Thursday, April 18, 2019

Psychological Tests and their Relationship to Behavior


Introduction to the Concept of Psychological Testing

The aim of the field of psychology is to understand, predict and influence behavior (Chung & Hyland, 2012). One way of doing so is by categorizing behavior and individual differences into measurable conceptual clusters, which can be related to specific behavior or psychological traits. In lay terms, this is the fundamental mission of psychological testing, which also relies heavily on statistical tools that attempt to generate correlational and causal links among variables (Cooper, 2010).

History of Psychological Testing

The fist quantitative attempt at psychological testing began with the French psychologist Alfred Binet, who devised the first IQ test in 1908 in an attempt to find out which students lacked in intellectual ability in order to help them develop their skills (Wolf, 1973). Even though Binet had good intentions, the first half of the 20th century witnessed horrific misuse of psychological testing, which resulted in mass sterilization of what was called at the time “feeble minded” individuals in the United States (Zussman, 2013).

Approaches to Psychological Testing

Intellectual intelligence was not the only ability psychologists attempt to measure. Emotional intelligence (EI), which according to Daniel Goleman, is a combination of abilities such as self-management, self-awareness, having social skills and the ability to empathize with others, is as important as intellectual ability in attempting to explain, influence, and predict behavior (Goleman, 1995). Other than the measures of abilities, psychologists also attempted to also categorize individual differences in personality, the most scientific and updated attempt in the Big Five personality test which was developed by psychologists Paul Costa and Robert McRae (Costa & McRae, 1995).

Differentiation between Correlations and Causal Links

            In order to link psychological tests with real life, it is also important to differentiate some fundamental statistical concepts. Correlation does not mean causation, if a variable is correlated with another, it means that there is high chance that they can co-occur simultaneously (SEP, 2016), however causation means that one variable causes the other. Also the approaches of measuring correlational and causal links are very different, correlations are usually derived from statistical analyses of surveys whereas causal links are derived from experiments with randomized samples (Srinagesh, 2006).

Linking Psychological Tests with Real Life Behavior

High scores on intelligence tests is a correlated with intellectual ability, however, having a high intellectual capacity does not necessarily mean that for example a student that has an above average score of 120 on an IQ test will necessarily be a high academic achiever. Some confounding variables such as family income, parenting style, quality of education can all influence the outcome (Baumiester & Tierney, 2012). On the other hand, personality traits of the Big Five have narrower traits called facets, which have been correlated with a range of abilities (Cooper , 2010). For example individuals that have high scores on facets of the trait conscientiousness such as orderliness, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and prudence are better predictors of academic achievement (Kertchian, 2018). As for EI and achievement, a meta-analysis that compares the results of school children that had EI training and those that didn’t indicates that improvement in EI resulted in a 10% increase pro-social behavior and 11% increase in academic achievement (Wilkens & Wilmore, 2015).


Reducing individuals into the sum of their traits and abilities is not the aim of modern psychological testing. However, such tests are used to analyze behavior and individual differences in order to categorize and develop psychological tools to improve the life and abilities of individuals.


Baumiester, R., & Tierney, J. (2012). Chapter 9: Raising strong children: self-esteem versus self-control. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest human Strength. New York: Penguin Group.

Chung, M., & Hyland, M. (2012). Further early beginning of psychology. In History and Philosophy of Psychology (pp. 119-120). John Wiley & Sons.

Cooper, C. (2010). Introduction to individual differences. In Individual Differences and Personality (pp. 1-6). London: Hodder.

Cooper, C. (2010). Narrow personality traits. In Individual Differences and Personality (pp. 78-95). London: Hodder.

Costa, P., & McRae, R. (1995). Primary traits of eysenck's p-e-n system: three- and five-factor solutions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 308.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York : Bantam Books .

Kertchian, S. (2018). Conscientiousness as a key to success for academic achievement among French university students enrolled in management studies. IJME, 154-165.

SEP. (2016). Correlational research. Salem Encyclopedia Press, Retrieved from

Srinagesh, K. (2006). Planning the experiments in statistical terms. In The Principles of Experimental Research (pp. 333-372). Amsterdam : Butterworth Heinmann.

Wilkens, C. L., & Wilmore, E. (2015). Does implementation of emotional intelligence program guarantee student achievement ? Education Leadership Review of Doctorate Research , 13.

Wolf, T. (1973). Alfred binet . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zussman, R. (2013). The girls and boys of belchertown: a social history of the belchertown state school for the feeble-minded. American Sociological Association, 572.



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