Decision-Aiding in the Process of Psychological Assessment

By Westhoff, Karl; Hagemeister, Carmen et al. | Psychology Science, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Decision-Aiding in the Process of Psychological Assessment


Westhoff, Karl, Hagemeister, Carmen, Strobel, Anja, Psychology Science


Abstract

After some central statements on the assessment process, decision-aiding by Decision-oriented Assessment will be presented. Then rules for deciding about the client's question will be explained. After that the basis of every assessment is listed: the requirements and how to gather them. The behavioral equation of Decision-oriented Assessment will be introduced and its usefulness for the structuring of the assessment process will be shown. One further crucial phase of the assessment process is the selection of sources of information. - The basis of every sound psychological assessment is observation of behavior. Important parts of behavior can only be observed by the subjects themselves. Decision-oriented Interviewing enables assessors to gather these self-observations. The Instrument for the Description of Interviewer Competence in Proficiency Assessment (DIPA, Strobel, 2004) highlights the strengths and weaknesses of an interviewer when gathering self-observations from subjects. - Inevitably in the assessment process all pieces of information must be integrated so that, if agreed, well-founded recommendations can be derived.

Key words: Psychological assessment, decision-aiding, assessment process, task analysis

1. Introduction

In each applied field of psychology, sound assessment results are the basis for successful and satisfying decisions. The assessment process is conceived as a sequence of many inevitable decisions under uncertainty. Decision-Oriented Assessment (DOA, Westhoff & Kluck 2003, first published in 1991) is presented here as decision aiding technology for all these decisions.

Although the assessment process is not the focus of psychological research, explicitly understanding it as a sequence of inevitable decisions is very helpful in practice (FernandezBallesteros et al., 2001). The assessment process starts with the decisions the assessor has to make about the client's question (Hagemeister & Westhoff, 2002). - Like FernandezBallesteros et al. (2001), we prefer the more general term client's question to the term referral question, which is limited to clinical psychology. - Then the assessor needs knowledge about the field in question, which can be compiled in a requirements profile (Westhoff & Kluck, 2003). How can one gather relevant requirements? Lots of possible predictors are at hand in psychological assessment (Meyer et al., 2001). The problem is not to overlook a helpful predictor (Westhoff, 2005). Another problem is the selection of valid sources of information. Observations - and very often only observations made by the assessee him/herself- are the basis of sound psychological assessment. But how can self-observations be collected as validly as possible, for example in an in-depth interview? Assessors - even experienced ones - run the risk of interviewing in a sloppy way. Continuous feedback about their kind of interviewing is one measure to help interviewers (Strobel, 2004). The data collected in the assessment process must be integrated in order to answer the psychological questions into which the client's question was divided. The answers to these psychological questions then have to be integrated into an answer to the client's question (FernandezBallesteros et al., 2001). In these inevitable phases of the assessment process, lots of errors and mistakes can occur. In order to improve the assessment process, Decision-Oriented Assessment provides the assessor with helpful devices, for example checklists, heuristics and collections of rules extracted from empirical literature (Westhoff & Kluck, 2003).

2. Aiding the decision-maker in the assessment process

2.1 Guidelines for the assessment process

In continental Europe psychologists typically start out from a general psychological assessment. In the Anglo-Saxon countries another approach dominates. There, one finds as many forms of psychological "assessment" (ways to assess) as there are fields of applications for psychological assessment and intervention. …

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