Cross-Cultural Neuropsychological Assessment: Theory and Practice

By Victor Nell | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Constructs, Norms, and the Problem of Comparability

For decades, construct validity has been the bugaboo of psychologists working with people from other cultures. Neuropsychologists in particular have learned to their cost that a report that is the last word in qualitative interpretation will be dismissed by the crusty voice of methodology: "Yes, doctor, indeed, but what about constructs?" The more psychometrically sophisticated the setting, the more difficult it is to move beyond the construct validity blockade.

Researchers and clinicians respond to these problems rather differently. Researchers take the purist view, say solemnly, "construct validation is the only thing" ( Carroll, 1983, p. 213) and insist that until the underlying meaning of the test has been determined, norms for that test will be meaningless. Clinicians, on the other hand, badgered by their clients to say something prognostically useful, cannot retreat into an ivory tower. On the one hand, they face imperious real-world demands from clients, families, rehabilitation professionals, and, increasingly, from criminal and civil courts, to provide accurate information about the previous and current abilities of clients who may have sustained brain damage. On the other hand, the material in the previous chapter shows that the use of Western tests with clients from other cultures can be so misleading that a cultural veto should be imposed on the use of such test scores.

A vicious circle now develops. In the first place, cross-cultural psychology has made little progress on the construct validation of psychological tests in the developing countries. Without constructs, there are no norms, and because test constructs are in doubt, psychological research institutions in the developing countries have felt unable to mount large-scale norming

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