Computer-based psychological assessment has come far since it began to evolve over 40 years ago. As a group, assessment practitioners have accepted computerized testing. Many clinicians use some computer scoring, computer-based interpretation, or both. Most practitioners today consider computer- assisted test interpretation to be an ethical professional activity. Computers have been important to the field of applied psychology almost since they were introduced, and the application of computerized methods has expanded over the past several decades. Since that time, the application of computerized methods has broadened both in scope and in depth.
The merger of computer technology and psychological test interpretation has not, however, been a perfect relationship. Past efforts at computerized assessment have not gone far enough in making optimal use of the flexibility and power of computers for making complex decisions. At present, most interpretive systems largely perform a look up, list out function—a broad range of interpretations is stored in the computer for various test scores and indexes, and the computer simply lists out the stored information for appropriate scale score levels. Computers are not involved as much in decision making.
Computerized applications are limited to some extent by the available psychological expertise and psychotechnology. To date, computer-human interactions are confined to written material. Potentially valuable information, such as critical nonverbal cues (e.g., speech patterns, vocal tone, and facial expressions), is presently not incorporated in computer-based assessments. Furthermore, the response choices are usually provided to the test taker in a fixed format (e.g., true-false).
On the positive side, the earlier suggestion made by some researchers that computer-administered and traditional administration approaches were nonequivalent has not been supported by more recent findings. Research has supported the view that computer-administered tests are essentially equivalent to booklet-administered instruments.
In spite of what have been described as limitations and unfulfilled hopes, computer-based psychological assessment is an enormously successful endeavor. Research thus far appears to point to the conclusion that computer-generated reports should be viewed as valuable adjuncts to clinical judgment rather than as substitutes for skilled clinicians. Computer-based assessment has brought accountability and reliability into the assessment field. It is apparent that whatever else computerized assessment has done for the field of psychology, it clearly has focused attention upon objective and accurate assessment in the fields of clinical evaluation and diagnosis.
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