Ethical Principles to Follow in Psychological Testing Research Paper

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Psychology and Ethics

Test Administration, Scoring, and Interpretation

Common errors made in the administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests depends upon adherence to reliable practices and guides. The concepts of reliability and validity are situated within the framework of the tests themselves, which serves to affect the field of psychological testing by supporting it with data culled from participants. These tests, moreover, are formed using principles of psychological testing, such as standardization, objectivity, test norms, reliability and validity. In terms of reliability, these tests are shown to have provided the same findings following several takings. In short, they are consistent. In terms of validity, these tests have shown that they do indeed measure that which they set out to assess; in short, they are effective measuring tools (Schultz, 2010). Reliability can be compared to validity in the sense that both are assessed by a degree of consistency (over time vs. accuracy) while they may be contrasted in the sense that the former is historically a suitable indicator if proper conditions are met, while the latter has simply been demonstrated as capable of indicating what is being tested.

The fundamental questions regarding psychological testing refer to the interpretive scores that these tests give, which may be open to interpretation, based on personal history, context, curve, etc. (Gregory, 2013). Because these interpretations can also be based on the type of framework utilized for coding the responses, the questions regarding the reliability and validity of these tests can be controversial or disputed if certain criteria are not met or followed precisely. In effect, psychological testing requires a high degree of human element in the distribution of the test and the interpretation so there is always some possibility that a fallacy can be committed. Thus, the extent to which psychological testing is effective may be taken a hundred different ways.

APA ethical principles that are directly related to the administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests are found in adherence to truthfulness in reporting and assessing. Psychological testing regards the tests used to measure the behavior of individuals via a standardized set of questions. The tests range in focus, from identifying/measuring aptitude, emotional development, and personality to cognition and more (Anastasi, Urbina, 2007). The term test refers to the instrument used to give a measurement of latent elements/variables that an individual possesses that would otherwise go unnoticed or unknown. The test is the tool whereby the unknown becomes known; just as a ruler gives the measurer a sense of distance, so too does the test give the measurer a sense of the latency within. If the assessor does not report or assess accurately or does so in a way that intentionally misleads others as to the actual psychological state of the patient, this is unethical behavior that has profound impacts on society, the patient, and the established field of psychology: thus, honesty and integrity in reporting and assessing is necessary.

Also only applicable assessments should be conducted. For instance, if a person shows signs of being depressed, the proper assessment should be conducted. Or if a person shows signs of OCD, the right assessment should be used. Doing unnecessary assessments can be a violation of ethical principles based on utility.

APA ethical principles that are indirectly related to the administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests are to act only in a degree of competency. In other words, the practitioner should "provide services, teach and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study or professional experience" (APA, 2010, s.2.01). This principle ensures that psychologists do not perform assessments that they are not competent to perform.

Other APA ethical principles that are indirectly related to the administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests are related to gaining informed consent from the patient before assessment "except when (1) testing is mandated by law or governmental regulations; (2) informed consent is implied because testing is conducted as a routine educational, institutional or organizational activity (e.g., when participants voluntarily agree to assessment when applying for a job); or (3) one purpose of the testing is to evaluate decisional capacity" (APA, 2010, s.9.03). The purpose of informed consent is to explain nature of the assessment, its aim, its cost, and what 3rd parties may have access to it and to what degree confidentiality
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plays a part in the assessment. This gives the patient a chance to ask questions and get feedback about concerns. These ethical principles would apply when setting about to conduct a test that does not meet any of the above three measures. They are related to psychological assessment in the sense that they provide guides on how to set about conducting the assessment with respect to considerations for the other person and the patient's rights.

The steps that can be taken to minimize testing errors so that they do not violate APA principles related to the administration, scoring, and interpretation of psychological tests are the following: The major categories of tests can be divided into the following based on assumptions about what they tell about the takers: there are IQ tests which are designed to measure one's intellectual capacity; these are typically used in schools and by individuals interested in gauging their intellectual "level." There are attitude tests designed to measure personal feelings/emotions regarding a specific subject (commonly measured using the Likert scale -- a simple 1 to 5 numeric range of choices from one extreme (not at all) to the other (very much); these may be conducted in a clinical setting but also may be used in schools and by individuals interested in understanding themselves more fully. There are personality tests designed to provide an assessment of an individual's personality type (these are various and one traditional personality test is based on the four humors -- sanguine, melancholy, etc.); these are utilized in multiple settings -- by employers, educators, individuals, clinicians, etc. There are neuropsychological tests designed to assess the cognitive process and are typically used in clinical settings. There are direct observation tests which measure a dynamic -- typically a family dynamic -- say a child's interaction with a parent. These are the major categories.

Understanding the purpose and nature of these tests and using them accordingly is the first step to be taken to ensure that testing errors are minimized. For example, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test is a standardized psychometric test that is used in psychology to gauge personality type and to help with diagnosis of personality disorder, such as bi-polar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, etc. It is also helpful in determining the type of treatment that a patient would most benefit from (Butcher, Williams, 2009). Giving this test to someone who does not show any signs of depression or bi-polar, etc. would be an unethical activity for a psychologist (not to mention a waste of his/her and the patient's time0. The next step is to make sure that data is recorded adequately and efficiently and the third step is to ensure that reliability and validity are met during the assessment/interpretation phase.

Part Two: Test Fairness

Test norms and standardizations can become sources of test bias depending on how the test is applied and what the expected outcomes are. For instance, using the example of the MMPI, this test can be applied in ways that delivered specific results, though the results can be and often are questioned and criticized on the basis of bias. Gass and Odland (2014) found that the MMPI-2 had limitations when used in a VA hospital because of the other considerable variables and factors that might be determing the outcome of the test, not least being environment. Other considerations that could lend towards bias were a lack of consideration for other factors that might be contributing to the state of the individual's psychology at that moment.

This is important to remember especially when considering that diagnoses can weigh heavily on a person's future. A psychological disorder, one should remember, is a sustained or prolonged pattern of signs or symptoms (behavioral or psychological) which affect and/or distress an individual in various areas of his or her life. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used to help diagnose individuals. Diagnosing simply means to identify the sustained pattern of signs or symptoms as being indicative of a particular psychological disorder.

It is helpful to identify psychological disorders in order to treat them, but it is not necessarily helpful to "label" individuals with psychological disorders in order to treat them like pariahs. "Labeling" carries a negative connotation; identifying and treating are more positive ways of speaking with regard to mental disorders. By using norms and standardizations as a way to "label" a patient rather than to help to identify a possible diagnosis is a method in bias.

Risks involved in clinical psychology range from misdiagnosis to mistreatment. Signs or symptoms of mental illness can be misleading, may be hidden, or may be…

Sources Used in Documents:


Anastasi, A., Urbina, S. (2007). Psychological Testing. NY: Prentice Hall.

APA. (2010). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Retrieved from

Butcher, J., Williams, C. (2009). Personality assessment with the mmpi-2: historical roots, international adaptations, and current challenges. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 1(1): 105-135.

Gass, C., Odland, A. (2014). MMPI-2 symptom validity (FBS) scale: psychometric characteristics and limitations in a Veterans Affairs neuropsychological setting. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult, 21(2): 1-8.

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