[IPAC-List] Testing Education

Dennis Doverspike dd1 at uakron.edu
Sun Nov 22 11:42:53 EST 2009

Educated - by whom? One of my great fears regarding testing, is that the
problem is getting worse rather than better. Due to standardized testing
pressures in the schools, from 1st grade on, or even before, school children
are now being taught by their teachers that tests are bad, unfair, do not
assess knowledge, and are otherwise full of testing tricks. The situation
does not get better when students get to college, in Introduction to
Psychology classes, students are taught about the evils of testing including
the inherent biases against most cultures. The government can point to SIOP
members and argue that there is no consensus that ability tests are really
valid and free of bias, even if one could argue there is as much consensus
as there is in the medical community regarding drugs or surgeries.

My esteemed colleague Winfred Arthur often asks the question as to whether
if a test could be 100% accurate, would people want to use it or see the
result? I fear we know how most people would answer that question.

We have met the enemy - and it is testing.

Of course, this problem is not limited to psychological tests for employment
purposes. People often cheat or fake on clinical psychology tests, usually
to fake bad rather than good (and see for example the huge controversy
recently over the release of the Rorschach ok Wikipedia). People cheat on
drug tests. People cheat on medical exams.

And believe it or not, I am an optimist regarding human nature.

Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP
Professor of Psychology
Director, Center for Organizational Research
Senior Fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology
Psychology Department
University of Akron
Akron, Ohio 44325-4301
330-972-8372 (Office)
330-972-5174 (Office Fax)
ddoverspike at uakron.edu

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-----Original Message-----
From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org [mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org]
On Behalf Of Mark Hammer
Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009 9:18 AM
To: IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
Subject: Re: [IPAC-List] A question of personality

When one uses any tool that looks at the social properties of the
individual, some of what you'll get is "managed" information from
the respondent, and some is the unguarded spontaneous information.
As Harry's informants suggested, it is not really possible to completely
escape the managed information component, even if one were simply
observing the person in a closed windowless room via videocam. So
the question becomes one of whether there is *enough* non-managed
spontaneous information to make a reasoned judgment about the social
properties of that person. In some respects, high scores on faking and
social desirability on a personality test are equivalent to a person leaving

much of an exam unanswered - no basis for evaluation - although in
other respects they ARE information of a sort, aren't they? Here is where
RPClare's advice to declare and define such responding AS information
up front is well-taken. Far too many may interpret a personality inventory
as intended to show "them" that you can be who you think they want you
to be, and not necessarily intended to show who they are when no one is
looking. That it is a promotional exam merely shifts the balance more in
the direction of the first interpretation than the second ("See? I can be
that kind of lieutenant too.")

When you say you have been asked to recommend substitute procedures,
do you mean for the two candidates in question? for the candidates overall?

or simply for any future competitions? By the way, is there anything
from the original writing of the test that could be salvaged as
interpretable, or
does the response distortion information negate everything?

Finally, one of the messages that doesn't get out to candidates often enough
is the manner in which many of the things they perceive as obstacles to
own success in competitions are intended to provide a level playing field
THEIR BENEFIT. In other words, should a candidate bare their soul and self-
report in a throughly honest manner, they should not be penalized for it
because everyone else is faking, either the first time or in any subsequent
competition. It's the same reason we don't provide too much feedback about
some kinds of assessments; open the gates to feedback too much and one
risks giving some candidates an unfair advantage the next time by providing
more usable feedback for some than for others, or by simply giving the
advantage to re-takers over first-timers. The candidate, meanwhile, thinks
you're just holding out on them, rather than holding out on everyone else
might beat them unfairly. They need to be educated to see things in the big

picture. We need to work harder at that.

My sympathies, Harry.

Mark Hammer

>>> <RPClare at aol.com> 2009/11/21 8:34 am >>>

I agree with Lance that a retake creates the impression of a second chance
that is not provided to others who failed. I also would have concerns
regarding your "overly generous" interpretation. It suggests that they were
only given a second chance but the requirements were also eased.
I do believe this type of test can have a place in Civil service. We
routinely use "non-scored" hurdles that do not impact the rankings (e.g.
degrees, trainings, licenses, physical exams).
The magic is to clearly communicate what the rules are in advance. For my
own benefit, I would have a clearly written "pass point" for the test. If
that can't be done because there is a "clinical" judgment involved, I would

make sure a credentialed clinician make the call (even if it's only on the
close ones)

In a message dated 11/20/2009 5:51:21 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
Harry.Brull at pdininthhouse.com writes:


I'm interested in any advice in a sticky situation:

Recently I conducted a police lieutenant promotional process for a
department of approximately 100 sworn personnel. One of the components was
omnibus personality inventory which I "scored". (It happened to be a PDI
proprietary instrument, but the situation would have been no different
with, for
example, the California Personality Inventory (CPI) or equivalent.)

Two of the candidates produced invalid profiles (as evidenced by a good
impression and response distortion scale). I asked them to re-take the
instrument and was able to interpret the results (although one resulting
was marginally valid and I probably was overly generous in interpreting the


Afterwards, even though his total results placed him well out of the
running for promotion, one of the candidates complained that he was
treated. Others wondered publically why I didn't just "fail" him for this
portion of the process.

Two Civil Service hearings later, I am feeling somewhat frustrated trying
to explain personality testing, faking, etc. to people who either don't
understand or don't want to understand.

So here's my questions:
* Do self-report measures such as personality profiles have a place in
Civil service procedures which must produce a rank-ordered list of scores?
* Are there instruments which overcome the hurdle of faking (my
internal experts tell me "no")
* What should one do with a candidate profile that is uninterpretable?

I've been asked to recommend substitute procedures. So far I've suggested
oral interview, role-plays, and the Promotability index (a procedure where
multiple raters place candidates of numerical "rungs" of a ladder -
candidate score is the arithmetic average of assigned ratings).

Any ideas out there?

Harry Brull
Harry Brull | Senior Vice-President
PDI Ninth House
Global Leadership Solutions

1.612.337.8233 office
1.612.414.8998 mobile
1.612.337.3695 fax
Harry.Brull at pdininthhouse.com <mailto:First.Last at pdininthhouse.com>

33 South Sixth Street
Suite 4900
Minneapolis, MN 55402


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