Psychometrics

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Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. The field is primarily concerned with the construction and validation of measurement instruments, such as questionnaires, tests, and personality assessments.

It involves two major research tasks, namely: (i) the construction of instruments and procedures for measurement; and (ii) the development and refinement of theoretical approaches to measurement. Those who practice psychometrics are known as psychometricians and although they may also be clinical psychologists, they are not obliged to be so and could instead be (for example) human resources or learning and development professionals. Either way specific, separate, qualifications in psychometrics are required.

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Origins and background

Much of the early theoretical and applied work in psychometrics was undertaken in an attempt to measure intelligence. Francis Galton, often referred to as "the father of psychometrics", devised and included mental tests among his anthropometric measures. However, the origin of psychometrics also has connections to the related field of psychophysics. Two other pioneers of psychometrics obtained doctorates in the Leipzig Psychophysics Laboratory under Wilhelm Wundt: James McKeen Cattell in 1886 and Charles Spearman in 1906.

The psychometrician L. L. Thurstone, founder and first president of the Psychometric Society in 1936, developed and applied a theoretical approach to measurement referred to as the law of comparative judgment, an approach that has close connections to the psychophysical theory of Ernst Heinrich Weber and Gustav Fechner. In addition, Spearman and Thurstone both made important contributions to the theory and application of factor analysis, a statistical method developed and used extensively in psychometrics.

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