Psychometrics is a field in which practitioners attempt to measure psychological response like emotion, intelligence, or other mental-based abilities, of individuals. An individual’s test results are then compared to an average group’s performance in these areas. A key example is the typical IQ test, which measures intelligence quotient. The test score you receive on an IQ test is compared to the body of people who have taken the test previously, and a number is assigned (the score) as your IQ number. Theoretically, a higher number IQ translates to greater intelligence.
Since the development of the IQ tests, psychologists have used psychometrics in a variety of ways to look at people’s strengths, their weaknesses, and areas in which they may be disabled or gifted. Psychometrics develops what are called “instruments” in order to make these measurements. Actually instruments are more likely to be tests of a variety of types; so the term sounds a little more concrete than it really is. The goal of using the word instruments is to state the belief that the human psyche can be measured quantifiably, just as you might measure something with a ruler.
The other focus of psychometrics is defining how an instrument measures a human mental or emotional capacity. Determining what results mean is usually done by assessing human performance on other tests and evaluating performance on a new instrument with a large group of testers. In simple language, psychometrics develops tests for intelligence factor, emotional quotient, personality, or other, and then determines what results on these tests mean.
Psychometrics is used in a variety of fields in order to test certain capacities. Students who have testing done at school to identify learning disabilities usually take a number of tests that have been developed by psychometricians. These can measure things like short and long term memory, auditory discrimination, ability to recognize visual or oral patterns, and IQ.
In the working world, personality and strengths testing is a common application of psychometrics. Large corporations are now turning to personality tests even prior to employing people in order to find the best “personality” for their company. Companies may also reorganize based on testing their current workers and giving them jobs that best suit their strengths, perhaps resulting in a more efficiently run company.
In the physical sciences, psychometrics may be viewed as a non-science. Because psychometrics tests concepts based on theories of the human brain, it may be less scientifically controlled than a double-blind controlled lab experiment. On the other hand, many people do see applications of psychometrics as quite useful, particularly when testing helps identify learning problems in children. In these cases, intervention can be given that can help change the course of a child’s academic career.