Saturday, August 27, 2011

Issues in Psychological Testing

What are at least two ethical issues associated with psychological testing? What impact do these issues have on the field of psychological testing?
One ethical issue is the use of informed consent. An essential component of psychological testing is obtaining voluntary consent to the assessment. The client must be informed about the purpose, expected duration, and any procedures used in the testing, and ascertain the client understands every aspect of giving consent (American Psychological Association, 2010). If the client is a child, or an individual of limited capacity, the parent or legal guardian must give consent for the client. The idea of informed consent is a continuing agreement, and clients may withdraw their consent at any time during the testing (Hogan, 2007). According to the American Medical Association (2011), informed consent is a process of communication between a patient and a health care professional that results in the patient's authorization or agreement to undergo testing. Furthermore, patients or clients have a right to full disclosure of test results, which must be accommodated in language reasonably understandable to them.

Maintaining confidentiality is another significant issue associated with psychological testing, and the psychologist is bound by ethical codes to refrain from referring to a patient's results outside of the appropriate context (Hogan, 2007). Furthermore, regarding confidentiality in record keeping, psychologists must maintain records efficiently, securely, and effectively so results are not prone to dissemination by other inappropriate parties. In most states, confidentiality is upheld by law. However, responsibility toward confidentiality is waived when harm to self or others is suspected (Hogan, 2007).

Both issues are of significant consequence to psychological testing. Without codes of, and specific adherence to ethical behavior, the science of psychology cannot be counted upon as a scientific discipline worthy of protecting and effectively supporting the myriad challenges of the human condition. Individuals and the whole of the human race depend upon ethical judgment, treatment, and applications formed by scientific exploration rather than the common anecdote. Because the rights of individuals should be a primary concern in any psychological discipline, equally consequential is maintaining confidentiality. Without protecting these fundamental rights, the science cannot present itself as adequately and fairly preserving and supporting the private attempt of every individual toward achieving and retaining a more positive quality of life.

2. What are at least two legal issues associated with psychological testing? How do these issues affect the field of psychological testing?
One major issue that continues to cause problems with psychological testing is discrimination and the idea that some testing infringes upon the rights of individuals of a particular race or ethnicity (Hogan, 2007). The EEOC guidelines were "intended to establish a uniform Federal position in the area of prohibiting discrimination in employment on grounds of race, religion, sex or national origin" (29 C.F.R. § 1607.18 as cited by Hogan, 2007, p. 606). By law, psychologists cannot apply tests or any other type of selection procedure that may result in unfair discrimination or adversely impacts a favorable ratio of the sexes, races, or ethnic groups. Psychologists may be called upon to support the use of specific testing, and demonstrate the test's validity and job relevance, and whether it is necessary to address the individual's capability for functioning as it supports the operation of the business (Hogan, 2007).

Another issue of legality concerns making appropriate accommodations for Americans with disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, necessary accommodations must be made for any person who cannot conform to normal test-taking protocols (Hogan, 2007). Examples of such accommodations include effective ways to mitigate difficulties of the hearing impaired, or providing tests in large print editions for individuals with sight impairment. Making appropriate accommodations for disabilities is essential, although not to the extent of giving the disabled individual an unfair advantage over the other nondisabled applicants (Hogan, 2007). Ongoing efforts continue to provide a better understanding of how accommodations are best navigated and executed for the benefit of disabled and nondisabled Americans.

Both issues present difficult challenges to psychological testing. Leveling the playing field must account for fairness for both sides of the discrimination issues. Certainly it is neither fair nor ethical to treat one group less fairly than another. Laws regarding these issues are implemented for the protection of all citizens, and psychologists are mandated by law and expectedly their personal ethics, to continue to contribute higher order thinking to mitigate remaining issues of discrimination. The field of psychology and that of psychological testing must be held accountable for the highest level of ethics and legal fairness.

3. Which court case do you feel has had the largest impact on the field of psychological testing? Why?
One case that brought substantial change to psychological testing and gave influence to the recently formed Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the Griggs v Duke Power case in 1971 (Hogan, 2007). Even though this case was not unusual, it happened during a time when initial progress was being made in this country for African Americans. Although the Civil Rights Act had been enacted seven years prior, there was continued discrimination against the African American population. (Note: African Americans were still referred to as Negroes.) Also influential was this case transpired in the southeastern part of the United States where slavery was a significant problem with long-term ramifications extending further into contemporary conditions than experienced in other parts of the country. This case set a precedent for African Americans, women, and other minorities, for fairness in hiring, and established that the requirements of the job must reasonably associate with job performance (Hogan, 2007). This case designated legal standards, requiring the validation of tests, or in other words, must show "a relationship between the selection device and job performance" (Hogan, 2007, p. 610). In sum, the court ruled the requirements of the company did not pertain to performance ability, and even though unintentionally, the company had discriminated against African American employees (Tobler, 2005). Discrimination even as it continues in the United States must be addressed through legal means, if necessary. Discrimination negates the fundamental and inalienable rights and privileges of all people and the Constitution of the United States. It is essential for anyone in the psychological disciplines to uphold and support the continual fight against any form of discrimination.


American Medical Association. (2011). Informed consent. American Medical Association. Retrieved July 24, 2011, from resources/legal-topics/patient-physician-relationship-topics/

American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. American Psychological Association (APA). Retrieved July 24, 2011, from

Hogan, T. P. (2007). Psychological testing: a practical introduction (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ:
John Wiley & Sons.

Tobler, C. (2005). Indirect discrimination: a case study into the development of the legal concept of indirect discrimination under EC law. Antwerpen: Intersentia.


  1. Thank you for this well crafted (and sited) blog. I am writing a short paper of the concerns with psychological testing, I found this to be very informative. I was wondering how I could follow your blog. I see that I can share or repost but not a way to follow you and see subsequent posts.

    Thank you,

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