Item subtlety and face validity in personality assessment

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Makes a distinction between the concepts of item subtlety and face validity. Face validity is viewed as the contextual relevance of personality test items, whereas item subtlety is conceptualized as the lack of an obvious substantive link between test item content and its underlying construct. An experiment with 193 college students is described; materials included 80 test items, 16 from each of the Abasement, Achievement, Affiliation, Autonomy, and Dominance scales of the Personality Research Form, Form E (D. N. Jackson, 1974). Greater face validity and lower levels of subtlety were associated empirically with higher item validity. Although trait differences in the relationship of item subtlety to criterion validity were found, these were not mediated by desirability. These results are viewed as supporting a rational strategy of test construction emphasizing the use of relevant test item content. (39 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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