Personality assessment entails administering, scoring and construing measures of traits of personality in a manner that is empirically supported. The purpose of personality assessment is to refine medical diagnosis, inform psychological mediations and enhance probability of predicting behavior in a variety of settings. It enables psychologists to establish personality construct of an individual (Jex & Britt, 2014, p. 18). Due to the value that measuring personality constructs has in psychology, it must be done with a high level of accuracy and reliability. Most personality constructs are not tangible, hence they cannot be measured the same way physical attributes are measured. Personality assessment can be done through self-report, peer report or behavioral data (Smith, 2014, p.17).
In psychology, it is very important to understand personal constructs of the client in need of psychological help. Personal assessment methods that are feasible and accurate need to be used in order to generate data that is helpful in understanding personality constructs (Jex & Britt, 2014, p. 22). Therefore, it is very crucial to attain construct validity when carrying out personality assessment. To achieve this, measures that employ constructs of theory with high levels of accuracy need to be used (Smith, 2014, p.21). The measurement methods must be ascertainable too. This produces abstract personality constructs that are more concrete and acceptable (Jex & Britt, 2014, p. 31). Despite the fact that no method is perfect, careful assessment and weighing between advantages and disadvantages of each of the three methods helps in optimum selection of the most appropriate method. (Kline, 2015, p.35)
Self-reported data constitutes what people report about their feelings, activities and memory of past occurrences. This is very crucial data to the psychologists because it is a product of the inner processes occurring in the individual’s mind. Psychologists ask their clients questions in this regard in order to help them understand the clients (Kline, 2015, p.47). Veridicality of self-reports is controversial, hence the need to assess them. There are instances where such reports are more acceptable while in other situations use of alternative methods is recommended. Through analysis of their merits and demerits, it is possible to enhance their accuracy (Shapiro, 2014, p. 34). This can be done through advancement of questionnaires and interviews in order to incorporate emerging technologies in data collection through ways that reduce bias and enhance accuracy.
On the other hand, peer report data is obtained from colleagues of the client whose knowledge, expertise and similarity in background can be an asset of value in understanding the personality of the client. The people who provide peer report data are called informants (Martel et al, 2016, p. 24). It is therefore pertinent to ask such people what they could be knowing about the client. The peer report data represents information about people based on their actions and behaviors (Kline, 2015, p.76). Therefore, it is still a revelation of internal attributes through another method besides the route that can only be accessed by the individual. This data needs to have optimum validity too for increased utility (Martel et al, 2016, p. 65). It is therefore important to analyze advantages and disadvantages of peer report data.
Traits of a person can also be easily seen through his/her behavior. Behavior can be learnt from the actions of an individual either in a laboratory or in the real world. This calls for use of observational methods in understanding personalities (Shapiro, 2014, p. 41). It is important to point out that this method is not in common use currently. Nevertheless, its significance is not in doubt. Exploration of it advantages and disadvantages when used in psychology can reveal why it is rarely used despite its high level of validity. The information generated can be used to improve acceptability of behavioral data in establishing personality construct. Self-report, peer report data and behavioral data methods are used by professionals to help them understand their clients well. Studying strengths and limitations of these three methods will help psychologists in choosing the most appropriate method for every individual during counseling sessions. Thus, the psychologists will correctly diagnose the client and offer appropriate intervention. This essay explores each of these three methods to find out their strengths and limitations.
Advantages of Self-report
Self-report is the most commonly used method. It seems to be the most preferred method since most studies have been seen to use it. Perhaps this is because the best way to get to know someone’s personality is by going directly to the person (McDonald, 2008, p. 2). No one has got access to information pertaining self than oneself. Information revealed by self is full of introspective and motivational data that cannot be accessed through any other method. It has been established that people identify with questions concerning themselves than questions about other people. Therefore, every individual is more motivated to speak about self that to speak about anyone else (McDonald, 2008, p. 3). This enhances accuracy of self-reports. Administering personality questionnaires is also preferred because it becomes very straightforward to score the generated results. In addition, data is easy to collect given that the questionnaires are directly issued to the clients for responses. Moreover, the method is cheap compared to other methods because less costs are incurred in obtaining information directly from the source. Self- reports are also easy to interpret compared to the other methods. These advantages are the strengths behind choice of self-reports in psychological studies (McDonald, 2008, p. 5).
Disadvantages of self -reports
The device used in actual assessment in self-reports must be valid, reliable and consistent. Secondly, accuracy of the reported information in measuring the construct under investigation is subject to the structure of the questions asked in the interview or included in the questionnaire. Minor changes in questions result in mega changes in the results acquired from self-reports (McDonald, 2008, p. 8). More so, self-reports give a lot of space for bias given that individuals respond in a way that seems most favorable for them regardless of validity of the response. In addition, it is the nature of humans to obscure reality in favor of maintaining positivity about themselves (Mischel, 2013, p.4). This distorts data collected using self-reports (McDonald, 2008, p. 9). Another issue of concern is whether people know themselves adequately enough to provide information that can help psychologists measure the constructs in question. Contrary to the assumption of self –reports that people understand why they do what they do, people do not have this level of self-awareness (McDonald, 2008, p. 9). Such limitations ought to be considered when using self-reports in psychology.
Advantages of peer reports
Informant assessments have various strengths which make them a method of choice in certain instances of finding out about personality constructs (Martel et al, 2016, p. 87). There is a notion that peer reports are better given that other people can give a perspective that is unique and specific to a particular individual (McDonald, 2008, p. 7). They are considered a source of information that is well endowed with specialized details. Peer report is a fast, cheap and easy method of collecting data intended for measuring constructs of personality. Furthermore, the data collected is more reliable because it is a combination of judgments from several people (Martel et al, 2016, p. 102). Peers also provide useful information because they have had several chances of making observations on the person in consideration in various behaviors (McDonald, 2008, p. 10). Thus, informant assessment can be very instrumental in complementing self- reports or in situations where self- reports are not effective.
Disadvantages of peer reports
Most psychologists consider collecting data from other people more time consuming and costly compared to self-report (Mischel, 2013, p.6). This method has also been regarded as invalid and difficult because it entails digging out information from informants that are not co- operative at most times (McDonald, 2008, p. 11). It also bestows the task of ensuring the informant is honest upon the psychologist (Martel et al, 2016, p. 54). Informant assessment means recruiting more people to give the information that could be given by just a single person in the self –reports (Martel et al, 2016, p. 81). There is also a risk of biases that are either enhancing or diminishing depending on the relationship between the informant and the individual under assessment (McDonald, 2008, p. 12). Hence, it is important to consider the effect of these limitations before approving informant assessment as the method of choice.
Advantages of behavioral data
One of the strengths of behavioral data is that it provides the option of observing behavior either in a natural or artificial setting (McDonald, 2008, p. 14). Secondly, an Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) has been developed to simplify the use of microphones and cameras in recording behavior of an individual. EAR records short auditory snapshots of activities of an individual several times in a span of several days (McDonald, 2008, p. 15). Though this method has several restrictions and requirements, it could be of use in certain circumstances.
Disadvantages of behavioral data
One of the reasons why behavioral data is the least used method in personality constructs is because there are many ethical barriers in observing behavior of other people or interfering with circumstances in situations (McDonald, 2008, p. 16). It is also very difficult to develop and assess schemes of codes that are required in this method. In addition, collection and analysis of behavioral data consumes a lot of time and monetary resources (McDonald, 2008, p. 16). Hence, it should only be used after buffering all these limitations.
Personality constructs is part of the responsibilities of a psychologists. There are various methods that psychologists can use to collect data for defining personality of individuals for counselling purposes. The methods include self- reports, informant assessment and behavioral data. Each of the methods has its advantages and disadvantages. Self-reports are more detailed, accurate and accessible. They are also easy to administer and interpret. However, they are limited by the fact that responses are dependent on the structure of questions and individuals are likely to reveal their positive side only. Peer reports are considered to be more specific and unique but they are time consuming and prone to bias. Behavioral data has the advantage of availability of EAR that makes it easy to collect data. Nevertheless, it is limited by many ethical barriers that restrict recording of behavior of individuals. With this knowledge, counselors are at a better position to select a method or combine the methods in the right manner to ensure optimum understanding of the client’s personality.
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