Bornstein (2011)

Bornstein (2011). Bornstein (2011). Consider Bornstein’s (2011) process focused (PF) Model approach to validity.

Please access the Bornstein (2011) article in Doc Sharing.

Bornstein, R. F. (2011). Toward a process focused model of test score validity: Improving psychological assessment in science and practice. Psychological Assessment, 23 (2), 532-544.

Then consider a construct (psychological variable) of interest in your specialty area, and a test (you can use the Buros website to select one) designed to assess that specific construct. .

Compare and contrast the PF and traditional models of validity.
Describe why Bornstein maintains that it is important to use the PF model of validity.
Using the 4 steps outlined by Bornstein how would you assess validity for your chosen construct and selected test to assess that construct?
The assignment should:

Follow assignment directions (review grading rubric for best results).
Use correct APA formatting per the APA Publication Manual, 6th Edition.
Demonstrate college-level communication through the composition of original materials in Standard American English.
Be written in Standard American English and be clear, specific, and error-free. If needed, be sure to use the Kaplan University Writing Center for help.

Bornstein (2001) from doc sharing

Toward a Process-Focused Model of Test Score Validity:
Improving Psychological Assessment in Science and Practice
Robert F. Bornstein
Adelphi University
Although definitions of validity have evolved considerably since L. J. Cronbach and P. E. Meehl’s
classic (1955) review, contemporary validity research continues to emphasize correlational analyses
assessing predictor– criterion relationships, with most outcome criteria being self-reports. The
present article describes an alternative way of operationalizing validity—the process-focused (PF)
model. The PF model conceptualizes validity as the degree to which respondents can be shown to
engage in a predictable set of psychological processes during testing, with those processes dictated
a priori by the nature of the instrument(s) used and the context in which testing takes place. In
contrast to the traditional approach wherein correlational methods are used to quantify the relationship
between test score and criterion, the PF model uses experimental methods to manipulate
variables that moderate test score– criterion relationships, enabling researchers to draw more
definitive conclusions regarding the impact of underlying psychological processes on test scores. By
complementing outcome-based validity assessment with a process-driven approach, researchers will
not only improve psychology’s assessment procedures but also enhance their understanding of test
bias and test score misuse by illuminating the intra- and interpersonal factors that lead to differential
performance (and differential prediction) in different groups.
Keywords: validity, construct validity, psychological assessment, psychometrics, test bias
If there is a single challenge that characterizes all of psychology’s
diverse subfields, that challenge is assessment. Psychologists
measure things. These “things” take many forms, including observable
behaviors and hidden mental states; dyadic interactions
and intergroup dynamics; changes in traits, symptoms, skills, and
abilities over time; and a broad array of neurophysiological and
neurochemical processes (along with their associated behaviors
and mental activities).
Given psychologists’ near universal reliance on assessment, it is
not surprising that researchers have devoted considerable time and
effort to maximizing test score validity—to ensuring that researchers’
assessment tools measure what we think they do. Maximizing
test score validity is not merely an academic exercise, but one that
goes to the heart of psychological science and practice, with
widespread social implications. The availability of measures that
yield scores with strong validity evidence enables psychologists to
enhance the scientific rigor of their research, make accurate decisions
in applied settings, and use and interpret test results fairly, in
unbiased ways. To be sure, the existence of assessment tools that
yield well-validated scores does not ensure scientific rigor and
accurate, unbiased decision making, but the absence of such tools
guarantees that neither of these things will occur. Thus, continued
efforts to increase our understanding of test score validity and
improve our validation methods will benefit the science and practice
of psychology in myriad ways.
The present article contributes to that effort by describing an
approach to validity—the process-focused (PF) Model—that differs
markedly from the traditional perspective. In contrast to the
traditional approach wherein the heart of validity lies in outcome—in
the relation of predictor scores to some criterion measure—the
PF model conceptualizes validity as the degree to which
respondents can be shown to engage in a predictable set of psychological
processes during assessment, with those processes dictated
a priori by the nature of the instrument(s) used, and context
in which testing takes place. The PF model differs from traditional
validity assessment not only with respect to how validity is conceptualized
but also with respect to empirical emphasis: In contrast
to the traditional approach wherein correlational methods are used
to quantify the relationship between test score and criterion, the PF
model uses experimental methods to manipulate variables that
moderate test score– criterion relationships, enabling researchers to
draw more definitive conclusions regarding the impact of underlying
processes (e.g., autobiographical memory search in response
to a self-report questionnaire item) and moderating variables (e.g.,
motivation, mood state) on test scores.
In short, the PF model shifts the emphasis of validity theory and
research from outcome to process, and from correlation to experThis
material is based on work supported by National Science
Foundation Grant 0822010. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
I thank Joseph Masling, Carolyn Morf, and Kathleen Slaney for their
helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper and Julia Biars and
Alexandra Rosen for help in collecting and coding studies included in
Table 2.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robert F.
Bornstein, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi
University, 212 Blodgett Hall, Garden City, NY 11530. E-mail:
Psychological Assessment © 2011 American Psychological Association
2011, Vol. 23, No. 2, 532–544 1040-3590/11/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0022402
imentation. By complementing traditional validity assessment with
a process-driven approach, we will not only improve psychology’s
assessment procedures but also enhance researchers’ understanding
of test bias and test score misuse by illuminating the underlying
intra- and interpersonal dynamics that lead to differential
performance (and differential prediction) in different groups.
I begin by reviewing the traditional concept of validity and its
limitations, and the evolution of validity theory and research
during the past several decades. I then outline an alternative
process-focused model of validity. I discuss how data from
process-focused and outcome-focused studies may be combined
and conclude by elaborating research, practice, and social policy
implications of an integrated perspective.
The Traditional Conceptualization of Test Score
Although psychology has a long history of using standardized
assessment instruments to quantify aptitude, attitude, achievement,
personality, and psychopathology, contemporary validity theory
and research began in earnest in the mid-20th century, with the
publication of Cronbach and Meehl’s (1955) “Construct Validity
in Psychological Tests,” and 4 years later, Campbell and Fiske’s
(1959) “Convergent and Discriminant Validation by the MultitraitMultimethod
Matrix.” Most theoretical analyses and empirical
studies of validity during the past 50 years have taken as their
starting point ideas and assumptions outlined in these two seminal
Following the logic of Cronbach and Meehl (1955) and Campbell
and Fiske (1959), validity has traditionally been operationalized
as a statistic, the validity coefficient (usually expressed as r),
that reflects the magnitude of the relationship between a predictor
(the test score) and some criterion (an outcome measure). A wide
variety of criteria are predicted by psychological tests, some overt
and readily observable, others hidden and only detectable indirectly.
When an observable criterion (e.g., suicide attempts) is
assessed, the validity coefficient is said to be an index of criterion
validity; when an unobservable construct (e.g., suicidal ideation) is
assessed, the validity coefficient is an index of construct validity.
Construct validity is in turn divided into convergent validity (the
degree to which a test score is associated with some theoretically
related variable), and discriminant validity (the degree to which a
test score is unrelated— or minimally related—to a theoretically
unrelated variable). Criterion validity can be operationalized in
terms of concurrent validity (when the test score is used to assess
some outcome in the here-and-now), and predictive validity (when
the test score is used to predict some outcome in the future),
although as psychometricians have noted, the point in time at
which concurrent validity morphs into predictive validity is difficult
to specify, and varies as a function of the criterion being
assessed and purpose of the assessment.
There are also a number of validity-related variables that are not
indices of validity in its strictest sense, but are nonetheless germane
in the present context. For example, researchers often seek to
quantify internal validity using analyses of individual test items
and response patterns to derive estimates of internal consistency
and factor structure. Though these coefficients do not address
issues regarding the degree to which test scores predict external
variables or outcomes, when internal reliability data conform to a
priori expectations regarding item interrelationships, factors, and
clusters, these data indirectly support the construct validity of
scores derived from the measure. Test score reliability— especially
retest reliability—also has implications for validity: When a test is
designed to quantify a construct that is presumed to be stable over
time (e.g., manual dexterity, narcissism), inadequate retest reliability
is prima facie evidence of a problem with test score validity.
Most psychometricians agree that face validity—test “obviousness”—is
not a true index of validity.2
It is important to note that regardless of whether one is considering
criterion, construct, convergent, or discriminant validity,
traditional validity coefficients all have two things in common.
First, they are all indices of strength of association, and represented
as correlations of one kind or another. Second, they are all
assessed observationally. Even when test scores and outcome
measures are obtained in laboratory settings under highly controlled
conditions, they invariably reflect the pairing of data collected
during one period of observation (the testing) with data
collected during a second period of observation (the comparison
Although traditional correlational methods continue to be
widely used in validity research, in recent years psychometricians
have increasingly used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA)—a
variant of structural equation model (SEM)—to examine hypothesized
causal relations among variables and draw inferences regarding
underlying process links (see Hershberger, 2003, for a
historical review). SEM is particularly useful in enabling researchers
to delineate latent variables—variables not assessed directly by
the tests administered, but which emerge from a well-specified
model when predicted patterns of variable intercorrelations are
obtained (see Ullman, 2006). In certain instances, these latent
variables represent underlying, unobservable psychological processes;
to obtain more definitive evidence regarding underlying
process links, latent variables that emerge from SEM analyses may
then be explored via experimental studies wherein key parameters
are manipulated (Bollen & Davis, 2009; Hagemann & Meyerhoff,
2008; Schumacker & Lomax, 2004). As Schumacker and Lomax
(2004) noted,
In structural equation modeling, the amount of influence rather than
cause-and-effect relationship is assumed and interpreted by direct,
indirect, and total effects among variables…. Model testing involves
the use of manipulative variables, which, when changed, affect the
1 Other seminal early papers on construct validity were MacCorquodale
and Meehl’s (1948) discussion of the epistemological challenges
involved in validating scores derived from measures of hypothetical
constructs and Loevinger’s (1957) discussion of construct validation as
one component of psychologists’ broader efforts to develop and refine
theoretical concepts.
2 In this context, it is important to distinguish the narrow use of the
terms internal and external validity, as these terms apply to test scores
from the more general use of these terms by Campbell and Stanley
(1963), who discussed various threats to the integrity of psychological
assessments and experimental designs (see Slaney & Maraun, 2008).
model outcome values, and whose effects can hence be assessed.”
(p. 56)3
Refinements of the Traditional View
SEM and CFA have had a profound influence on validity
research in recent years (see Hershberger, 2003; Tomarken &
Waller, 2005; Ullman, 2006). Beyond these innovative statistical
techniques, three substantive conceptual refinements of the traditional
view of validity have emerged; each extends this view in an
important way.
Construct Representation
Embretson (1983) distinguished the long-standing goal of construct
validity, the weaving of a “nomological net” of relationships
between test score and an array of theoretically related variables
(which she termed “nomothetic span”) from a complementary goal
that she termed “construct representation”: efforts to identify the
theoretical mechanisms that underlie item responses. Drawing
primarily from research on cognitive modeling, Embretson (1983,
1994; Embretson & Gorin, 2001) advocated the use of direct
observation of testees, path analysis, posttest interview data, and
other external indices to illuminate the processes in which people
engage while completing psychological tests. Since Embretson’s
introduction of the concept of construct representation, numerous
researchers have used these techniques to deconstruct the cognitive
processes that occur when respondents engage items from various
measures of aptitude, intelligence, and mental ability, adding expert
ratings of item content and causal modeling techniques as
additional methods for evaluating construct representation (see
Cramer, Waldrop, van der Maas, & Borsboom, 2010; Kane, 2001;
Mislevy, 2007).
Attribute Variation
Noting that measures of test score– criterion association provide
limited information regarding the degree to which a test actually
measures the variable it purports to assess, Borsboom, Mellenbergh,
and van Heerden (2004) outlined an attribute variation
approach, arguing that rigorous validity assessment requires demonstrating
that changes in an attribute can be linked directly to
changes in scores on a test designed to measure that attribute.
Consistent with Embretson’s (1983) construct representation view,
Borsboom et al. (2004) suggested that “somewhere in the chain of
events that occurs between item administration and item response,
the measured attribute must play a causal role in determining what
value the measurement’s outcomes will take” (p. 1062). Emphasizing
naturally occurring variations in traits and abilities rather
than direct manipulation of underlying variables, Borsboom et al.
cited latent class analyses that detect Piagetian developmental
shifts in children’s reasoning over time (e.g., Jansen & Van der
Maas, 1997, 2002) as exemplars of the attribute variation approach
(see also Strauss & Smith, 2009, for examples of the attribute
variation approach in clinical assessment).
Consequential Validity
Originally described by Cronbach (1971), and elaborated extensively
by Messick (1989, 1994, 1995), the concept of consequential
validity represents a very different perspective on test score
validation. According to this view, validity lies not only in the
degree to which a test score is capable of predicting some theoretically
related outcome but also in the degree to which that test
score is actually used (and interpreted) in such a way as to yield
valid data (see also Kane, 1992, for a related discussion). Thus,
evidential (research-based) validity can be distinguished from consequential
(impact-based) validity, the former representing a test’s
potential to provide accurate, useful, and unbiased information,
and the latter representing the degree to which the test truly does
yield accurate, useful, and unbiased assessment data in vivo.
Inherent in the consequential validity framework is the assumption
that an evidentially valid test score can provide consequentially
valid data in certain contexts, but consequentially invalid data in
others, depending on how the test score is interpreted. For example,
intelligence test scores may be interpreted differently in two
different schools, and psychopathology scores may be interpreted
differently in two different clinics; in both situations, the test score
in question might well yield consequentially valid information in
one setting and consequentially invalid information in the other.
Validity Assessment in Theory and in Practice
As Jonson and Plake (1998) noted, a major trend in validity
assessment since the mid-1950s has been a shift from conceptualizing
validity in terms of discrete and separable subtypes (e.g.,
concurrent, predictive) to a more integrative approach wherein
validity is conceptualized as a unitary concept (see Messick, 1995,
for a detailed discussion of this issue). The notion that the overarching
concept of construct validity can incorporate a broad
spectrum of evidence was implied in Cronbach and Meehl’s
(1955) seminal paper, suggested more directly by Loevinger
(1957), made explicit by Cronbach (1971) and Messick (1989),
and is now the most widely accepted framework for unifying and
integrating various aspects of test score validity (see Shepard,
1993; Slaney & Maraun, 2008).
Influenced by Messick’s (1989, 1994, 1995) seminal conceptual
analyses of test score validity (see also Cronbach, 1971), the most
recent edition of the Standards for Educational and Psychological
Testing (American Educational Research Association, American
Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement
in Education, 1999) describes validity as “the degree to which
evidence and theory support the interpretations of test scores
entailed by proposed uses of tests . . . . The process of validation
involves accumulating evidence to provide a sound scientific basis
for the proposed test score interpretations.” (p. 9). Consistent with
most contemporary psychological assessment texts (e.g., McIntire
3 Tomarken and Waller (2005) provided a particularly thorough and
balanced review of the advantages and limitations of SEM, noting that
although SEM is a powerful method for testing parameters of models that
incorporate various combinations of observed and latent variables, it cannot
provide definitive support for an hypothesized set of variable interrelations
in the absence of external confirming evidence. Tomarken and
Waller concluded that SEM “is arguably the most broadly applicable
statistical procedure currently available”, but went on to note that “SEM is
not, however, a statistical magic bullet. It cannot be used to prove that a
model is correct and it cannot compensate for a poorly designed study” (p.
& Miller, 2000), the 1999 Standards still enumerates distinct types
of validity evidence (see Table 1 for a summary of these categories),
but also argues that distinctions among various types of
validity evidence are less sharp than earlier frameworks had suggested
and that multiple forms of converging evidence should be
used to establish the validity of test scores within a particular
To the degree that psychologists have used the broad-based
validation strategies described in the 1999 edition of the Standards,
one would expect that during the past decade, psychology
has moved beyond the traditional correlational-observational conceptualization
of validity to a more integrative view. But have
theoretical shifts in researchers’ conceptualization of validity altered
the practice of validity assessment in vivo? A review of
present validity practices suggests that they have not.
Since publication of the 1999 Standards, there have been two
major reviews of researchers’ operationalization and assessment of
test score validity. In the first, Hogan and Agnello (2004) surveyed
696 research reports from the American Psychological Association’s
Directory of Unpublished Experimental Mental Measures
(Goldman & Mitchel, 2003), identifying the types of validity
evidence reported for each measure. They found that for 87% of
measures, the only validity evidence reported involved correlations
between test scores and scores on other self-report scales. Only 5%
of measures had been validated using behavioral outcome criteria
(e.g., work performance, academic course grades). No entries
reported validity evidence wherein experimental procedures were
used to manipulate participants’ response processes. Summarizing
the implications of their findings, Hogan and Agnello (2004)
concluded that despite recent definitional shifts, “the vast majority
[of studies] reported correlations with other variables . . . . and
little use was made of the numerous other types of validation
approaches” (p. 802).
Similar results were obtained by Cizek, Rosenberg, and Koons
(2008), who surveyed sources of validity evidence for all 283 tests
reviewed in the 16th edition of the Mental Measurements Yearbook
(MMY; Spies & Plake, 2005). Cizek et al. found that the vast
majority of reports relied exclusively on correlational methods to
evaluate test score validity, with only fivre of 283 entries (1.8%)
assessing participant response processes. The proportion of MMY
entries reporting process data was highest for developmental tests
(5.9%), followed by behavioral measures (4.0%), achievement
tests (3.7%), and tests of cognitive skills (1.5%). In every other test
category (i.e., attitude, motor skill, personnel, personality, psychopathology,
social, and vocational), the number of process-based
validity studies was zero.
A review of recent empirical literature examining test score
validity confirms the findings of Hogan and Agnello (2004) and
Cizek et al. (2008). Table 2 summarizes these data, analyzing the
measures and methods used by validity researchers in the five
journals that have published the greatest number of validity studies
during 2006 –2008.4 As Table 2 shows, despite shifts in the theoretical
conceptualization of validity (e.g., Messick, 1989) and the
recommendations of the 1999 Standards, the procedures used by
assessment researchers to evaluate the validity of test scores remain
largely unchanged. The vast majority of validity studies
published in leading journals used correlational methods (91%),
relying exclusively on self-report outcome measures (79%). Only
9% of studies in the five leading validity journals used experimental
To obtain a more complete picture of the methods used in
correlational validity investigations in Table 2, the 442 studies
in this category were classified into two subgroups: (a) studies in
which SEM and CFA were used to examine patterns of variable
interrelations and (b) studies that simply assessed the magnitude of
association between predictor and criterion. Analysis revealed that
104 of 442 studies (24%) used CFA and/or SEM; the remaining
338 studies (76%) reported predictor-criterion correlational analyses.
Proportions of studies in which SEM/CFA was used ranged
from a low of 15% (Journal of Personality Assessment) to a high
of 36% (Educational and Psychological Measurement), with Psychological
Assessment (21%), Assessment (22%), and Journal of
Pychoeducational Assessment (24%) falling between these extremes.
4 These journals were identified via a PsycNFO search conducted in
May 2009 using the keywords Validity, Construct Validity, Criterion
Validity, and Validation. Interrater reliability in coding validity article
characteristics was determined using procedures analogous to those of
Cizek et al. (2008): All articles were coded by the author, and a second
rater unaware of these initial codings independently recoded a sample of
100 articles (approximately 20% of the total). Agreement in coding was
98% for study design/method (correlational vs. experimental), and 93% for
outcome/criterion (self-report vs. alternative measure).
Table 1
Types of Validity Evidence in the 1999 Standards
Type of validity evidence Typical validation procedure
Evidence based on test content Logical analysis and expert ratings
of item content, item-construct
fit, item relevance, universe
sampling, and criterion
Evidence based on response
Interview-based and observational
analyses of participants’
responses to items or tasks;
comparison of process
differences across groups;
studies of observer/interviewer
decision processes
Evidence based on internal
Factor analyses, cluster analyses,
item analyses, differential item
functioning studies
Evidence based on relations to
other variables
Concurrent and predictive validity,
convergent and discriminant
validity, validity generalization,
criterion group differences,
studies examining impact of
interventions/manipulations on
test scores, longitudinal studies
Evidence based on
consequences of testing
Studies of expected/obtained
benefits of testing; studies of
unintended negative
Note. A complete description of types of validity evidence and validation
strategies is included in the Standards for Educational and Psychological
Testing (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological
Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education,
1999). Discussions of these validity categories are found in Goodwin and
Leech (2003), Jonson and Plake (1998), and Messick (1995).
Thus, the patterns in Table 2 confirm what earlier reviews had
suggested: There is a substantial disconnect between the idealized
descriptions of test score validity offered by psychometricians and
the everyday practices of validity researchers in the laboratory,
clinic, classroom, and field. Conceptual shifts notwithstanding,
validity assessment in psychology remains much as it was 50 years
One cannot ascertain from these data why the test score validation
process has not changed appreciably in response to theoretical
shifts. Continued reliance on traditional methods might be due in
part to the fact that the definition of validity in the 1999 Standards—although
potentially useful—is somewhat vague, without
clear guidelines regarding operationalization, implementation, and
integration of different forms of validity evidence. Slow progress
in this area might also be due in part to the fact that most
discussions of construct representation and the methods used to
assess it have focused exclusively on tests of cognitive ability, not
extending these principles to measures of personality, psychopathology,
attitudes, interests, motives, and values (see Embretson,
1998; Embretson & Gorin, 2001; Kane, 2001; Mislevy, 2007). Our
continued reliance on traditional validation methods might also
reflect a more generalized reluctance among assessment researchers
to move beyond well-established methods that—although
flawed—are widely accepted in the scientific community.
Whatever the cause, recent theoretical refinements have had
minimal impact on the validation efforts of psychometricians, and
the difficulties that have long characterized the measurement of
validity remain. Validity continues to be conceptualized primarily
in terms of observation and correlation, and operationalized as a
validity coefficient (or set of validity coefficients). Most psychological
test scores yield validity coefficients in the small to moderate
range (Meyer et al., 2001), predicting a modest amount of
variance in outcome. Not only do psychologists rely primarily on
self-report outcome measures to validate scores derived from psychological
tests (Bornstein, 2001), they frequently discuss validity
evidence based on self-reports as if this evidence reflected actual
behavior (Bornstein, 2003). As numerous researchers have noted,
most studies using traditional validity assessment procedures fail
to examine differential test score validities in different contexts
and settings (Mischel, 1984; Mischel, Shoda, & Mendoza-Denton,
2002), in different groups of respondents (Young, 2001), and as a
function of the stated or implied purpose of the test (Steele &
Aronson, 1995).
Psychology’s reliance on correlational methods to quantify validity
would be problematic in the best of circumstances, but is
especially so given the nature of our discipline: As Meehl (1978)
observed, in the social sciences, everything correlates with everything,
at least to some degree. Meehl’s wry observation echoes an
earlier conclusion by Guilford (1946) that summarized in stark
terms the fundamental problem with the traditional correlationalobservational
conceptualization of validity: When validity is
equated with magnitude of predictor– criterion association, a test
score is, by definition, valid for anything with which it correlates.
Psychology can do better. By using experimental manipulations
to alter respondents’ psychological processes during testing and
assessing the impact of these manipulations on test scores, strong
conclusions can be drawn regarding whether or not a test score is
actually measuring what it is thought to measure. When these data
are combined with traditional predictor– criterion association results,
validity assessment will become more rigorous, the utility of
psychology’s measurement procedures will be enhanced, and test
bias can be minimized.
A PF Model of Validity
In the PF model, validity is conceptualized as the degree to
which respondents can be shown to engage in a predictable set of
psychological processes during testing; once these processes are
identified, experimental manipulations are introduced to alter these
processes and determine whether the manipulations affect test
scores in meaningful ways. The PF framework reverses the usual
procedure for dealing with extraneous variables that alter psychological
test scores: Rather than regarding them as problematic, the
PF model conceptualizes variables that are seen as confounds in
traditional validity assessment (e.g., self-presentation effects) as
opportunities for manipulation, exploration, and focused analysis—windows
on underlying processes that would otherwise remain
Table 2
Validity Assessment Strategies, 2006 –2008
Number of validity
Proportion of
studies using
Proportion of
studies using
Proportion of
studies using selfreport
Proportion of
studies using
outcome measures
Assessment 93 94% 6% 78% 22%
Educational & Psychological Measurement 93 92% 8% 91% 9%
Journal of Personality Assessment 131 89% 11% 75% 25%
Journal of Psycho educational Assessment 49 94% 6% 71% 29%
Psychological Assessment 120 91% 9% 76% 24%
Overall 486 91% 9% 79% 21%
Note. Validity articles include all articles that reported data regarding the construct validity of scores derived from a psychological test (even if these data
were not explicitly identified as validity evidence by the authors). Only articles reporting original data were coded; literature reviews, meta-analyses,
comments, and case studies were excluded. Studies using experimental designs used a manipulation with two or more conditions to contrast test responses
in different groups (e.g., contrasting instructions, different pretest primes, treatment intervention vs. control/no treatment prior to test administration).
Alternative outcome measures were any outcome measures not based on participant self-report (e.g., recording of participant behavior in laboratory or field,
physiological measures, reports by knowledgeable informants, behaviors coded from archival/chart records).
Instrument-Based Processes
To a substantial degree, the psychological activities in which
people engage when responding to psychological tests are determined
by the nature of the instruments themselves— by the types
of questions asked and the tasks and activities required of the
respondent. Table 3 uses a process-based framework to classify the
array of assessment tools used by psychologists today, grouping
these instruments into six categories based on the mental activities
and behaviors involved in responding to these tests (see also
Bornstein, 2007, for a detailed discussion of this issue).5
As Table 3 shows, self-attribution tests (which are usually
described as objective or self-report tests; e.g., the NEO Personality
Inventory; Costa & McCrae, 1985) typically take the form of
questionnaires wherein people are asked to acknowledge whether
or not each of a series of descriptive statements is true of them, or
rate the degree to which these statements describe them accurately.
Stimulus attribution tests require people to interpret ambiguous
stimuli, and here the fundamental task is to attribute meaning to a
stimulus that can be interpreted in multiple ways; this attribution
process occurs in much the same way as the attributions that each
of us make dozens of times each day as we navigate the ambiguities
of the social world (e.g., when we attempt to interpret our
friend’s failure to greet us as we pass on the street; see Kawada,
Oettingen, Gollwitzer, & Bargh, 2004).
Performance-based tests include the Bender (1938) VisualMotor
Gestalt Test; the Implicit Association Test (Nosek, Greenwald,
& Banaji, 2005); occupational screening tools that require
behavior samples as part of the assessment; and various intelligence,
mental state, and neuropsychological measures. Within the
PF framework, performance-based tests are distinguished from
stimulus-attribution tests because different processes are involved:
Whereas performance-based tests require the respondent to perform
structured behavioral tasks (e.g., copy figures from cards,
assemble jigsaw puzzles), with performance evaluated according
to predefined scoring criteria, respondents’ scores on stimulusattribution
tests like the Rorschach Inkblot Method (Rorschach,
1921) and Thematic Apperception Test (Murray, 1943) are derived
from open-ended descriptions and elaborations of test stimuli. In
the PF framework, constructive tests are also distinguished from
stimulus-attribution tests, because constructive tests require respondents
to create—literally to “construct”—novel products (e.g.,
drawings, written descriptions) with minimal guidance from the
examiner and no test stimulus physically present (e.g., Machover’s,
1949, Draw-a-Person [DAP] test). In contrast to stimulusattribution
tests, which require respondents to describe stimuli
whose essential properties were determined a priori, in constructive
tests the “stimulus” exists only in the mind of the respondent
(e.g., a self-schema or parental image).
Continuing through Table 3, observational measures (as are
often used to quantify behavior in hospitals, classrooms, shopping
malls, and other settings; e.g., Baltes, 1996; Sproull, 1981), may be
distinguished from informant-report tests (wherein data are derived
from knowledgeable informants’ descriptions or ratings; e.g.,
Achenbach, Howell, Quay, & Conners, 1991). Though in both
cases, judgments are made by an individual other than the person
being evaluated, different processes are involved in generating
these judgments, with observational measures based on direct
observation and immediate recording of behavior, and informantreport
tests based on informants’ retrospective, memory-derived
conclusions regarding characteristics of the target person (see
Meyer et al., 2001, for a discussion of self- vs. informant-derived
psychological test data).
Context-Based Influences
In contrast to instrument-based processes, which are inherent in
the measure itself, context-based influences are situational factors
that alter test responses by influencing respondents’ motivations
and goals, or by modifying aspects of respondents’ cognitive or
emotional processes during testing. Context-based influences not
only reflect external variables that affect test performance (historically
conceptualized as confounds to be minimized) but also
represent potential manipulations that—when used to alter
instrument-based processes in theoretically meaningful ways—
provide unique information regarding the mental operations that
occur during testing. Context-based influences may be divided into
four categories.
Assessment setting. Assessment setting effects are shaped
not only by the physical milieu in which testing occurs (e.g.,
corporate office, psychiatric hospital, research laboratory) but also
by respondents’ perceptions of, and beliefs regarding, this milieu
(see Butcher, 2002, and Rosenthal, 2003, for examples). Thus, a
student who had a pleasant experience in an earlier learning
disability (LD) assessment is likely to approach testing more
openly—less defensively—than one whose past LD assessment
experiences were negative. A person voluntarily seeking admission
to a psychiatric unit will respond to self-attribution test items
in an intake packet quite differently than a person who has been
brought to the unit involuntarily. Someone completing psychological
tests as part of their induction into the military is likely to
approach testing very differently if they have been drafted than if
they volunteered for service.
Instructional set. Studies have demonstrated that the way an
instrument is labeled and described influences the psychological
processes that occur during testing. For example, Steele and Aronson
(1995) found that African American— but not Caucasian—
college students perform more poorly on Scholastic Aptitude Test
(SAT) items when these items are identified as indices of intelligence
than when the same items are identified as indices of
problem-solving ability; presumably the increased anxiety experienced
by African American students who are concerned that their
performance might confirm a preexisting racial stereotype diminishes
attentional capacity and temporarily impairs certain cognitive
skills. Using a very different paradigm and set of outcome measures,
Bornstein, Rossner, Hill, and Stepanian (1994) found that
college students’ self-attributed interpersonal dependency scores
increased when testing was preceded by a positive description of
dependency-related traits and behaviors, but decreased when testing
was preceded by a negative description of dependency. These
same students’ stimulus-attribution-based dependency scores (i.e.,
5 Portions of this section are adapted from Bornstein (2007, pp. 203–
scores on Masling, Rabie, & Blondheim’s, 1967, Rorschach Oral
Dependency [ROD] scale) were unaffected by instructional set.6
Affect state. A respondent’s emotional state (e.g., elated,
depressed, anxious) affects test responses in at least two ways.
First emotional reactions— especially strong emotional reactions—take
up cognitive capacity, making it more difficult for the
person to focus attention on the task at hand or divide their
attention between competing tasks (Arnell, Killman, & Fijavz,
2007). In this way, emotional reactions alter performance on
measures of intelligence, aptitude, achievement, neuropsychological
functioning, and mental state. Second, moods and other affect
states have biasing effects, priming affect-consistent nodes in
associative networks and thereby increasing the likelihood that
certain associates and not others will enter working memory
(Ha¨nze & Meyer, 1998; Robinson & Clore, 2002). Studies have
also shown that people are more likely to retrieve mood-congruent
than mood-incongruent episodic memories, though these effects
are stronger when free-recall procedures are used than when highly
structured (e.g., questionnaire) measures are used (McFarland &
Buehler, 1998; Zemack-Ruger, Bettman, & Fitzsimons, 2007).
Thus, mood-priming effects are particularly salient when stimulusattribution
tests and constructive tests are administered.
Examiner effects. As Masling (1966, 2002) and others have
shown, examiner characteristics and behaviors alter psychological
test responses in predictable ways (see Butcher, 2002, for reviews
of studies in this area). For example, testers who interact with
respondents in a distant or an authoritarian manner elicit selfattribution
and stimulus-attribution test responses that are more
guarded and defensive than those elicited by testers who treat
respondents more warmly during the evaluation. When examiners
create rapport with respondents prior to administering intelligence
test items, respondents tend to produce higher intelligence scores
than are obtained when testing is not preceded by rapport building.
Similar findings emerge in performance-based occupational
screens. Garb (1998) provided an extensive review of the literature
documenting the impact of clinician expectancy effects on the
outcome of psychological assessments. Although some of these
biasing effects stem from clinicians’ misperceptions of respondent
behavior based on characteristics of the person being evaluated
(e.g., gender, age, physical attractiveness), these effects also stem
from the manner in which the examiner interacts with the examinee
prior to and during testing, which may alter the examinees’
cognitive processes, emotional states, and motives (Allen, Montgomery,
Tubman, Frazer, & Escovar, 2003).
Implementing the PF Model
Table 4 summarizes in broad terms the four steps involved in
test score validation using the PF model. As Table 4 shows, the
first step in process-focused test score validation involves specifying
the underlying processes that should occur as individuals
respond to test stimuli (e.g., retrospective memory search, associative
priming) and identifying context variables (e.g., affect
state, instructional set) that potentially alter these processes. Next,
process– outcome links are operationalized and tested empirically
(Step 2), and the results of these assessments are evaluated (Step
3). Finally, process-focused test score validity data are contextualized
by enumerating limiting conditions (e.g., flaws in experimental
design) that might have influenced the results and evaluating
the generalizability and ecological validity of PF data by
6 Although the RIM has been the topic of considerable controversy in
recent years, much of this debate has centered on the utility of Exner’s
(1991) comprehensive system. Even vocal critics of the RIM acknowledge
the psychometric soundness of the ROD scale and the strong validity
evidence in support of the measure. As Hunsley and Bailey (1999) noted,
“One excellent example of a scale that does have scientific support . . . is
the Rorschach Oral Dependency scale. The history of research on this scale
may serve as a useful guide for future attempts to validate [other] Rorschach
scales” (p. 271).
Table 3
A Process-Based Framework for Classifying Psychological Tests
Test category Key characteristics Representative tests
Self-attribution Test scores reflect the degree to which the person attributes various
traits, feelings, thoughts, motives,behaviors, attitudes, or
experiences to him- or herself.
NEO Personality Inventory
Strong Vocational Interest Blank
Beck Depression Inventory
Stimulus-attribution Person attributes meaning to an ambiguous stimulus, with
attributions determined in part by stimulus characteristics and in
part by the person’s cognitive style, motives, emotions, and need
Rorschach Inkblot Method
Thematic Apperception Test
Performance based Test scores are derived from person’s unrehearsed performance on
one or more structured tasks designed to tap on-line behavior
and responding.
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test
Constructive Generation of test responses requiresperson to create or construct a
novel image or written description within parameters defined by
the tester.
Draw-a-Person Test
Qualitative and Structural Dimensions of
Object Relations
Observational Test scores are derived from observers’ratings of person’s behavior
exhibited in vivo, or in a controlled setting.
Spot Sampling
Behavior Trace Analysis
Informant report Test scores are based on knowledgeable informants’ ratings or
judgments of a person’s characteristic patterns of behavior and
Informant-Report version of the NEO
Personality Inventory
Note. Adapted from Table 1 in “Toward a Process-Based Framework for Classifying Personality Tests: Comment on Meyer and Kurtz (2006)” by R. F.
Bornstein, 2007, Journal of Personality Assessment, 89, pp. 202–207. Copyright 2007 by Taylor & Francis. Reprinted with permission.
assessing the degree to which similar patterns are obtained in
different populations and settings. This latter task entails conducting
replications of the initial investigation in different contexts,
using new participant samples. Thus, Steps 1–3 will occur whenever
a process-focused validity study is conducted; Step 4 represents
a long-term goal that requires additional studies.
Research examining the process-focused validity of scores derived
from self-attribution and stimulus attribution measures of
interpersonal dependency illustrates one way in which the PF
model may be implemented. As Bornstein (2002) noted, the Interpersonal
Dependency Inventory (IDI; Hirschfeld et al., 1977)
and ROD scale (Masling et al., 1967) are both widely used, and
both yield well-validated (from an outcome perspective) scores
that have been shown to predict a broad array of dependencyrelated
behaviors (e.g., suggestibility, help seeking, compliance,
interpersonal yielding) in laboratory and field settings (see Bornstein,
1999, for a meta-analysis of behaviorally referenced validity
evidence for these two measures). Although scores derived from
the IDI and ROD scale show good concurrent and predictive
validity, IDI and ROD scale scores correlate modestly with each
other—typically in the range of .2 to .3—raising questions regarding
the degree to which the two measures are tapping similar
constructs (see McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger, 1989, for
parallel findings regarding the intercorrelation of self-attribution
and stimulus attribution need for achievement scores).
Using the logic of the PF model, Bornstein et al. (1994) and
Bornstein, Bowers, and Bonner (1996a) assessed the process validity
of IDI and ROD scale scores in a series of experiments
wherein manipulations were used to alter one set of processes but
not the other, and assess the differential impact of these manipulations
on self- versus stimulus attribution dependency scores. In
the first investigation, Bornstein et al. (1994) deliberately altered
participants’ self-presentation goals by introducing an instructional
manipulation immediately prior to testing. Bornstein et al. administered
the IDI and ROD scale to a mixed-sex sample of college
students under three different conditions. One third of the participants
completed the tests in a negative set condition; prior to
completing the IDI and ROD scale, these participants were told
that both were measures of interpersonal dependency and that the
study was part of a program of research examining the negative
aspects of dependent personality traits (following which several
negative consequences of dependency were described). One third
of the participants completed the two measures in a positive set
condition; these participants were told that the study was part of a
program of research examining the positive, adaptive aspects of
dependency (following which several positive features of dependency
were described). The remaining participants completed the
measures under standard conditions, wherein no mention is made
of the purpose of either scale or the fact they assess dependency.
Bornstein et al. (1994) found that relative to the control condition,
participants’ IDI scores increased significantly in the positive set
condition and decreased significantly in the negative set condition;
ROD scores were unaffected by instructional set.
In a follow-up investigation, Bornstein et al. (1996a) used a
retest design to examine the impact of induced mood state on
IDI and ROD scores, having college students complete the two
measures under standard conditions, then calling participants
back for a second testing 6 weeks later and asking them to write
essays regarding traumatic events, joyful events, or neutral
events to induce a corresponding mood immediately prior to
testing. On the basis of previous findings regarding the impact
of mood on the priming of nodes in associative networks (e.g.,
Rholes, Riskind, & Lane, 1987), Bornstein et al. hypothesized
that induction of a negative mood state would produce a significant
increase in dependent imagery (e.g., increases in associations
related to passivity, helplessness, frailty, and vulnerability),
leading to increases in ROD scale scores. Because the
impact of mood on response to questionnaire items is comparatively
modest (Hirschfeld, Klerman, Clayton, & Keller, 1983),
Bornstein et al. hypothesized that IDI scores would not increase
significantly in the negative mood condition. The expected
patterns were obtained: Induction of a negative mood led to a
significant increase in ROD— but not in IDI—scores (see Bornstein,
2002, for descriptions of other PF studies involving
measures of interpersonal dependency).
Thus, the PF model proved useful in illuminating the processes
that underlie self-attribution and stimulus-attribution dependency
scores, and in helping explain the modest intercorrelations between
scores on two widely used measures of the same construct (see
also McClelland et al., 1989, for a discussion of this issue). Similar
logic can be used in other domains as well. For example, one might
examine the psychological processes involved in responding to
self-attribution narcissism test items by manipulating respondents’
self-focus (e.g., inducing self-focus vs. external/field focus using a
mirror manipulation; see George & Stopa, 2008) prior to testing.
By introducing a cognitive load as participants complete a brief
neurological test or dementia screen, evidence regarding the
process-focused validity of these measures can be examined. To
ascertain whether state anxiety can indeed be inferred from DAP
test data (Briccetti, 1994), an anxiety-inducing manipulation (vs.
no manipulation) can be implemented. Finally, given the psychological
processes that occur during observational ratings and informant
reports, one might expect that providing false feedback
regarding an individual prior to obtaining observer and/or informant
judgments regarding that person would alter these judgments
in predictable ways. Because observational ratings occur in the
here-and-now whereas informant reports are retrospective (and
therefore more susceptible to retrieval-based memory distortion),
one would hypothesize that false feedback should alter informant
reports more strongly than observational ratings.
Table 4
A Process-Focused Model of Validity
1) Deconstruct assessment instrument(s)
a) Specify underlying psychological processes
b) Identify context variables that alter these processes
2) Operationalize and evaluate process–outcome links
a) Turn process-altering variables into manipulations
b) Delineate hypothesized outcomes
c) Experimental design
3) Interpret outcome
a) Process-based validity results
b) Limiting conditions
4) Evaluate generalizability/ecological validity
a) Population
b) Context and setting
Implications of the PF Model: Research, Psychometrics,
Practice, and Social Policy
Table 5 contrasts the traditional and PF models in five areas:
evidence, research strategy, validity coefficient generalizability,
test development goals, and challenges. In addition to highlighting
operational differences between the two perspectives, Table 5
illustrates how the PF model shifts psychologists’ understanding of
the generalizability of validity data (from concordance of validity
coefficients across groups to documentation of similar underlying
processes in different groups), and the strategies involved in test
development (from finding optimal criterion measures and maximizing
test score– criterion relationships to finding optimal manipulations
and maximizing the impact of these manipulations on
underlying process).
Although the PF model yields unique information that the
traditional outcome-focused approach cannot provide, neither
method alone yields a truly comprehensive picture of test score
validity. When both approaches are used, psychologists can derive
two separate validity coefficients, both of which may be represented
as standard effect sizes (e.g., r or d): an outcome effect size
(the traditional estimate of predictor– criterion association), and a
process effect size (a numerical index of the degree to which a
theoretically relevant manipulation altered test score in line with
a priori predictions). Moreover, just as one may conceptualize the
outcome effect size as a single predictor– criterion correlation or as
the sum total (or average) of an array of interrelated predictor–
criterion correlations (Rosenthal, 1991), one may conceptualize
the process effect size with respect to a single experimental manipulation,
or an array of converging manipulations that would all
be expected to have similar effects on a given test score.
Note that when the two frameworks are integrated in this way,
a given measure can potentially fall into one of four categories:
1. Adequate outcome and process validity. This is the best
possible result, reflecting a situation wherein a test score predicts
what one hopes it does, and the psychological processes in which
respondents engage while completing the measure are in line with
2. Adequate outcome but not process validity. In this situation,
the test score appears to be assessing what one hopes, but it is not
clear why, because respondents’ reactions during testing differ
from what was expected.
3. Adequate process but not outcome validity. Here, the measure
seems to be tapping the expected underlying psychological processes,
but test scores do not relate to external, theoretically related
indices as anticipated.
4. Inadequate outcome and process validity. Neither process nor
outcome are as expected, and it might be time to move on to a new
As these four scenarios illustrate, a key advantage of combining
outcome and process validity data is that these data not only point
to potential limitations in a measure but also suggest specific
interventions to correct these limitations. Scenario 2 suggests
devoting greater attention to process than outcome issues, and
determining whether the problematic process results reflect difficulties
in the test itself or the manipulation used to evaluate it.
Scenario 3 suggests devoting greater attention to outcome than to
process issues, and considering whether the disappointing
predictor– criterion relationships stem from flaws in the test or in
the outcome measures used to validate scores derived from it.
Thus, the PF model represents both an affirmation of and
challenge to the 1999 Standards’ conceptualization of validity as a
unitary concept, with validity broadly defined as “the degree to
which evidence and theory support the interpretations of test
scores entailed by proposed uses of tests” (American Educational
Research Association et al., 1999, p. 9). In support of this view, the
PF model suggests that a complete picture of test score validity can
only be obtained by integrating divergent sources of validity data
obtained via different methods and procedures. In contrast to the
unitary concept view, however, the PF model argues that distinctions
among certain types of validity evidence (in this case, process
validity and outcome validity) remain useful and should be retained.
Process and outcome validity evidence for a given test
score should be considered both separately and in combination so
that convergences and divergences among different forms of validity
data can be scrutinized. The notion of validity as a truly
unitary concept—though admirable—is premature.
Research and Psychometric Implications
Although implementing the PF model involves shifting the
focus of validity research from correlation to experimentation,
process-focused validity studies need not be limited to true experiments
wherein underlying processes are manipulated directly, but
may also involve quasiexperiments wherein preexisting groups are
selected on the basis of presumed process differences. For example,
following up on their initial investigations, Bornstein, Bowers,
and Bonner (1996b) found significant positive correlations between
IDI scores and Bem’s (1974) Sex Role Inventory (BSRI)
femininity scores, and significant negative correlations between
IDI scores and BSRI masculinity scores. Stimulus attribution dependency
scores were unrelated to gender role orientation in
Table 5
Contrasting the Traditional and Process-Focused Models
Domain Traditional model Process-focused model
Key evidence Degree to which test score correlates with
theoretically related variable
Degree to which test score is altered via
manipulation of theoretically related process
Research method Assessment of predictor–criterion correlation Assessment of impact of experimental manipulation
Validity coefficient generalizability Concordance of validity coefficients across groups Documentation of similar processes across groups
Test development goals Maximize test score–outcome correlation Demonstrate impact of theoretically related process
Test development challenges Finding optimal criterion measure(s) Finding optimal manipulation(s)
participants of either gender. These patterns suggest that gender
differences in self-reported dependency are due, at least in part, to
women’s and men’s efforts to present themselves in genderconsistent
ways on psychological tests. Not surprisingly, a metaanalytic
synthesis of gender differences in self-attribution and
stimulus attribution dependency scores found that women scored
significantly higher than men on every self-attribution dependency
scale, but not on any stimulus attribution dependency measure
(Bornstein, 1995).
The PF model has implications for test development, in that
potential test stimuli must not only be constructed to maximize the
association between test score and theoretically related variables,
but also with respect to underlying process issues. In other words,
test items should be constructed to engage those psychological
processes (e.g., retrospection, spontaneous association) that reflect
the construct being assessed and the method being used to assess
it. Thus, in addition to performing preliminary factor- and clusteranalytic
studies when refining psychological test items, and evaluating
the degree to which potential test items are associated with
external indices, psychometricians should assess the impact of
relevant process manipulations on responses to each test item.
One might reasonably argue that requiring psychometricians to
conduct experimental process-focused validity studies prior to the
publication of psychological tests puts an undue burden on test
publishers, slowing the test development process and delaying the
introduction of new measures that could potentially benefit patients,
clinicians, and psychologists in various applied settings
(e.g., organizational, forensic, etc.). There is no ideal solution to
this dilemma, and the best approach may be one that seeks a
middle ground: Just as a substantial (but not necessarily comprehensive)
body of psychometric data should be obtained before a
new psychological test is used in vivo, a substantial (but not
necessarily definitive) body of process-focused experimental evidence
should be collected prior to publication of a new test.
Moreover, just as researchers continue to collect psychometric data
postpublication so the strengths and limitations of a test can be
better understood and the measure revised and improved, researchers
should continue to collect process-focused data postpublication
so the underlying processes engaged by the measure are brought
into sharper focus. These data can also be used to refine and
improve the test.
As Bornstein et al.’s (1996a, 1994) findings illustrated, inherent
in the PF model is a new conceptualization of test score divergence:
When two measures of a construct engage different underlying
processes, one can deliberately dissociate these processes,
using manipulations that alter one set of processes but not the
other. Thus, in addition to shifting the emphasis from outcome to
process, and from correlation to experimentation, the PF model
calls our attention to the importance of meaningful test score
discontinuity (see also Meyer, 1996, 1997, and Meyer et al., 2001,
for discussions of this issue). Just as convergent validity evidence
must be accompanied by discriminant validity evidence to yield a
complete picture of test score validity using the traditional
outcome-based approach, manipulations that cause two measures
of a given construct to converge more strongly must be complemented
by manipulations that cause scores on these measures to
diverge more sharply when the PF model is used. Note that
manipulations that cause two test scores to converge should also
increase the convergence of these two test scores with a common
theoretically related external criterion, whereas manipulations that
cause two test scores to diverge should lead to greater divergence
in the magnitude of test score– criterion links. This is another
means through which process-focused and outcome-based validity
data may be integrated.
Practice and Social Policy Implications
Principle 9.05 of the American Psychological Association’s
(2002) Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct states that “Psychologists
who develop tests and other assessment techniques use
appropriate psychometric procedures and current scientific or professional
knowledge for test design, standardization, validation,
reduction or elimination of bias, and recommendations for use” (p.
14). The PF model’s framework for conceptualizing test score
divergence has implications for understanding the sources of group
differences in performance; ultimately the PF model may enhance
psychologists’ ability to develop measures that generalize more
effectively across gender, age, race, and ethnicity, thereby reducing
test bias and test score misuse.
Although public controversy regarding test bias has tended to
emphasize group differences in outcome (e.g., ethnic and racial
differences in SAT scores), psychometricians have increasingly
focused on differential predictor– criterion relationships as a key
index of bias (e.g., situations wherein scores on a personnel selection
screen predict occupational success more effectively in members
of one group than another). The PF model provides a framework
for evaluating the degree to which group differences in
predictive validity may be rooted in underlying process: When a
test score predicts an outcome more effectively in one group than
in another, this differential outcome validity is likely to be rooted,
at least in part, in intergroup process differences, and these can be
detected by introducing manipulations designed to alter the processes
in question. Thus, differential predictive validities of SAT
scores in African American and Caucasian students should increase
when manipulations design to increase stereotype threat are
used, and decrease when threat-reducing manipulations are used.
Gender differences in self-attributed dependency should increase
when test instructions are written to focus respondents’ attention
on gender role issues, and decrease when instructions that deemphasize
gender are used (see Major & O’Brien, 2005, for a discussion
of contextual cues that moderate self-schema- and selfpresentation-related
psychological processes in various groups).
Two practice and policy implications follow, one having to do
with addressing concerns regarding test bias prior to publication,
the other with remedying flaws in existing tests. With respect to
the former, psychologists developing measures that have historically
tended to yield problematic group differences should deliberately
evaluate the degree to which similar underlying processes
are engaged in different groups, using standard PF manipulations
(e.g., changes in test labels, induction of a negative mood or state
anxiety) during the early stages of item development. When process
differences are identified, these can be addressed before the
test is used in vivo (e.g., by altering item content, revising test
instructions, or evaluating the impact of varying item formats on
With respect to the latter issue, the PF model suggests an
alternative definition of test bias: empirically demonstrable differences
in the psychological processes engaged by different groups
of respondents. With this in mind, educators, policymakers, and
mental health professionals who seek to document test bias (or the
absence of bias) can use a process-focused framework alongside
the traditional outcome-based approach. Once process-based
sources of bias are identified in research settings, strategies for
reducing these sources of bias in vivo may be implemented. In
forensic contexts, demonstrable group differences in process—
when coupled with differences in predictor– criterion relationships—
represent compelling evidence that an assessment procedure
does not yield comparable outcomes in different groups.7
Conclusion: Toward an Integrated, Integrative
Perspective on Test Score Validity
The goals of psychology have evolved during the past several
decades, and so must the goals of validity research. Historically the
relationship between experimentation and test score validity has
been largely unidirectional, as researchers sought instruments with
well-validated scores to enhance the rigor of their experiments.
The PF model turns this unidirectional relationship into a bidirectional
one: Just as one cannot conduct a rigorous experiment
without valid test scores, one cannot validate test scores rigorously
unless one uses experimental procedures as part of the overall
validation strategy.
Unlike traditional outcome-based validity assessment, the PF
model explicitly links psychological testing to other areas of
psychology (e.g., cognitive, social, developmental). Many of the
manipulations used in PF studies to date have drawn upon ideas
and findings from psychology’s various subfields, including research
on memory, mood, self-presentation, implicit motivation,
gender role socialization, and other areas. In this respect, the PF
model not only enhances psychologists’ understanding of test
score validity, but may also help connect psychology’s disparate
subfields, contributing to the unification of a discipline that has
fractionated considerably in recent years.
7 The PF model has pedagogical implications as well, teaching students
the value of experimental methods and the ways in which experimental
data enrich correlational results. Because the PF framework links assessment
to other areas of psychology (e.g., cognitive, social), it helps deepen
students’ perception of psychological science as a unified discipline. Moreover,
the phenomenological emphasis of the PF framework—increased
attention to the mental processes and subjective experience of the respondent—
enables students to grasp the complexities of psychological assessment
in ways that the traditional approach cannot.
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Received July 1, 2010
Revision received November 12, 2010
Accepted November 15,


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