Question: What is Validity?
When people talk about psychological tests, they often ask whether the test is valid or not. What exactly does this mean?
Psychological assessment is an important part of both experimental research and clinical treatment. One of the greatest concerns when creating a psychological test is whether or not it actually measures what we think it is measuring. For example, a test might be designed to measure a stable personality trait, but instead measure transitory emotions generated by situational or environmental conditions. A valid test ensures that the results are an accurate reflection of the dimension undergoing assessment.
So what does it mean for a test to have validity?
Validity is the extent to which a test measures what it claims to measure. It is vital for a test to be valid in order for the results to be accurately applied and interpreted.
Validity isn’t determined by a single statistic, but by a body of research that demonstrates the relationship between the test and the behavior it is intended to measure. There are three types of validity:
1. Content Validity
When a test has content validity, the items on the test represent the entire range of possible items the test should cover. Individual test questions may be drawn from a large pool of items that cover a broad range of topics.
In some instances where a test measures a trait that is difficult to define, an expert judge may rate each item’s relevance. Because each judge is basing their rating on opinion, two independent judges rate the test separately. Items that are rated as strongly relevant by both judges will be included in the final test.
2. Criterion-related Validity
A test is said to have criterion-related validity when the test has demonstrated its effectiveness in predicting criterion or indicators of a construct. There are two different types of criterion validity:
- Concurrent Validity occurs when the criterion measures are obtained at the same time as the test scores. This indicates the extent to which the test scores accurately estimate an individual’s current state with regards to the criterion. For example, on a test that measures levels of depression, the test would be said to have concurrent validity if it measured the current levels of depression experienced by the test taker.
- Predictive Validity occurs when the criterion measures are obtained at a time after the test. Examples of test with predictive validity are career or aptitude tests, which are helpful in determining who is likely to succeed or fail in certain subjects or occupations.
3. Construct Validity
A test has construct validity if it demonstrates an association between the test scores and the prediction of a theoretical trait. Intelligence tests are one example of measurement instruments that should have construct validity.
Learn more about validity and psychological tests in this quick video.