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Validity of Personnel Decisions: A Conceptual Analysis of the Inferential and Evidential Bases

by John E Binning, Gerald V Barrett, Mel Goldstein, Steven landau, Pat Maloney, Tim Mooney, John Pryor, Pat Raymark, Glenn Reeder, Bob Rumery, Jay Thomas, Karen Williams, Kenneth York show all authors
Journal of Applied Psychology Cqpyright ()
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Issues common to both the process of building psychological theories and validating personnel deci-sions are examined. Inferences linking psychological constructs and operational measures of con-structs are organized into a conceptual framework, and validation is characterized as the process of accumulating various forms ofjudgrnental and empirical evidence to support these inferences. The traditional concepts of construct-, content-, and criterion-related validity are unified within this framework. This unified view of validity is then contrasted with more conventional views (e.g., Uni-form Guidelines, 1978), and misconceptions about the validation of employment tests are exam-ined. Next, the process of validating predictor constructs is extended to delineate the critical infer-ences unique to validating performance criteria. Finally, an agenda for programmatic personnel selection research is described, emphasizing a shift in the behavioral scientist's role in the personnel selection process. Demonstrating the validity of decisions based on psychologi-cal assessment procedures is of fundamental importance to per-sonnel and other applied psychologists. Furthermore, few would argue with the fact that generating and articulating valid-ity evidence is a complex process. To fully appreciate this com-plexity, it is important to realize that conceptions of validity have evolved over the years through the melding of legal, techni-cal, and practical concerns about the quality and utility of per-sonnel decisions. Inevitably, differences of interpretation and opinion have arisen as each constituency has viewed these myr-iad concerns from uniquely important perspectives. Perhaps equally inevitable, however, is the confusion that has grown out of these differences. Because this confusion ultimately limits the effectiveness of practitioners and theorists alike, the need for greater clarity cannot be overestimated (Guion, 1987; Landy, 1986; Tenopyr, 1986). This article is based on the premise that all validity issues discussed in personnel contexts have some conceptual counter-part in the general process of theory development (Landy, 1986). Moreover, various departures from this "ideal" process have led to myopic, if not erroneous, conceptions of validity. To elucidate how these departures have distorted conceptions of validity, the article is divided into four major sections. In the section that immediately follows, we review how the general

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