Construct validity is generally determined by investigating what psychological traits or qualities a test measures; that is, by demonstrating that certain patterns of human behavior account to some degree for performance on the test. A test measuring the trait "need for achievement," for instance, might be shown to predict that high scorers work more independently, persist longer on problem-solving tasks, and do better in competitive situations than low scores.
Controversies. The major psychological testing controversies stem from two interrelated issues: technical shortcomings in test design and ethical problems in interpretation and application of results. Some technical weaknesses exist in all tests. Because of this, it is crucial that results be viewed as only one kind of information about any individual. Most criticisms of testing arise from theovervaluation of and inappropriate reliance on test results in making major life decisions. These criticisms have been particularly relevant in the case of intelligence testing. Psychologists generally agree that using tests to bar youngsters from educational opportunities, without careful consideration of past and present resources or motivation, is unethical. Because tests tend to draw on those skills associated with white, middle-class functioning, they may discriminate against disadvantaged and minority groups. As long as unequal learning opportunities exist, they will continue to be reflected in test results. In the U.S., therefore, some states have established laws that carefully define the use of tests in public schools and agencies. The American Psychological Association, meanwhile, continues to work actively to monitor and refine ethical standards and public policy recommendations regarding the use of psychological testing.
8. Development psychology
Developmental Psychology study of behavioral changes and continuity from infancy to old age. Much emphasis in psychology has been given to the child and to the deviant personality. Developmental psychology is particularly significant, then, in that it provides for formal study of children and adults at every stage of development through the life span.
Developmental psychology reflects the view that human development and behavior throughout the life span is a function of the interaction between biologically determined factors, such as height or temperament, and environmental influences, such as family, schooling, religion, and culture. Studies of these interactions focus on their consequences for people at different age levels. For example, developmental psychologists are interested in how children who were physically abused by their parents behave when they themselves become parents. Studies, although inconclusive, suggest that abused children often become abusive parents.
Other recent studies have focused on the relationship between the aging process and intellectual competence; contrary to the traditional notion that a person's intellectual skills decline rapidly after the age of 55, research indicates that the decline is gradual. American studies of adulthood, building on the work of Erik Erikson, point to stable periods with a duration of 5 to 7 years, during which energy is expended on career, family, and social relationships, punctuated by "transitional" periods lasting 3 to 5 years, during which assessment and reappraisal of major life areas occurs. These transitional periods may be smooth or emotionally stormy; the "midlife crisis" is an example of such a transition. Whether such transitions are the same for men and women, and whether they are universal, is currently under study.
9. Social psychology
Social Psychology branch of psychology concerned with the scientific study of the behavior of individuals as influenced, directly or indirectly, by social stimuli. Social psychologists are interested in the thinking, emotions, desires, and judgments of individuals, as well as in their overt behavior. An individual's inner states can be inferred only from some form of observable behavior. Research has also proved that people are affected by social stimuli whether or not they are actually in the presence of others and that virtually everything an individual does or experiences is influenced to some extent by present or previous social contacts.
Development of Theory. Social psychology is rooted in the earliest intellectual probes made by individuals into their relations with society. Many of the major problems of concern to contemporary social psychology were recognized as problems by social philosophers long before psychological questions were joined to scientific method. The questions posed by Aristotle, the Italian philosopher Niccol Machiavelli, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and others throughout history are still asked, in altered form, in the work of present-day social psychologists.
The more recent history of social psychology begins with the publication in 1908 of two textbooks-each having the term social psychology in its title-that examine the impact of society on the development and behavior of individuals. One of these was written by the British psychologist William McDougall, and the other by the American sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross. McDougall framed a controversial theory of human instincts, conceived of as broad, purposive tendencies emerging from the evolutionary process. Ross, on the other hand, was concerned with the transmission of social behavior from person to person, such as the influence of one person's emotions on another's in a crowd, or the following of fads and fashions.
Another textbook on social psychology, published in 1924 by the American psychologist Floyd H. Allport, had an important influence on the development of social psychology as a specialization of general psychology. Allport extended the principles of associative learning to account for a wide range of social behavior. He thus avoided reference either to such mysterious social forces as were proposed by Ross or to the elaborate instinctive dispositions used by McDougall and his followers to account for social behavior. Through the remainder of the decade, the literature of social psychology continued to be devoted to similar discussions and controversies about points of view, and little empirical work, that is, work relying on experience or observation, of theoretical or practical significance was done.
Early Experimentation. In the 1930s empirical research was first undertaken on such matters as