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The Basics of Assessments

The Basics of Assessments

Description:

This lesson will examine the various assessment tools utilized to measure behavior.

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Tutorial


What's Covered

This lesson is going to look at assessments that can be used in personality psychology by covering:

  1. Interviews
  2. Direct Observation 

1. Interviews

Personality psychology is the study of people's individual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving over time. How do we determine what those patterns are for each person? 

An assessment, or a test, is a way to help to measure the various different traits and aspects of a person's personality. There are different tests for different kinds of theories.

ExampleThere could be one test for trait theories, one for psychodynamic, and one for humanistic; however, they could be applicable to a wide range.

Each one of these different types of assessments has different strengths and limitations. Two important assessments are:

  • Interviews
  • Direct observations

These are two types of assessments that are more qualitative in nature. That means they are based on descriptions and observations themselves, and they are a little subjective. The questions depend more on the subject and on the psychologist, and are not necessarily the same for each person.  

An interview is a face-to-face conversation that a person has with a psychologist. They are asked questions by a psychologist and share information about their psychological history, their current status, and their personality in general. Interviews can take two different forms:

  • Structured interview- a series of pre-planned questions.
  • Unstructured interview- an open and informal discussion. Its more directed by the person that wants to talk about themselves than by the psychologist.

Term to Know

  • Interview
  • Evaluator asks a series of questions, face-to-face, about qualities, traits, their response to different scenarios, etc. The strength of interviews is they can be tailored to individual subjects. A great deal of information can be gathered from interviews because it allows the psychologist to talk to one subject in depth.

Interviews do have some weaknesses. They can be affected or biased by the subject or interviewer's preexisting beliefs.

ExampleWhat the subject looks like might affect how the psychologist is rating the person within the system.

There's also what we call the halo effect. The halo effect is the tendency to view a person as generally positive or negative based on things like attractiveness or on age.

ExampleIt's been shown that when a person is physically attractive, a person is generally more likely to look at them as being intelligent or more worthwhile than other people.

Term to Know

  • Halo Effect

  • Favorable view based on partial information or first impression, can complicate later information. Within an interview, a person can also lie, and that can affect the information as well.


2. Direct Observation

The second type of assessment is direct observation. Direct observation means watching the subject within a naturalistic sort of setting to gather information about them.

ExampleA person might go to a school and watch a child playing and interacting with other children. This can give us information about that child's personality and their social interactions.

Term to Know

  • Direct Observation
  • Individual is asked to perform a team project together, interviewers watch the candidates' behavior and take notes but don't interact.

Direct observations can give more in depth information, like interviews, about the subjects. They can also provide more accurate information because it's within a natural setting, so they're not being affected by being in a room with a psychologist or in some kind of strange environment.

However, direct observation can be affected by observer bias, which is to say preexisting beliefs or ideas might be what they're looking for in other ways.

ExampleIf you think that teens are more argumentative, then you tend to look for more times that they're being argumentative than the times that they're not.

To prevent that, a lot of direct observations have different tools that help to control. They might use a rating scale, which is a list of traits or behavioral aspects that guides the observations and prevents misinterpretations. It tells the researcher what to look for so they don't necessarily miss it within those situations.

Term to Know

  • Rating Scale
  • Evaluation depends on a checklist of qualities wanted, some may be more important than other qualities.

Researchers can also do what's called a behavioral assessment. This is when a observer records how many times they observe certain kinds of behaviors. Instead of trying to measure the internal processes that are going on or the different personality traits, they can just say each time they see a behavior that they're looking for. Then they mark it in one category, and each time they see  different behaviors.

ExampleHow many times a person mentions a subject in a conversation.

Term to Know

  • Behavioral Assessment
  • Evaluating the frequency of specific behaviors.

Summary

An assessment is given to determine patterns of behavior. One type of assessment is an interview. This is a face-to-face interview between a person and a psychologist. Interviews can be subject to either the subject or the interviewer’s biases. 

Another type of assessment is direct observation. This can provide accurate information because of the natural setting, but is also subject to the observers pre-existing beliefs. Things like rating scales and behavioral assessments to reduce bias influence.

Keep up the learning and have a great day!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Erick Taggart.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Behavioral Assessment

    Evaluating the frequency of specific behaviors.

  • Direct Observation

    Individual is asked to perform a team project together, interviewers watch the candidates' behavior and take notes but don't interact.

  • Interview

    Evaluator asks a series of questions, face-to-face, about qualities, traits, their response to different scenarios, etc.

  • Halo Effect

    Favorable view based on partial information or first impression, can complicate later information.

  • Rating Scale

    Evaluation depends on a checklist of qualities wanted, some may be more important than other qualities.