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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

"Psychological constructs" are phenomena that are not seen directly but exert influence on individuals' responses to the real world and to items on tests. Constructs such as "intelligence" or "motivation" are valued because they organize otherwise piecemeal observations. Science aims to understand real-world phenomena through systematic observations and iterative refinement of constructs about how observations "go together." Measurement per se is not science but a tool to observe phenomena. The "scientific status" of an instrument rests on its construct validity, meaning that the construct in question causes variation in responses to real-world conditions and to test items. Insofar as variation in projective test responses are caused by constructs' capturing phenomena that matter in the lives of individuals, projective techniques are legitimate tools for science and practice. Shortcomings of clinical instruments are rooted in some combination of insufficient understanding of the target phenomenon (need to improve theory), flawed conceptualization of causal relations of the phenomenon to variations in scores on the test (need to improve measures), improper selection of real-world criteria (need to improve match between predictor and predicted constructs), or unreliability of the measure (need to improve psychometric properties).

Keywords: psychological constructs, scientific status, projective techniques, personality, psychometrics, assessment

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