People often imagine psychology as observational and descriptive, but there is a mathematical side to psychology as well. Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. One example of a psychometric measure is that of IQ or the intelligence quotient.
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The goal of psychometrics, and the reason it is so valuable, is it allows us to measure things that usually are not thought of as measurable. Once something is quantifiable it becomes increasingly easier to investigate, analyze, and use in further models.
Much of the early theoretical and applied work in psychometrics was undertaken in an attempt to measure intelligence. More recently, the psychometric theory has been applied to the measurement of personality, attitudes and beliefs, academic achievement, and in health-related fields.
Research scientists – also called psychometricians – create scientifically valid and reliable instruments such as questionnaires and tests to collect data and provide a quantitative measure. Today, many employers use tests based on psychometric principles to serve as screening tools for hiring and to align existing employees to job roles most suitable for their personality type. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association (APA), up to 70% of prospective employees complete personality tests for major companies, such as McDonald’s and Lowe’s.