Ethics in Measurement and Research
Ethics is highly important for researchers in different fields of studies because it demonstrates both the applicability of research methods that should be used in the process of research. This paper examines several alternative approaches to specifying the role of ethics with focus on test construction used in research. The experimenters have to take into consideration a large number of factors that influence the reliability of recommendations. In particular, it is highly important to minimize biasness and ensure the highest possible statistical significance of results. In general, testing plays an important role in psychological research; however, its correct use requires addressing a large number of important aspects, especially ethical ones.
Psychologists often use testing techniques because they allow modeling different life situations and examining respondents’ responses to them. Although the advantages are significant, numerous risks and difficulties are also present. The most important of them are as follows. First, all people are unique, and it is impossible to have complete understanding of other person using even the most reliable tests. Second, if testing techniques are implemented incorrectly, then they may be statistically insignificant or unsupported by actual evidence. Although it is difficult to neutralize the first group of problems, it is possible to organize tests correctly to minimize risks associated with the second group.
The Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education offers an extensive explanation of the key practices that should be used at different stages of research. The first subset of rules presents recommendations of developing and selecting effective tests (Joint Committee on Testing Practices, 2015, p. 2). Test developers should provide all necessary information to respondents. The latter have to follow the designed practices properly. The second sub-section refers to scoring tests (Joint Committee on Testing Practices, 2015, p. 3). All testing and scoring procedures should be explained maintaining the highest level of confidentiality. The third sub-section refers to reporting and interpreting test results (Joint Committee on Testing Practices, 2015, p. 4). As all tests have limitations, they should be addressed properly while interpreting results and making the corresponding recommendations. The final sub-section refers to informing test takers about their responsibilities, confidentiality, and procedures that may be applied in relation to scores.
In my opinion, this Code offers an insightful overview of the proper organization of test developing and interpreting procedures. The most important thing is addressing limitations of any testing techniques without considering them as being absolutely correct and applicable to all life situations. The majority of test results is applicable only to specific conditions and may be invalid in other cases. It seems that addressing and understanding test limitations are crucial for the long-term successful utilization of tests and their integration into the general framework of research.
Mumford et al. (2006) examine the major implications of ethical decision-making. Their quantitative study demonstrates that the propensity to make ethical decisions is strongly correlated with other factors such as trust, cynicism, and narcissism (Mumford et al., 2006, p. 338). These findings do not only seem to be reliable because they are statistically significant, but also because it is logical that the person’s perception of oneself directly influences his/her desire to make ethical decisions. Although there are different ethical theories, they typically tend to recognize the existence of some universal ethical principles and values that should be equally applied to all individuals. If a given individual does not recognize the existence of such universally correct principles and values, he/she will tend to make unethical decisions (in particular, preferring his/her interests to those of others).
In my opinion, it is not only important to determine the existence of these correlations that are intuitively evident, but also examine the underlying causes of people’s preferences and the structure of their reasoning and emotional responses. It is possible to use testing techniques to specify the justification of their attitude and determine several sub-groups of such individuals. Then, it is possible to deal with every group separately in order to influence people’s ethical perceptions.
To my mind, one of the negative aspects present in many studies is the implicit assumption that people’s characteristics remain constant for a long time. If some psychological response is determined, psychologists often assume that it will be observed in similar situations in the future. However, this assumption is unjustified. The reason is that people always learn and adjust their behavior according to changes in the external environment. It seems that testing techniques should address the dynamic nature of individuals.
Shawver and Sennetti (2009) have developed a system for measuring ethical sensitivity with the help of quantitative methods. Although this evaluation also has its disadvantages associated with the attempt to describe individuals’ qualitative characteristics using quantitative methods, the general approach seems correct. Ethical sensitivity does not refer to some constant aspects of one’s personality, but rather to a response to external and internal factors. It contributes to a better understanding of the process of one’s decision-making on the basis of his/her initial premises and existing motivators.
Marken (2013) demonstrates that traditional testing techniques often include the analysis of causes but neglect the role of purposes. It leads to unreliable conclusions and incorrect interpretations of other people’s responses. It seems that Marken’s ideas are highly useful and insightful because not all individuals act mechanistically or spontaneously but select the most appropriate (from their perspective) means for attaining the desired goals. Thus, all people’s actions are purposeful. Therefore, tests should be evaluated from this perspective. It is possible to determine the impact of purposes on their responses as well as the process of purpose adjustments if the initial plan does not produce the needed results.
It may also be helpful to determine the qualitative and quantitative relationships between causes, purposes, and ultimate decisions as well as the reverse impact in the context of adjusting one’s behavior in the future. In my opinion, testing techniques should not be considered as the only or the most reliable research method. It is reasonable to use them together with other research tools to obtain a broader and more correct understanding of one’s personality.
As testing techniques and practices are often applied to social groups, it is necessary to stress that correct conclusions may be formulated only in relation to comparatively homogenous groups. Therefore, it is reasonable to evaluate the responses of different cultural groups separately (Church et al., 2008). Moreover, it is possible that some factors are statistically significant for some cultural groups but insignificant in relation to others. Therefore, over-aggregation may lead to the incorrect assessment of a situation and people’s preferences. Thus, the optimal size and structure of participants represent important issues that are crucial for reliable research. It is reasonable to examine the relationships among both specific individuals and entire groups. All people do not make their decisions in isolation but are highly dependent on the responses of other social members. Testing methods allow specifying these relationships.
I have learned from this assignment that testing techniques may be highly helpful in various fields of research. However, there are various related aspects that should be addressed while organizing research and developing tests. Modern quantitative methods provide a number of opportunities for verifying the statistical significance of the obtained results and their applicability in a certain context. It is reasonable to analyze optimal homogenous groups and evaluate the impact of various factors on participants’ responses. In particular, people’s motivations and purposes are the basic elements that influence their responses and communication with others. I will use this knowledge in the future for designing effective tests and organizing complex research. I will determine the target population, develop tests, and implement them in accordance with the existing norms and rules. Then, I will interpret results with the help of available tools. I will construct several hypotheses that may potentially explain the obtained responses. An optimal interpretation will be selected on the basis of its correspondence to the major psychological theories and statistical significance. I will also consider limitations of my model and tests, as they are abstractions that are used for understanding real psychological phenomena. I will use several other research techniques to verify my hypotheses and examine other aspects of participants. I will try to obtain a non-contradictory picture of the target population. I will mostly rely on the dynamic models as all people learn and change their behavior under the pressure of external factors. I will aim at specifying people’s underlying motivation and the overall dynamics of their actions and perceptions. I will try to maintain the logical coherency of my research as well its high practical orientation. In my opinion, a correct psychological research should not contain contradictions in its structure and recommendations. I will try to organize all stages of my research in a way that will lead to the maximum possible synergic effect.