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Personality Tests

Every individual or psychologist wishing to make use of personality tests must establish the viability of the test in delivering the desired results. This is because there is a likelihood of errors resulting from poorly constructed personality tests. Qualities such as reliability, validity, standardisation, accuracy and objectivity should be considered to establish which personality test is suitable for the particular need. Wrong choice of personality tests especially where the results are being used for psychiatrist examination or employment recruitment could give the wrong impression of an individual.

The process of establishing good personality tests is a complex undertaking due to the various tests involved such as the Cronbach’s alphs measure of internal consistency among others. They therefore have to rely on expert examinations to make choices on personality tests. Introduction Proper understanding of human personality can only be achieved if there is a suitable and effective way in which this can be measured. The number of personality tests available in the market today has significantly increased following advancement in the study of psychology.

At the same time, the possibility of law suits as evident in the 1970s and 80s has now subsided. People use personality tests for a variety of reasons; individuals may use personality tests to test their intelligence and employers may use personality tests to determine potential employee ability, intelligence and personality. Perhaps professionals who make the best use of personality tests are psychologists. There is a lot that psychologists are bound to understand about a client by performing personality tests. However, there are those qualities that a personality test must possess for it to be an effective measure of personality.

Questions of validity, objectivity, reliability, standardisation and concurrency are raised whenever aspects of a good personality test are mentioned. Possessing the above features and others that will be discussed in this paper qualifies a personality test for use in making conclusions about an individual’s personality. Considering controversies that surround personality tests and more so projective personality tests, there is need for psychologists to be more careful. This paper will exhaustively discuss the factors that are considered in determining whether a personality test is effective.

Discussion The advancement in psychology studies has yielded different types of personality tests aimed at measuring individual personality traits (Anastasi and Urbina, 1999). These tests can be divided into objective tests, projective test, ratings and questionnaires (Eysenck, 2004). Projective tests use the projective hypothesis to judge personality. According to Kaplan and Saccuzzo (2005), the projective hypothesis proposes that human response to unambiguous stimulus is more of a reflection of their own self.

This includes feelings, experiences, needs, thoughts, prior conditioning among others. Questionnaires make the use of questions about individual personality where the person may be required to agree with certain statements about his or her personality or to fill the blanks using his or her own words (Eysenck, 2004). In making the use of ratings, psychologists mostly apply observation. Based on certain pre-set behavioural aspects to be assessed, they can make a judgement of the individual’s personality (Eysenck, 2004).

Objective tests seek to measure personality without letting the participant know whether they are being tested by subjecting them to various activities and then observing how they conduct themselves (Eysenck, 2004). While each of these types of personality tests carry their own advantages and disadvantages, it is important that the psychologists and individuals learn to recognise factors that make up good personality tests. But just what makes up an effective personality test? This is a question that not many individuals have been able to visualize.

Even as they take personality tests available in the market, there is no way of knowing whether the results obtained actually represent their personalities. Professionals have however come up with essentials of good personality tests and which psychologists and individuals should be keen to look at. Reliability, validity and standardisation are the three most important characteristics that a personality test must possess (Eysenck, 2004; Anastasi and Urbina, 1997). There are more however and these include accuracy, objectivity and economy among others.

The next portion of the paper will discuss these factors in detail so as to make a clear understanding on the importance of each in a determining the viability of a personality test. 1) Reliability Every psychologist or individual must consider reliability the personality test before making use of it to make personality predictions and conclusions. Reliability refers to the ability of the test to produce repeatable or consistent yields (Anastasi and Urbina, 1997). Objective tests for example are said to be highly reliable and are widely used by psychologists to make conclusions about their clients.

This is enhanced by the fact that they are easier to interpret than subjective tests. There are several types of reliability measures that psychologists use in making choices for personality tests. The test-retest reliability is the most commonly used reliability measure. This is where the reliability is measured by administering a test to the same individual or group at least twice. The two score sets are then correlated to determine the reliability (Wilderdom, 2004). Correlation co-efficient is a statistic that is used to show variability in data.

If correlation co-efficient is 1, it shows a positive relationship; If it is zero, there is no relationship; if it a negative figure, there is no relationship between the two variables. Using the test-reset reliability criteria, 1 represents high reliability while zero represents low reliability of the test (Wilderdom, 2004). The test-retest reliability uses the notion that personality is consistent over time and that individuals are likely to behave in a similar manner given the same situation (Eysenck, 2004). In this respect, Anastasi and Urbina (1997) note that a reliable test should produce similar results.

The shortcoming of this is that there is likely to be reactivity or the ability to perform better in the test the second time due to previous experience of taking the test (Wilderdom, 2004). Other factors include confidence and attitude boost which comes from the elimination of initial feeling of strangeness (Anastasi and Urbina, 1997). Alternate forms method is the other method used to estimate reliability. In this method, different test are administered to the same group and a correlation between the two scores defines the reliability of the test (Wildersdom, 2004).

Reliability can also be assessed by calculation of internal consistency of items within the test and their cohesiveness. This is usually done using Cronbach’s alphs which is a measure of internal consistency (Eysenck, 2004). Inter-rater reliability is a method that checks reliability of a test by comparing scores that are given by different raters (Cohen and Swerdlik 2005). The correlation between them is used to predict whether the test is reliable or not. Split Half reliability checks reliability by comparing the correlation between half of the items in the test with the other half of the items. 2) Validity

Validity is the ability of a test to perform the intended function. In other words, it should measure what it claims to measure (Eysenck, 2004). There are several ways in which validity of a personality test is measured. These include the face validity, discriminant validity, predictive validity, construct validity and concurrent validity. Discriminant validity should show that a test does not perform the functions that it is not intended to perform by measuring characteristics that it should not (Cohen and Swerdlik 2005). For example, a test cannot measure reasoning ability by giving a reading test.

Face validity checks on the obvious characteristics in the test that determine whether it is essential for achieving the measure for which it is intended (Farmer, 2004). It is not a conclusive measure because more tests need to be performed to determine validity of the test. Anastasi and Urbina (1997) give an example of using an arithmetic test with multiplication problems only as a poor measure of the individual’s computation ability. They further note that a psychological test can only be said to possess a predictive value if it studies a relatively broad area of the individual’s behaviour.

Construct validity represents the extent to which a test measures what it claims to be measuring in the first place. This is done through testing hypothesis representing some of the personality traits that the test incorporates (Cohen and Swerdlik 2005). For example, if the test construes that anxiety inhibits a person’s ability to reason, comparing a person with anxiety and one without anxiety should be able to prove the hypothesis given in the test. Concurrent validity determines whether a test is related to a certain relevant measure that the test is supposed to measure.

The difference with predictive validity is that concurrent validity measures as the test is going on while in predictive validity the criteria is observed after the test (Eysenck, 2004). Predictive validity should show that a test can effectively predict a person’s performance using abilities possessed by the individual. It shows how a test is related to an external criterion which is to be assessed after the test. It is worth noting that a personality test must be reliable for it to be valid but it does not necessarily mean that reliability guarantees validity (Wilderdom, 2004).

An invalid personality test cannot achieve the desired results because in most circumstances the responses may not represent the actual personality of the individual (Cohen and Swerdlik, 2005). Invalidity may occur where the questions are biased or where there are response sets. Response sets refer to those situations where there is psychological orientation in setting of questions such that they drive the respondent towards answering the question in a particular way (Wilderdom, 2004). Cultural bias is one way in which biasness is portrayed in personality tests.

It comes in when the psychological construct has different meanings in two different cultures such that interpretation by people from these two cultures is completely different. This means that face validity for this particular personality test cannot be the same. Other types of bias include gender bias and test bias. Test bias incorporates measurement bias and prediction bias. Measurement bias occurs where the test is likely to make errors in the measurement of a particular characteristic.

This means that one characteristic included may favour one individual and be disadvantageous to the other. An example is where a personality test is given to individuals from different countries while the contents of the test tend to be more familiar to one party. Prediction bias on the other hand is witnessed when the test allows for errors during the process of outcome prediction. As an example, admission tests such as the GMAT used in student selection are likely to fail to predict the performance of a given group of students.

3) Standardisation A careful psychologist must consider standardisation as a factor in determining whether a test is a good measure of personality. Standardisation depicts that under any conditions or circumstances, the administering of the test is done in the same way (Anastasi and Urbina, 1997). This is to mean that uniformity is expected from the test and any procedures, time limits, materials, demonstrations and other details involved in the test must be made available to every test-taker.

At the same time, scoring procedures should be well specified so that raters use the same standards to rate similar responses. Eysenck (2004) notes if a test is given to a large number of people as representative samples, one individual’s score can be evaluated in relation to what other people score in the same test. It makes sense when a person’s score is compared to an average score of other people who have taken a similar test because this then shows the position of that person in the group (Eysenck, 2004).

It would however be meaningless to have an individual score because there is no way of knowing whether he or she has performed above or below average. Standardisation norms are bound to change with time due to changes such as demographic changes or changes in social backgrounds such that there is need to keep re-standardising tests every now and then. 4) Accuracy Accuracy is another factor that psychologists consider when choosing a personality test. If a test is not accurate, it will definitely yield the wrong interpretative implications.

This may therefore present the individual personality in the wrong manner. Kaplan and Saccuzzo (2005) doubt the accuracy of projective tests citing that there can be no definite conclusions to be made by a projective test administrator based on a single response to a certain ambiguous stimulus. It is highly probable for a test to give inaccurate results hence the reason why psychologists are very careful in selecting the personality test to be used for any particular purpose. A test that represents the smallest degree of error is most reliable as it depicts a valid and reliable outcome. 5) Objectivity

Personality tests need to be prepared for a particular purpose. This characteristic is related to validity but while objectivity involves designing the personality test to perform a particular purpose, validity concerns itself with checking whether this objective is met (Cohen and Swerdlik, 2005). For example, personality tests used for admitting students in college may not be the same as those of acquiring new employees. A recruitment personality exercise for a management position would probably involve questions aimed at determining the leadership ability and the decision making speed and ability.

Objectivity is important in any personality test because the user knows exactly what he or she is looking for by using the test. Conclusion The use of personality tests by employers, schools and psychological centres has been on the rise. This is due to the increased studies that have been performed in the area of psychology and the various tests that have been introduced to measure personality. As a result, there is increased need for those using these tests to learn how to identify quality tests before making use of them to measure personality.

Reliability, validity and standardisation are considered the most important factors to look out for in assessing the effectiveness of a personality test. Other factors such as economy, objectivity and accuracy are also important and therefore should be analysed. It is notable that some of the criteria used to assess these factors are quite complex and laymen may not be able to use them in determining the best personality test. However, there are studies that have been done by professionals and most of these are available through various readings so that individuals and psychologists can use them to get the best personality test.

Identifying a personality test which satisfies most of the characteristics discussed should give a true picture of a person’s personality attributes. Word Count excluding abstract: 2319 References Anastasi, A. & Urbina, S. (1997). Nature and use of psychological tests. In Psychological testing (7th ed, pp2-31) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Cohen, R. J. & Swerdlik M. E. (2005). Validity. In psychological testing and assessment (6th ed, 156-189) Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Eysenck, M. (2004) Personality.

In Psychology: An International perspective (pp445-481) Have, UK: Psychological Press Farmer, R. F (2004). Issues in the assessment and conceptualisation of personality disorders. Clinical Psychological Review, 20, 823-851 Kaplan, R. M & Saccuzzo DP (2005) Projective personality tests. In Psychological testing: Principles, applications and issues (6th ed, pp 390-420) Belmont CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning Wilderdom. (2004). Essentials of a Good Psychological Test. Retrieved on June 10, 2009 from http://wilderdom. com/personality/L3-2EssentialsGoodPsychologicalTest. html

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