Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Psychological testing

Come on, this is 2010

A couple of evenings ago, quite late, I received an email from a friend. It was even later for her, a couple of time ones so, but she is a bit of a night owl. She simply sent me a URL for a abstract of a research paper just being published:

I do not know why she sent me this but, if it was to tease, then she certainly succeeded! I wote back immediately, with a quick, off-the-cuff spoof:
Aim The aim of this study was to describe, then go beyond the data.. 
Method  The usual ritual measurements were taken, wholly of the state of how things were when they were found, using at least two measuring procedures of exceeding dubiety. 
Results The usual sums were done to justify proclaiming the self-evident. 
Interpretation For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. This age old adage is followed by what look like non sequitur  suggestions that require a quite different research paradigm, and that we all know will not work.

Of course, on the basis of the Abstract alone I might be misjudging the study!
PS   It's too late at night to check these people's disciplines. Why, though, on the basis of the details given, is it considered satisfactory for non-psychologists to study psychological causes and psychological effects whilst a mere psychologist would be hooted off the court for trying to do their jobs (quite rightly too).  I qualified as a psychologist in 1966 and this study of psychological phenomena would have been slow-hand-clapped off even then. The Vineland and the Leiter (the latter for children with motor disorders!!!): this isn't a refereed journal, it's a conspiracy...

Then I felt a little guilty... and wondered how unreasonable I might have been. So before switching off for the night I did a very quick dip into Google, to see what it says about the Vineland Social Maturity Scale (one if two antediluvian psychometric instruments used in this study), and sent her the following URL as a PS:

In the cool light of day, had I been unreasonably brusque about this study? Why, however, does it bother with the 'obsolete' Vineland Social Maturity Scale, already obsolete when I first met it in the mid-sicties. As for the Leiter International Performance Scale, this had first appeared in 1929, boom years for psychometrics in the hay-day of US racist immigration policy. I see that it is presently enjoying an Indian Summer in testing children with motor disorders. Presumably somewhere this has been justified psychometrically But in what other sphere of your life would you expect to use an 'instrument' designed in 1929 – or even 1943 – for whatever purpose, without at least questioning closely whether this would really be a sensible thing to do?

Maybe I was being too brusque, and this harmless-in-itself little study deserves no such response. If so, I apologise for any offence. Maybe, however, I was not being brusque enough and one should be prepared to fire a broadside at every minor sloppiness as the only way to raise standards all round.

Personally, I incline towards the latter – but I cannot be bothered. Surely there are those out there who would find it to their benefit to clean this Augean stable. Just maybe, though, where something impacts directly upon Conductive Education, then perhaps I shall try both barrels.

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