Types of psychological tests: their functions and characteristics

Within psychology, mental state assessment of the subject which comes to the consultation or which requires our services is a necessary and essential element.

Psychological professionals have a number of tools available to perform this assessment, including different types of psychological tests.

    Psychological test: concept

    It is considered a psychological test a any test, method or instrument used to evaluate or measure one or more of the different characteristics that are part of the individual’s psyche. Psychological tests are based on the observable behavior and expression of subjectivity of the analysand in order to infer the characteristics and mental state of the subject, and further analysis is required in order to extract important information. clinical.

    Psychological tests try as much as possible that the information obtained through its realization is valid and reliable, Attempt to reflect what is supposed to be measured (remember that psychological characteristics are constructs not directly observable) and that they can be reproduced by other professionals (that is, information that a person obtains on a subject can be obtained by another professional if he performs the same measurement).

    Likewise, the scores obtained must be transformed so that they have a meaning, being generally compared or with the average obtained by representative samples of the population, with the previous performance itself or with a previously established criterion.

    Based on this concept, many types of psychological tests have been formulated, created according to different criteria and with different objectives.

    Dimensions and types of derived psychological tests

    When performing a psychological test, there are many aspects that we need to consider in assessing what kind of information we want to get and how we are going to get it.

    Some of the main dimensions to assess are as follows.

    1. Level of structuring

    The different types of psychological tests can vary enormously depending on whether the information is requested more or less concisely or whether the analyst finds himself more or less free to express himself.

    This aspect is fundamental in order to obtain the information. Having a very structured test will make it possible to obtain short and concise answers, directing the evaluation towards the aspects considered most relevant. However, a lot of relevant information can be lost, which could help a better match and better understanding of the subject’s mental state.

    In this sense, one can find types of psychological tests that are unstructured (in which the content of the assessment varies depending on the subject’s answers), semi-structured (in which the freedom of answer is always offered and the questions vary in depending on the information reflected. if you try to follow a more or less fixed script) or structured (which while taking into account the responses given, the evaluation follows a predefined path)

    2. Level of volunteering

    We refer voluntarily as long as the subject is in control of the response Posted. For example, if an electroencephalogram is performed, the subject has no control over the response they give, while in some tests the individual can decide what type of response they give.

    3. Masking level

    Masking is understood as the degree to which the subject knows the purpose of the test or test applied to it and / or the connotations of their answers. In this sense, tests can be masked (like the Rorschach test, in which the individual does not know what their answers mean) or unmasked.

    4. Level of objectivity

    The level of data objectivity refers to the degree to which the responses are derived from the subjectivity of the patient or whether they are empirical and visible data. In this sense, we can find different types of psychological tests, objective tests and subjective tests, While all measuring instruments can be assessed in this regard.

    According to the number of evaluated

    When we think of a psychological assessment, we usually imagine a situation in which a person is analyzed by a professional, usually in the clinical or human resources field.

    However, it is often in these contexts or in other it is possible to do a joint assessment of several people, Or even conduct an assessment of a group as such. We can therefore find:

    1. Individual test

    Here are the types of psychological tests in which they are assessed the characteristics or performance of a single subject. These are usually tests that require a certain level of specialization and provide a lot of information about the same person. It also allows you to establish a relationship with the assessor which can allow them to see and analyze various aspects that may or may not be included in the test.

    2. Collective or group tests

    Collective tests are those that are performed in groups. They generally require a lower level of training for their application than individuals. even if they save time and moneyUsually lead to some loss of information about the individual and greatly complicate the assessment by a psychologist or assessor.

    Depending on the content

    Tests can also be classified according to what kind of mental content they engage in to assess. In this sense, we can find the following types of psychological tests.

    1. Intelligence test

    Intellectual capacity is one of the most valued aspects in history. Its use aims to discover the potential and ability to adapt and use a variety of strategiesAlong with the ability to store and use one’s own mental resources, these tests are assessed.

      2. Aptitude test

      But mental abilities are not limited to intelligence, there are many other characteristics that allow our behaviors to be more or less effective in one or more areas. Particularly applied in the selection of personnelThese types of tests reflect the ability in specific aspects of reality and can predict the effectiveness and performance of the subject.

      3. Personality test

      People tend to behave and see the world in a certain way, a model that we acquire partly by inheritance and partly from our experiences throughout development. Measure these behavior patterns, Beliefs, emotions and thinking allow us to get an idea of ​​how the person being assessed is, as well as how he or she usually sees or acts in the world.

        4. Psychopathology tests

        The presence of mental problems and even disorders is an increasingly common feature in today’s society. Diagnose these problems it makes it possible to orient the individual on the various measures and treatments to be applied to resolve the difficulties which he is undergoing.

          5. Neuropsychological test

          These types of psychological tests are used to help determine the mental and perceptual state of an individual, Usually applies to subjects who have sustained any injury. Therefore, the purpose for which they are designed is the scope of possible damage in different types of mental processes.

          6. Developmental / aging test

          This type of test is used to assess how well an individual it develops throughout the life cycle, Observe the presence of alterations and compare the degree of change in relation to the regulations.

          7. Test of interests / professional vocation

          They are based on the analysis of the subject’s preferences, allowing their orientation towards certain goals or objectives. They are generally applied to young people who are going through their adolescence or post-adolescence and who need to be guided in deciding their training trajectory.

          Depending on the performance criterion

          Another key aspect when performing a test is to consider how it is going to be evaluated. In this aspect, we can find two main types of psychological tests.

          1. Maximum performance test

          Maximum performance tests aim to assess a person’s maximum potential in a psychological characteristic or aspect. This is why the efficiency of the individual is taken into account, be relevant for the time it takes to complete a task and evaluating the measured characteristic based on its correction and speed. Objective and sometimes psychometric techniques tend to use this type of criterion, as in intelligence or neuropsychological tests.

          2. Typical performance tests

          This type of test is characterized because it seeks to assess the performance or typical characteristics of the subject in certain tasks or aspects, that is, what is common and daily in the individual. The time required to complete the task in question is neither interesting nor significant in itself. Within this group we often find subjective and projective techniques, Which assess aspects such as personality.

          Pervin’s classification

          Taking into account all of the above aspects, several authors throughout history have generated different classifications of the types of psychological tests. One of the most widespread and accepted classifications is that of Pervin, Which considers the existence of the following categories.

          1. Psychometric tests

          Psychometric tests are these employees in the measure of the concrete characteristics of the psyche, Such as intelligence or aptitude tests. It is one of the types of psychological tests which considers that individuals will respond sincerely, by applying unmasked tests, in which the responses are voluntarily controlled by the subject.

          They are very structured, And are frequently used both in the clinic and in areas such as work and education.

          2. Objectives of the test

          Very structured, these tests and trials based on physiological correlates in order to measure a certain item. For this reason, the answers given are not voluntary and cannot be changed. However, the purpose of the test is generally clear, so it would be considered unmasked. Different instruments and apparatus are used to record the responses of the individual, without depending on the assessor for the recording per se. Typical examples of objective testing may be polygraph or biofeedback.

          In objective tests we can find:

          • Cognitive tests. They assess aspects such as attention, concentration or perception
          • Engine test. They assess the performance of muscle responses to various stimuli
          • psychophysiological test. They assess the relationship between behavior and physiology in aspects such as respiration, heart rate, temperature, sexual response or digestion.

          3. Subjective tests

          This is the most common type of psychological test to measure aspects of the subject’s personality and experiences from self-verbalizations or self-descriptions provided by the same subject according to a series of items. Voluntary response, the individual may attempt to falsify the information provided, Although to detect these attempts, they usually apply different reliability scales. They are usually semi-structured and tailored to the specific objective or item to be measured

          4. Projective test

          Subjective tests are often used to analyze the deeper aspects and personality traits of the individual. It is the least structured type of psychological test, in no way restricting the response given by the analysand and having all of the subject’s responses a valid meaning that must be analyzed and evaluated.

          These answers are subjective, because they represent the inner world of the subject in question. The individual in question does not know the meaning or significance of his responses, being one of the types of masked psychological tests. Every answer and every aspect represented is important, but it only makes sense and can only have meaning in relation to the whole.

          The main problem with this type of test is the great freedom of possible answers and the low level of standardization of these, to be able to interpret the same answer from different points of view depending on the method of interpretation used. he usually does not know the psychological significance of his responses.

          In subjective tests we can find different typologies. Specifically, the following stand out:

          • structural tests. In them the patient must have meaning and organize visual material. One of the most famous is the Rorschach test.
          • thematic tests. You are asked to tell a story from the material presented in the slides (the TAT or Thematic Aperception Test is usually the best known).
          • expressive tests. The subject is asked to draw a specific element (one of the best known is the HTC, a test in which one asks to draw a person, a house and a tree)
          • constructive tests. The individual is invited to build a particular element with the pieces provided (the imaginary village test is a good example)
          • associative tests. In this type of projective psychological test, the analysand is asked to associate a word (orally or in writing) with another word or stimulus provided. The Word Association test is one of the most widely used.
          • Refractory tests. It is based on the analysis of the personality from the products of the subject’s activity, such as his writing.

          Bibliographical references:

          • Buela-Casal, G. and Serra, JC (1997). Manual of psychological assessment. 21st century ed .: Madrid.

          • Cohen, RJ and Swerdlik, ME (2002). Psychological tests and evaluation. McGraw-Hill: Madrid.

          • Sanz, LJ & Álvarez, CA (2012). Assessment in clinical psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual. 05. CEDE: Madrid.

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