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An inquiry into the usefulness of psychometric techniques in the selection of prison officers Downey, Richard Harold


The purpose of the study was to explore the use of certain psychometric procedures and to study their value in relation to the problems of selection and prediction of prison personnel. The tests selected were the Wesman Personnel Classification Test, the Kuder Preference Record, form CH, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and the Manson Evaluation. The criterion used to evaluate the tests was supervisors' ratings based on a forced distribution rating scale which measured only one trait, namely job proficiency. The total sample consisted of 100 employed prison officers and all were rated for job proficiency. Sub-samples from the main sample were formed from the extreme ratings of the whole group. Thus, the top 27 per cent represented the successful group and the bottom 27 per cent the unsuccessful group. The tests were analyzed individually. Mean profiles for the total sample were computed for all test variables and were compared with the published norms for each test. Mean scores and standard deviations for both groups of officers were computed and these data were examined for significant differences between the two groups. From an analysis of the mean scores 14 out of 35 test variables significantly discriminated between the two groups. The best predictor proved to be the Social Service scale of the Kuder Preference Record. The next best predictor was Part I (verbal) of the Personnel Classification Test. Biserial correlation coefficients from widespread classes were also computed. These coefficients were generally of a low order, ranging from .04 to .49. Fourteen coefficients were significantly greater than zero. A scattergram analysis of all tests and subtests was also undertaken to determine the best critical scores. This analysis revealed that, for practical purposes, six scales yielded effective cutting scores. The six scales in descending order of effectiveness for selection purposes were Part I, Personnel Classification Test, the Kuder Social Service scale, the MMPI Psychasthenia scale, the MMPI Depression scale, the MMPI Hostility scale, and the Manson Evaluation Total score. In general, the results indicate the psychometric tests have value for the screening of prison officers. However, it is indicated that the results must be employed with caution until a further validation study is carried out on a sample of officers that is more representative of the population upon which it is intended to use the tests, viz., a sample of job applicants.

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