Psychology has a long tradition of scientific research on human behavior and personality. Through this research, a multitude of psychological assessment scales have been developed to objectively and precisely
measure various aspects of psychological functioning and personality characteristics.
Psychologists are trained in the administration, scoring and interpretation of psychological tests. The use of psychological tests, in a therapeutic or diagnostic setting, should be restricted to licensed
psychologists. Other mental health professionals (psychiatrists, social workers, counselors) are usually not trained in the administration, scoring and interpretation of psychological tests.
Psychological tests can be used to assess:
Intellectual ability (IQ)
The concept of IQ was originally developed as a comparison between a person's chronological age and intellectual age. It was
called an "intelligence quotient" because the intellectual age was divided by the chronological age to arrive at a quotient. The
IQ concept was abandoned in favor of a derived standard score, which is a better way to compare the scores of different
individuals, but the IQ label has been maintained. Most people do not realize that an IQ score is useless as a comparative
measure of intelligence, without knowing the which test was used to obtain the score. The most well-known tests of intelligence
are the Wechsler Scales, the Stanford-Binet, the Slosson, and some nonverbal scales. However, there are many other ability tests that measure intellectual functioning.
Most intelligence tests incorporate memory assessment as part of the assessment of intelligence, but memory can be impaired
without a demonstrated decline in intellectual ability. There are several scales of memory assessment, as well as scales that are designed to measure malingered memory problems, and different types of memory.
Psychologists have identified many different personality traits which are present in all people. Different combinations of
personality characteristics contributes to the vast range of individual differences we observe among people. Some personality
tests are designed to describe personality differences among "normal" individuals, while others are designed to identify
abnormal patterns of personality, and still others are designed to identify specific "personality disorders" according to
diagnostic characteristics. Personality assessment can be important in the selection of people for different types of jobs (police
officer, executive), in determining psychological treatment needs, and in the assessment of criminals.
Pathological Psychological Problems
Some psychological tests identify individuals with serious psychological problems. These tests have been used in various
settings, including security screening, criminal sentencing, child custody decisions, gun control, and police selection, to name a
few. Psychological tests exist to measure Depression, Anxiety, Paranoia, Psychopathic Deviance, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders, and many other clinical conditions.
Life Stress Issues
Psychologists can assess the effects of stress on different individuals in various settings, which can be used to identify people who will need additional help to manage certain problems.
Psychologists can identify the extent of brain damage suffered during a trauma by measuring the behavioral deficits and
personality changes that have developed. These tests can provide valuable information about the extent of injuries to the
brain, as well as providing a direction for rehabilitation for individuals with brain injuries.
Relationship conflicts often result from competing personality styles, differences in values or differences in attitudes.
Psychologists can administer tests to couples which will highlight potential problem areas in a relationship. This is a valuable aid when helping couples resolve relationship problems.
Some types of brain injuries and malignancies produce unusual sensory problems. Psychologists have developed assessment
scales to identify these sensory problems. These test results can help plot the course of an illness, or can measure progress in cognitive rehabilitation.
"Why we do what we do" is an important question for employers, retailers, corrections psychologists, judges and individuals
facing important life decisions. Psychologists have developed tests of motivation which help to identify what is important to different people in predicting or influencing their behavior.
Child Abuse Risk Factors
Psychologists are often asked to predict the risk of child abuse within a family that has experienced past abuse. The
identification of risk factors, and the design of tests to measure those factors, can be used to lower the incidence of repeated
child abuse, as well as measuring progress in the psychological treatment of abusers. This leads to greater safety for children, and also helps treating psychologists working with abusers.