Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

William G. Kirk


Discussions about the adequacy of psychological measurement and assessment can quickly become controversial therefore; I expect some strong reaction to portions of this manuscript. Debates about the usefulness of criticism of psychological testing are longstanding: Even early psychologists such as Cattell and Jastrow disagreed on this issue. To be clear, I do not believe that use of contemporary tests should cease. I share the view that "psychological tests often provide the fairest and most accurate method of making important decisions" (K. R. Murphy & Davidshoffer, 1988, p. xii).

My first purpose, then, is to provide a historical survey of relevant measurement and assessment concepts. I do not delve into intimate details and complexities, but trace measurement and assessment controversies over time and across psychological domains. This approach produced a broad picture of how psychological measurement and assessment have evolved. The first half contains descriptions and interpretations of issues that have been important over the lifespan of psychological science.

My second goal is to expand discussion of the possible directions of measurement and assessment beyond those typically considered. The later half of this writing contains a summary of traditional approaches along with newer concepts and procedures.

It is important to expand the scope of topics typically presented in psychological measurement and assessment texts, and I offer this as a complement to those works. At the same time, I am trying to present this material as simply as possible. Too much of measurement is incommunicable.because of its complexity. My goal has been to approach the problems of measurement and assessment from the perspective of psychological theory. I hope to reconnect measurement with substantive theory to create, "better, richer, thicker descriptions from which to generate deeper conceptions and, most importantly, better questions" (Snow & Wiley, 1991, p. 6).

I have been surprised with the relative scarcity of sources describing the history of nonintellectual testing. Most measurement and assessment texts present a bit of history, and a few excellent book chapters and articles exist (Dahlstrom, 1985; Dawis, 1992). But I could find few sources that systematically examined the evolution of measurement and assessment to the extent that, for example, Boring (1957) did with experimental psychology. Perhaps the relative youth of psychological measurement—barely 100 years old—is a partial explanation. One consequence of this gap is that accounts of major concepts and procedures tend to be scattered throughout the literature. One of my goals has been to collect and reorganize seemingly unrelated material around long-standing measurement issues. At the same time, I expect that many readers will find portions of this repetitive or may find significant omissions.