedure (i.e., test instructions, test conditions, and scoring procedures) and their scores can be interpreted in relation to established norms. Common achievement and ability tests include the Wechsler intelligence test (WISC-III and WAIS) and the Stanford-Binet intelligence scales.

Personality tests

Personality tests and inventories evaluate the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behavioral traits that comprise personality. The results of these tests determine an individual's personality strengths and weaknesses, and may identify certain disturbances in personality, or psychopathology. Tests such as the Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory MMPI-2 ) and the Millon clinical multiaxial Inventory III (MMPI-III), are used to screen individuals for specific psychopathologies or emotional problems.

Another type of personality test is the projective personality assessment. A projective test asks a subject to interpret some ambiguous stimuli, such as a series of inkblots. The subject's responses provide insight into his or her thought processes and personality traits. For example, the Rorschach inkblot test and the Holtzman ink blot test (HIT) use a series of inkblots that the test subject is asked to identify. Another projective assessment, the Thematic apperception test (TAT), asks the subject to tell a story about a series of pictures. Some consider projective tests to be less reliable than objective personality tests. If the examiner is not well-trained in psychometric evaluation, subjective interpretations may affect the evaluation of these tests.

Neuropsychological tests

Many insurance plans cover all or a portion of diagnostic neuropsychological or psychological testing. As of 1997, Medicare reimbursed for psychological and neuropsychological testing. Billing time typically includes test administration, scoring and interpretation, and reporting.

Preparation

Prior to the administration of any psychological test, the administrator should provide the test subject with information on the nature of the test and its intended use, complete standardized instructions for taking the test (including any time limits and penalties for incorrect responses), and information on the confidentiality of the results. After these disclosures are made, informed consent should be obtained from the test subject before testing begins (except in cases of legally mandated testing, where consent is not required of the subject).

Normal results

All psychological and neuropsychological assessments should be administered, scored, and interpreted by a trained professional. When interpreting test results for test subjects, the test administrator will review with subjects: what the test evaluates, its precision in evaluation, any margins of error involved in scoring, and what the individual scores mean in the context of overall test norms and the background of the test subject.

Resources

ORGANIZATIONS

American Psychological Association (APA). 750 First St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. (202) 336-5700. ttp://www.apa.org.

KEY TERMS

Norms A fixed or ideal standard; normative or mean score for a particular age group.

Psychopathology A mental disorder or illness, such as schizophrenia, personality disorder, or major depressive disorder.

Quantifiable Can be expressed as a number. The results of quantifiable psychological tests can be translated into numerical values, or scores.

Representative sample A random sample of people that adequately represent the test taking population in age, gender, race, and socioeconomic standing.

Standardization The process of determining established norms and procedures for a test to act as a standard reference point for future test results.

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Psychological Tests

PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS

Psychological tests are those that are designed to reveal individual modes of psychological functioning. Some of these are subject to strict codification and numerical evaluation that afford an assessment of individual performance in relation to a standard. Others use more flexible techniques and do not have recourse to quantification: the expression "projective personality assessment" is often then used rather than "test." This expression is applied to so-called expressive and "projective" evaluations, the only ones to bearoften, though not alwaysthe mark of some aspect or another of psychoanalytic theory.

Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist trained in the Burghölzli clinic directed by Eugen Bleuler, was the first to imagine this type of test when he had the idea of asking his patients what they saw in inkblots. This test, which has given rise to innumerable publications, is the most commonly used. In his theoretical views, Rorschach himself was no doubt more influenced by Bleuler and Gustav Jung than by Sigmund Freud, although some of his successors have tried to fit him into coherent psychoanalytic thinking (Anzieu and Chabert, 1997).

Another type of assessmentderives from the line of approach begun by Henry Murray in 1935 with the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT. In these thematic tests the subject is presented with plates (or photographs) presenting one or more characters engaged in a situation and an action that the subject is asked to imagine. Leopold and Sonya Soral Bellak constructed a version for children in which the plates represent humanized animals (Children's Apperception Test, or CAT). Many other evaluations using the same principle have been put forward (like Louis Corman's Black Paw, Roger Perron's Personal Dynamic and Images).

A great many assessmentshave been imagined using different principles, almost always in a psychoanalytic context: sentences to complete and stories to complete (Madeleine Thomas); fables in which the person being tested has to comment on the moral (Louisa Düss); stories to create and tell with the material support of dolls (Gertrude von Staabs), characters, elements of a village (Henri Arthus, Pierre Mabille); interpretation of the expressions on human faces in photographs (Leopold Szondi). Saul Rosenzweig's Frustration-Aggression test no doubt deserves special mention because it is built explicitly on the basis of a hypothesis derived from psychoanalysis ("frustration produces aggression"). It met with great success in the world of American experimental psychology between the two wars.

Lastly, we must accord a special place to "expressive" techniques that interpret the content and style of speech, walking, gestural behavior, but most of all graphic behavior: writing, but above all drawing, a procedure that Françoise Dolto in particular demonstrated (Le Dessin de l'Enfant, 1996).

These techniques are said to be "projective," based on the hypothesis that what the subject "perceives" of the material presented (which is preferably ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations in terms of graphics, situation, and so on) is in fact indicative of the subject's representations of the world, people, interpersonal relations and, definitively, of the subject's own psychic functioning. This often supposes a fairly psychologized and simplified definition of the psychoanalytic notion of projection, although certain authors prefer to use the notion of identification, which is also every bit as complex in psychoanalytic theory. Theoretical simplification always runs the risk of resulting in relatively simplistic interpretation procedures. Correct use of these techniques presupposes a solid grounding in clinical psychology and psychopathology, as well as specialized training. Under these conditions, projective tests constitute an important instrument for contributing to psychological and psychopathological diagnostics.

Roger Perron

See also: Psychological types (analytical psychology); Psychology and psychoanalysis; Rorschach, Hermann; Szondi, Leopold; Word association.

Bibliography

Anzieu Didier, and Chabert, Catherine. (1997). Les méthodes projectives. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Brelet, Françoise. (1986). Fantasme et Situation projective. Paris: Dunod.

Raffier-Malosto, Jocelyne (Ed.). (1996). Le Dessin de l'enfant. De l'approche génétique à l'interprétation clinique. Paris: La Pensée Sauvage.

Further Reading

Schafer, Roy. (1967). Projective testing and psychoanalysis: Selected papers. New York: International Universities Press.

Sugarman, Alan, and Kanner, K. (2000). The contribution of psychoanalytic theory to psychological testing. Psychoanalytical Psychology, 17, 3-23.

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"Psychological Tests." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/psychological-tests