Attribute model (in psychological assessment): what it is and how it is used

Psychological evaluation is the task that aims at the scientific study of a person or a group of them. It is a discipline in the field of psychology, which seeks to verify whether the general principles of psychology are given to a particular individual.

There are different models, depending on the variables they have to study, their theoretical formulation, the basic methods they use, objectives, fields of application, etc. In this article, we will analyze one of them: the attribute model. We will know its 6 fundamental characteristics and its differences with other models.

    Psychological assessment and its 6 models

    The models that served as the basis for the psychological assessment of the individual these are:

    • Attribute model (or psychometric model)
    • dynamic model
    • medical model
    • behavioral model
    • Cognitive model
    • constructivist model

    What is the attribute model and what are its main characteristics? Let’s see.

    Attribute model (in psychological assessment)

    The attribute model, also called psychometric model, is based on a correlational approach, and understands behavior as the result of a series of intrapsychic attributes (Organism variables).

    In this model, the relationship between internal attributes and external manifestations (which, in this case, are test responses) is relevant.

    These relationships are also based on the correlational approach mentioned. On another side, the purpose of the attribute model is to predict the behavior beyond the areas studied or tested.


    Now yes, let’s learn the 6 basic features of the attribute model (as well as how it differs from other models):

    1. Theoretical formulation

    Depending on the attribute model, the behavior occurs according to personal or organismic variables, i.e. according to intrapsychic or genotypic variables.

    According to this model, these variables will be evaluated directly through their behavioral manifestations.

    Differences with other models

    For its part, the dynamic model suggests that the behavior is explained on the basis of internal theoretical constructions; the medical model maintains that what determines behavior is a number of biological conditions, and the behavioral model suggests that these are explained by environmental factors.

    For its part, the cognitive model preaches that behavior is explained through a set of internal mental processes and structures, and the constructivist model seeks to assess the constructions that the person uses to describe the world.

      2. Variables object of study

      The classes of variables studied in each model will also be different; in this case, under the attribute model we see that it is sought analyze the intrapsychic variables of the individual obtained by empirical, factorial or rational procedures.

      The goal is to study the personality of the person in a molecular and objective way; What does it mean to study personality in a molecular way? That behavior can be broken down into smaller behavioral units, the sum of the composition (in molar form, however, the unit has the unit in itself, and it is not necessary to break it down into more parts small).

      Differences with other models

      The dynamic model studies the personality of the subject at the molar level; the doctor intends to classify the subject; behavioral studies of behavior at the molecular and mechanistic level; the cognitive model analyzes the influence of internal mental structures and the constructivist model postulates a set of internal variables as explanatory of the subject’s reality.

      3. Basic methods and techniques

      What method does the attribute model use? The hypothetico-deductive method in its correlational version; Remember that this methodology consists in observing the phenomenon to be studied, in establishing starting hypotheses of the observed phenomena, in deducing the consequences of the hypothesis and finally in verifying or verifying the veracity of the proposed statements.

      This last step is done by comparing theory to practice (experience, empirical facts). Thus, the hypothetico-deductive method of the attribute model combines rational reflection with the observation of empirical reality.

      This model too it is mainly based on the use of tests to analyze human behavior and / or personality. It also uses other types of techniques, all of which focus on collecting information to test the original hypothesis.

      Differences with other models

      For its part, the dynamic model is based on the clinical method and qualitative observations, and mainly uses projective techniques. In the case of the medical model, it is based, like the attribute model, on the hypothetico-deductive method in its correlational version.

      The behavioral model uses self-assessment, observation and psychophysiological recordings; the cognitive model relies primarily on the use of self-assessment, and the constructivist model primarily uses qualitative techniques.

      4. Objectives

      Another of the characteristics to be taken into account when classifying the different psychological assessment models are their central objectives. In that case, the fundamental objective of the attribute model is to predict behavior in domains different from those tested.

      Differences with other models

      Again, if we compare the attribute model with other psychological evaluation models, we find the following: the dynamic model seeks to explain behavior, not so much to predict; the medical model, for its part, aims to arrive at a diagnosis based on a specific etiology; the behavioral model seeks to do even more things, such as describing, predicting, explaining and controlling behavior.

      For its part, the cognitive model aims to describe and explain behaviors based on mental entities, and the constructivist model, also to describe and explain behaviors, but if this is the case, from the constructions that the individual realizes reality.

      5. Areas of application

      As for the fields of application, the attribute model it is mainly used in school guidance tasks and in the field of organizations, Which does not mean that it cannot be used punctually in other areas.

      Differences with other models

      The predominant field of application of the dynamic model is the clinical field of application; that of the doctor, also of the clinician; the behavioral model is applied in all types of fields; the cognitive is applied mainly in educational and laboratory settings, and finally the constructivist model is mainly used in clinical settings.

      6. Levels of inference

      On another side, each type of model in the psychological assessment analyzes behavior at one level of inference or another.

      Before explaining at what level of inference the behavior analysis is in the attribute model, let us know the four levels of inference that exist (as the level of inference increases, the evaluation is deeper):

      • Level I: The behavior is studied as a sample of the behavior to be evaluated.
      • Level II: the relationship between an observed phenomenon and other behaviors is studied (correlation).
      • Level III: studies and interprets the subject’s behavior as an expression of an underlying attribute.
      • Level IV: integrates the previously inferred attribute into a complete theory.

      In the attribute model, the evaluation is given at an inference level III; That means assumptions and conclusions cause and effect can be established (In other words, thanks to this model, the causality of a phenomenon can be studied).

      Differences with other models

      The dynamic model is at level IV of inference; the medical model, at level III of inference, as well as the attribute model. The behavioral model is at levels I and II, the cognitive at levels III and IV and finally the constructivist at level IV.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Buela-Casal, G. and Serra, JC (1997). Manual of psychological assessment. 21st century ed. Madrid.
      • Fernández-Ballesteros, R. (2011) Psychological assessment. Concepts, methods and case studies. Ed. Pyramid. Madrid.
      • Moreno Rosset, C. (2005). Psychological assessment. Concept, process and application in the fields of development and intelligence. Ed. Sanz and Torres. Madrid

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