The recent protests highlight injustice that is not new—but they are calling everyone to new awareness and action. Attunement to the longstanding biases within the practice of psychology has always weighed heavily on me and spurred prioritization of ethical obligations inherent in every interaction, test administration, report write up, and feedback discussion. We don’t conduct assessments in a bubble. We are dependent on test publishers to utilize culturally diverse items in their materials and to generate appropriate standardization samples to which we compare individual functioning. We, the evaluators, also enter every encounter with our own personal histories and implicit tendencies. You experience us through your personalized lenses. Multiple iterations of internationally relied upon diagnostic manuals have proven their shortcomings. The need for vigilant contemplation is endless...
There are both conscious and subconscious processes in play. Right now, I hope we are all uncomfortable enough to strive for something better. There are a few simple things we should always being doing to honor who a person is in the testing process. The following is just a sampling of how we operationalize awareness of embedded bias:
- Utilizing testing materials with good psychometric properties. Are various racial and ethnic groups appropriately represented? Is the sample size large enough to be reliable?
- Selecting tests and measures with culturally inclusive language and images.
- Demonstrating a core regard and respect for prospective and current clients that consistently reflects not only a dedication to equality but also an acknowledgement that such an ideal does not exist in our society.
- Living with the fact that with power comes responsibility. We know that assessments don’t define people and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. However, reports can be widely read and impactful. How do we own and address our “authority” in the room, in the report, in the wider community?
- Recognizing trauma and calling it what it is. The impact of trauma is wide-reaching, with emotional, physical, interpersonal, cognitive, and other manifestations. There may be an acute incident…but there may also be an insidious, daily exposure to racism, bigotry, and disenfranchisement.
- Reviewing our procedures. Are our practices reflective of who we aim to be both personally and professionally? Do we continuously reassess how well we are able to interpret standardized testing data in the context of an individual person’s experience and a wider context?
- Facilitating real exchanges. We’ll take the time to talk, contemplate, and ask questions.
- Do no harm. Period. See this link to our Ethical Principles & Code of Conduct: https://www.apa.org/ethics/code/