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What is Psychometrics and What is it For?

Patrick Smith

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Psychology is the science that studies the mind and mental processes. However, these processes are not directly observable by humans or easily quantifiable. We can observe that a person acts in an outgoing way, but it is not easy to determine to what degree it is.

For this reason it has become necessary to design different mechanisms and ways to measure psychic characteristics. The elaboration of these methods, their application, the analysis of these data and the study of their reliability and validity are the object of study of psychometry. Lets discuss what is psychometry..

Psychometrics as a measure of the psyche

Psychometrics is understood as the discipline that is responsible for the quantitative measurement of mental processes and abilities .

In this way, a numerical value can be assigned to specific characteristics and events, allowing comparison and contrast with other people or with certain criteria that can be used to establish and verify theories and hypotheses about the functioning of the mind. Thanks to psychometrics it is possible to quantify and operationalize the psychic , having largely allowed the development of psychology as a science.

Since the mind is something that is not directly observable, it is necessary to use elements that can indicate the aspect to be treated and the degree to which it is possessed, using observable indicators such as behavior or the record of physiological activity.

Broadly speaking, we can say that psychometry uses statistical calculation and analysis of results in order to acquire information regarding a particular construct (which talks about some psychological aspect) through a measurement element that you have previously created.

Which comprises?

As we have seen, psychometry is the branch of psychology that is responsible for measuring specific aspects of the mind. This implies, on the one hand, establishing a theory that can link mental characteristics with measurable elements, on the other the creation of measurement scales, and finally it involves the development of mechanisms and instruments that allow such measurement.

The creation of the theory

With respect to the first aspect, psychometry establishes the possibility of measuring unobservable constructs from elements that can be used to indicate them, as characteristics of behavior. It also elaborates and establishes how they can be observed and from different data tries to establish what these indicators can be.

The scales

The creation of scales or scaling is another of the basic elements that psychometry is in charge of. These scales allow specific values ​​to be assigned to the analyzed variables , so that they can be operationalized and work with them. It is about making a specific variable quantifiable.

Measuring instruments

The third and last of the aforementioned aspects is the creation, from the previously elaborated scales in order to quantify a specific variable, of instruments that allow such measurement.

Clear examples of them are psychological tests . In this elaboration we must take into account that it is necessary to seek objectivity, consistency, ability to discriminate between subjects, and that they are valid and reliable.

Some relevant concepts

As a discipline that allows the measurement of the unobservable from the observable, psychometry has to take into account various concepts so that such measurement is correct and representative. Some of the most relevant concepts are the following.

1. Correlation

The concept of correlation refers to the existence of some kind of link between two variables , which makes changes in one of them coincides with variations in the second one, although this does not ensure that the relationship is of cause-consequence.

2. Variance and standard deviation

The variance is the degree to which the scores of a test or of the same variable can be dispersed . The standard deviation refers to how often the scores are expected to be dispersed in relation to the average.

3. Reliability

Reliability refers to the degree to which an item or element used in the measurement of a characteristic does not produce errors , obtaining results consisting of different measurements of the same characteristic in the same subject and context.

4. Validity

Validity is understood as the degree to which the elements we are using to measure are measuring what you want to measure . There are several types of validity, such as construction, content or ecological.

Patrick graduated from LSE with a degree in economics. He covered the City of London beat for a while for the Financial Times before deciding to go freelance. He has been published in Market Watch and is the author of Better Spread Betting - Trading For Fun & Profit.

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