Race-Norming of Neuropsychological Tests

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Abstract

Recent studies in the United States indicate that some neurologically intact minority groupings perform well below White Americans on neuropsychological tests. This has sparked the production of race-norms, especially for African Americans, that seek to reduce false positive rates (i.e., neurologically intact individuals misdiagnosed with cognitive impairment) in neuropsychological assessments. There are problems with this enterprise including: possible justification for inferior/superior treatment of different racial groupings; unknown effects on false negative rates (i.e., cognitive deficit misdiagnosed as normal); the overlooking of factors possibly responsible for group racial differences (e.g., acculturation); non-scientific and non-operational definitions of race/ethnic groupings; and an impossibly large number of potential race/ethnic groupings for which to generate race-norms. An alternative approach is to use a single set of combined race/ethnic norms and estimate preexisting neuropsychological skill levels by using individual comparison standards. This alternative has been poorly researched, a situation that needs correcting.

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