Ethical Issues in Personality Assessment

Ethical Issues in Personality Assessment

Psychological tests are administered on individuals for various clinical and non-clinical purposes such as vocational training, screening job applicants, or increasing self-knowledge. Regardless of its purpose, it is essential to remember that the individual client is our priority, and it is our duty to ensure that the client feels safe in the first place. Ethical considerations are a quintessential aspect of how competent professionals work in the field of Psychology.

What are the Ethical Considerations in the Administration of Psychological Tests?

Personality assessment tests have evolved over the years based on the distinct objectivity and subjectivity of personality tests, and they have been broadly categorized into objective and projective tests. While objective tests mainly include paper-pencil tests, projective tests include the presentation of ambiguous stimuli that often give an insight into the unconscious thought processes of individuals that influence their personalities. Seeping into the complexities and intricacies of personality follows several ethical considerations. When we look at the ethical codes laid by the American Psychological Association, the overarching codes of Consent, Competence, and Confidentiality are the most prominent ones. At the very beginning of the APA code of ethics, the general principles stress safeguarding the rights of individual clients’ professionals work with.

Beneficence and Non-maleficence

This principle states that since psychologists' scientific and professional, and personal judgment and actions such as administering tests may affect the clients' lives, they are alert to and guard against the misuse of their influence. In using personality assessments, psychologists administer, adapt, score, interpret, or utilize assessment procedures, interviews, tests, or instruments in a way and for purposes that are suitable in light of the research on or evidence of the usefulness and correct use of the techniques. Psychologists only use assessments for which reliability and validity have been established. To start with the administration of personality assessments, informed consent from the individual clients must be obtained. The situations when this ethical consideration can be exempted include −

  • Government regulations or laws need testing;
  • A participant's informed consent is presumed if the testing is done as part of a regular educational, institutional, or organizational activity (such as when they voluntarily consent to be tested when applying for a job), or
  • One of the testing's goals is to gauge a subject's decision-making capacity.

Informed Consent

Informed consent should provide an account of the assessment, and the purpose is to make the client aware of important details such as the need and rationale behind the administration of the assessment, fees, involvement of third parties, limits of confidentiality, and sufficient opportunity for the client/patient to ask questions and get their doubts clarified by the professional administering the personality test.

Maintaining Confidentiality

As stated by APA code 4.01 "Maintaining Confidentiality" and particularly 9.03 "Informed Consent in Assessments," professionals must ensure that confidentiality of test results and test security are maintained and include recommendations and diagnostic or evaluative judgments. Confidentiality should also not be breached under any circumstances apart from the release of confidential information under these circumstances is regulated by law.

Interpreting Assessment Results

APA code 9.06 "Interpreting Assessment Results" states that psychologists consider the purpose of the assessment as well as the various test factors, test-taking skills, and other characteristics of the person being assessed, such as situational, personal, linguistic, and cultural differences, that may affect psychologists' judgments or reduce the accuracy of their interpretations of personality tests.

Assessment of Test

9.07 "Assessment by Unqualified Persons" states that psychologists do not advocate for using psychological evaluation methods by unqualified individuals unless they are used for training and are properly supervised.

Obsolete Tests and Outdated Test Results

Psychologists do not use data or test findings that are no longer relevant for the purposes at hand to inform their evaluation, intervention, or recommendation decisions.

Test Scoring and Interpretation Services

Psychologists who provide assessment or scoring services to other professionals clearly state the procedures' objectives, standards, reliability, validity, applicability, and any unique requirements necessary for their use. They choose automated and manual scoring and interpretation services (as well as other suitable options) based on evidence supporting the program's reliability and methods. Whether the scoring is done manually or follows an automated process, psychologists are still responsible for properly applying, interpreting, and using assessment tools.

Explaining Assessment Results

Regardless of whether the scoring and interpretation are made by psychologists, by employees or assistants, or by automated services, psychologists take reasonable steps to make sure that explanations of results are provided to the person being assessed or their designated representative unless the relationship between the parties makes it impossible to do so (as in some organizational consulting, security screenings, or pre-employment evaluations). This fact has been made abundantly clear to the person evaluated in advance.

Maintaining Test Security

APA ethical code 9.11 ascertains the security of the manuals, equipment, procedures, and test questions. In accordance with legal requirements and contractual commitments, and in a way that allows adherence to this Ethics Code, psychologists put a reasonable effort into preserving the validity, reliability, and security of test materials and other assessment methodologies.


The use of personality tests by competent professionals implies that the assessor is familiar with measurement and test construction techniques, keeping in mind the strengths and limitations of the tests used for personality assessment. Psychological evaluation is frequently presented as the answer to a wide range of practical issues and is shrouded in an atmosphere of certain correctness. However, personality assessment is complex, and psychologists must navigate several ethical considerations to deliver scientifically reliable assessments. Therefore, the assessor must ensure complete scientific rigor and morally suitable processes to get an overall picture of the client's personality.


Simply Easy Learning

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022

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