Psychological testing is the assessment of a person’s emotional and cognitive functioning using various techniques to help develop a certain conclusion about an individual’s personality, behavior, and capabilities. Some psychological tests are designed in such a way that an individual unwittingly reveals certain information about himself/herself, hence an invasion of an individual’s privacy.
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In psychological testing, ethical principles demand the right to privacy and confidentiality for the individual being assessed. Individuals are entitled to their privacy, and no disclosure of their personal information is allowed without their direct permission.
The principle of the right to privacy implies that an individual has the right to choose the information regarding his/her beliefs, attitudes, actions, and feelings to another person, often a licensed psychologist (Hogan, 2007, p.117). However, sometimes the confidentiality is breached especially when managers undertake a psychological assessment of their employees (McIntire & Miller, 2007, p.67).
Another issue of concern regarding psychological tests is the right to informed consent or self-determination. Every individual has a right to receive accurate and complete information regarding the psychological test, what their results will be used for, and the meaning of their results mean (McIntire & Miller, 2007, p.69).
Psychologists have a responsibility to ensure that the examinees understand the requirements and implications of any test before it is administered. One of the legal issues associated with psychological testing is the psychological evaluation of defendants by forensic psychologists in courts. Courts rely on the findings of the forensic psychologists to make a particular ruling.
They also predict the competency or ability of the defendant to stand trial in court and can give directions regarding child custody arrangements (Plante, 2005, p.61). In this respect, forensic psychologists play a vital role in civil and criminal cases as they offer expert advice regarding the defendant’s suitability to stand trial.
Additionally, the forensic psychologist’s aid lawyers in selecting a panel for a particular case. They use psychological tests to evaluate the potential juror, which questions the legality of forensic psychologists to appraise the potential panel or defendant/client before the hearings of a court case.
Another legal issue of concern is the use of psychological testing by employers during hiring. Clinical psychologists use integrity tests in the hiring process of potential employees in most industries and organizations. To avoid hiring employees with inappropriate behaviors, employers administer integrity tests to assess the future behaviors of the potential employee including dependability, trustworthiness, and emotional stability.
However, even though applying integrity tests during the hiring process might arrest future job ills, employers cannot hire or fire workers on personality grounds exclusively. The United States vs. Scheffer case of 1998 represents one of the cases that had a huge impact on the field of psychological testing.
In this court case, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier rejection of polygraph evidence by the trial court, as presented by Scheffer, the defendant. The rejection was based on the assumption that polygraph evidence is not entirely reliable evidence. However, this implies that psychiatric evidence is more reliable than polygraph evidence, a test that relies on physiological indices.
This ruling implied that psychological testing is important as a forensic instrument than the commonly used polygraph testing in many ways.
- Firstly, in this court case, the court noted that polygraphs have less credibility because its accuracy cannot be quantified.
- Secondly, the court noted that polygraphs serve the same purpose as the jury, which is to establish whether the witness is truthful when giving out his/her testimony.
- Thirdly, polygraphs emphasize on the credibility of the witnesses or defendants, which deters them from giving their account of the case.
In contrast, psychological testing is not usually viewed as infallible and thus a reliable source of evidence in court cases (Vidmar, & Schuller, 1989, p.173). The psychological evidence is, therefore, important in assisting litigants in telling their story in a court of law because of its reliability.
Hogan, T. (2007). Psychological testing: A practical introduction. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
McIntire, A., & Miller, A. (2007). Foundations of psychological testing: a practical Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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Plante, G. (2005). Contemporary Clinical Psychology. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.
Vidmar, N., & Schuller, R. (1989). Juries and Expert Evidence: Social Framework Testimony. Law & Contemporary Problems, 133(2), 173.