DISCOVER
×

What are the limitations of psychological tests?

Updated July 20, 2017

Psychological tests assess and evaluate information about an individual or group. Types of psychological tests include intelligence tests, neuropsychological tests, occupational tests, personality tests and specific clinical tests such as current level of anxiety or depression. Effective and accurate psychological tests are objective, reliable, valid, based on sound norms and standardised. Take the limitations of psychological testing into account when evaluating results.

Test Construction

Some psychological tests are constructed in ways that make them unreliable and unscientific. The Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests, for example, are based on personality "types" not based on science. Another example is the Rorschach inkblot test, which involves presenting individuals with inkblots they must then interpret for meaning. The reliability of this test is not high, as its interpretation depends on the psychologist and not objective results.

Cultural Bias

Many psychological tests, particularly intelligence tests, can carry cultural biases. They assume all individuals have the same experiences and proficiency with the English language. Individuals from a, ethnic minority may interpret items in a psychological test differently due to their culture and upbringing, which may result in a disproportionate and inaccurate result.

Accuracy

Psychological tests may be inaccurate for a number of reasons. Individuals taking the test may give false responses. They may fake or distort answers in a bid to portray themselves in a positive light. This issue becomes particularly salient during tests that involve employment suitability, for example.

Interpretation

Even the most skilled in evaluating psychological test results can make errors, which becomes more likely when the test involves cognitive or emotional responses, which are more likely than behavioural responses, to garner a subjective interpretation. The same response may receive different scores depending on who scores the test. This limitation may result in an inaccurate test result and compromise the validity of the test.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Emily Rose is a full-time freelance writer who began writing professionally in 2010. Rose's interests include psychology-driven topics such as mental health, human relationships, addiction and stigma and discrimination. She has a bachelor's degree in arts from the Queensland University of Technology and is currently obtaining a degree in creative writing (nonfiction narrative) at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.