Introduction and Historical Perspectives

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Book Section

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Handbook of Psychological Assessment


Acadmic Press, Elsevier



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The first edition of the Handbook of Psychological Assessment was published with Michel Hersen in 1984, followed by the second edition in 1990 and a third edition in 1999. The historical material presented in the third edition is reproduced in this chapter and updated with developments that have occurred in the almost 20 years since publication of that edition. In the first edition, we indicated that “A test is a systematic procedure for comparing the behavior of two or more persons.” This definition of a test was offered by Lee Cronbach many years ago (1949/1960) and probably still epitomizes the major content of psychological assessment, although in recent years a distinction is made between testing and assessment, with assessment being the broader concept. Assessment acknowledges that testing is one way to evaluate individuals but also that there are other ways of evaluating individual differences, such as interviewing and behavioral observation. Assessment has become a part of Western culture and almost all individuals are exposed to testing in some form during their lifetimes. In this chapter, we review the historical foundations for the main forms of psychological assessment that are currently in use. Intelligence and achievement testing, projective and objective personality assessment, neuropsychological assessment, and behavioral assessment are included. We end the chapter with brief discussion of recent developments such as the increase use of technology in the administration and interpretation of psychological tests, the rapid development of neuropsychological assessment procedures, concerns regarding test fairness and culture, continued development of objective personality tests, and ongoing efforts directed at expanding structured and semistructured interview procedures. Each of these emerging areas is covered in much greater detail in individual chapters of this Handbook. It is apparent that psychological assessment continues to evolve with many recent changes concerning several of its important aspects, a consideration that provided the impetus for publishing this fourth edition of the Handbook of Psychological Assessment.


Psychometrics; Intelligence testing: achievement testing; Objective and projective personality assessment; Behavioral assessment; History


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences



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