Friday, April 6, 2012

Testing Question

As my readers have noticed I have been concentrating on the PUSH blog/webpage, with a new post on County Health Rankings here, but that does not mean I have forgotten about my readers.  

I was approached by the author of Froth Slosh B'Gosh about a mental state exam which asked a question about whether they believed in God.  He said that he believed that the whole questionnaire was bogus because it asked that.  My first reaction was that I would have to see the whole questionnaire and it's manual and it's corresponding validity evidence which shows that is measures what it's supposed to measure. 

Alfred Binet, I have no idea what this contraption is.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a questionnaire or a test.   Testing in psychology and education has been big business for over 100 years since Alfred Binet (seen above).  WWI was the first time that large numbers of young men were given intelligence tests like Binet's and 40% were classified as 'feeble minded' as were around 80% of immigrants at Ellis Island.  Revisions were made to the test and it has been big business ever since. 

Getting back to psychological assessments, one item on a test or survey should never be the sole basis of judging someone's sanity.  The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or MMPI has over 600 items and is considered the gold standard of personality surveys.  I don't remember if it asks about God and I don't have access to it because it is copyrighted but I do know it has been used since 1939 and it measures on 10 personality dimensions.  Such a test can be cumbersome and expensive to give to large groups of people to compare to a 'normal' population.  This is why shorter questionnaires are often given which can be less reliable.

Other factors to consider are the age and cultural bias of the test.  A question about God or witchcraft may have seemed appropriate at one time but not at another.  That is why the Rorschach test has been so popular over the years since the 1920s because it is a series of nonsense drawings onto which the test taker projects his or her emotions or personality.  The problem with this type of test is how does one interpret the results.  

Getting back to Froth's question I need to consider these and other issues such as how does the item about God fit in with the other test items and how exactly is it worded before I can answer his question.  This may be more than Froth wanted to know but this is the world of psychological testing.

Albert Einstein asked the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget at what age children understand space and time.  Piaget responded by writing several books on the topic.

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