The Logic of Validity Generalization
Kevin R. Murphy Pennsylvania State University
A few minutes in any college library is enough to illustrate one of the important characteristics of research in the behavioral and social sciences (i.e., that the number of books, papers, chapters, and reports published in these areas is simply enormous). For example, the various journals of the American Psychological Association publish tens of thousands of pages of peer-reviewed studies each year. The sheer volume of published work often makes the task of summarizing, integrating, and making sense of this research daunting. For example, a recent keyword search of the Psychlnfo database using the term attitude change returned 1,800 citations. A search using the term psychotherapy returned more than 54,000 citations. In industrial and organizational psychology, a similar phenomenon has been noted, especially in the area of selection test validity. There have been thousands of studies examining the validity and utility of tests, interview methods, work samples, systems for scoring biodata, assessment centers, etcetera (e.g., a Psychlnfo using the term personnel selection yielded more than 2,300 citations), and the task of interpreting this body of research is a challenging one.
For much of the history of personnel psychology, the task of interpreting this literature fell on the authors of textbooks and narrative reviews (notably Ghiselli, 1966, 1970). Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, reviews of literature on the validity and utility of tests and