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A Brief History of Psychometric Testing The Early Psychologists


While its origins can be traced back to the work of Galton and his associates, the area of psychometrics, as we know it today, did not really start to develop until the early years of the last century. In part inspired by the huge advances that were being made at that time in the natural sciences, the aim of these early researchers was to break away from the tradition of viewing psychology as a branch of philosophy and instead define it as a science. With this aim in mind, one of their main goals was to abandon the tradition of exploring psychological phenomenon via introspection and self-reflection, and instead apply the principles of natural science to psychology. Realising that to do this they needed to be able to measure psychological phenomenon, the area of psychometrics (the measurement of psychological characteristics) was born.

The earliest psyhometricians were primarily concerned with measuring intelligence (see for example, Binet, 1910; Spearman, 1904; Stern, 1912; Terman, et al., 1917), with subsequent researchers directing their attention to measuring personality (Cattell, 1946; Hathaway & McKinley, 1940; Guildford & Guildford, 1936) and attitudes (Guttman, 1944; Thurston, 1928). With time, the term psychometrics has come to be reserved to describe the statistical models that underpin the construction and use of pencil-and-paper tests, rather than being used to describe psychological measurement in its broadest sense (e.g. assessing motor-skills, memory and attention, etc). There are two principal statistical models that underpin test construction; Classical Test Theory (sometimes called True Score Theory), which developed from the work of Spearman (1904) and others (see Kline, 1986, for a good description Classical Test Theory) and Item Response Theory (sometimes termed Rasch Scaling), which developed from the work of Rasch (1960) and others (see Wilson, 2005, for a good description of Item Response Theory).









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