Extending the Forer Test beyond Face Validity: An Experiential Approach to Teaching Social Science Methodology
Betts, Stephen C., Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
Many psychology students are familiar with the 'Forer Test'. In the test, a personality evaluation is administered and every participant gets the same personality profile as a result (Forer, 1949; Carroll, 2005). Most participants consider the profile to be fairly accurate, thinking it is a personalized profile based on the test. This face validity is due to the generally positive nature of the profile (Leung, Su & Morris, 2001), the accepted authority of the evaluator and the belief that the analysis was unique to them (Hannay, Arisholm, Engvik & Sj0berg, 2010; Dickson & Kelly, 1985). The test is used to show the problems with relying only on face validity to judge a measurement instrument or evaluation. In this exercise we go beyond the traditional 'Forer Test' lesson. We administer the 'personality test' online, and analyze the actual results from test using legitimate, established social science methods to see if indeed the test does reveal patterns that indicate latent constructs. In this way, an interesting but limited demonstration of a psychological phenomenon is used as a starting point for illustrating more sophisticated concepts. In addition to describing the basic exercise, we illustrate how it can be used in different but related behavioral disciplines within business education. Specifically we describe the basic exercise, and illustrate how it was successfully used in undergraduate and graduate management and marketing courses.
The paper begins with a description of the Forer test, its history and application. This is followed by a brief explanation of experiential exercises in general. A description of our exercise is presented next. After the basic exercise is presented, a specific implementation of the exercise will be examined in detail. The materials and procedures will be presented first, followed by the analysis methods and results. The presentation of the results in class and the ensuing discussion are explored next. The paper concludes with proposals of how to modify the exercise for different contexts.
BACKGROUND--THE FORER TEST
In 1949 Bertram R. Forer introduced "the fallacy of personal validation". Specifically he found that people had …
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Publication information: Article title: Extending the Forer Test beyond Face Validity: An Experiential Approach to Teaching Social Science Methodology. Contributors: Betts, Stephen C. - Author. Journal title: Academy of Educational Leadership Journal. Volume: 15. Issue: S1 Publication date: November 2011. Page number: S143+. © The DreamCatchers Group, LLC 2008. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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