Applicant Perceptions of Cognitive Ability Testing

Topic(s): personality, selection
Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment (MAR 2012)
Article: The Role of Person Characteristics in Perceptions of the Validity of Cognitive Ability Testing
Authors: Reeder, M. C., Powers, C. L., Ryan, A. M., Gibby, R. E.
Reviewed by: Thaddeus Rada

Cognitive ability tests are used by many organizations when evaluating applicants. This usage is due in no small part to the effectiveness of these tests in predicting future job performance; however, cognitive ability tests can also have some undesirable outcomes, including the fact some applicants have negative perceptions of these tests. Although the fact that different applicants can have very different reactions to cognitive ability tests is well-recognized, we know relatively little about how individual differences impact these perceptions. A recent study by Matthew Reeder and colleagues begins to address this gap in the literature.


Reeder and his colleagues examined the influence of several individual differences on perceptions of two different cognitive ability tests (one mechanical reasoning test and one numerical reasoning test). Using a hybrid sample of both students and unemployed adults, the authors hypothesized that variables such as prior test experience, prior job experience, and prior selection system success (among other variables) would be positively related to perceptions of cognitive ability measures. The authors also hypothesized interaction effects, including an effect of locus of control on the relationship between self-assessed performance and test-taker perceptions (with lowest perceptions belonging to individuals with low self-assessed performance and an external locus of control).


Overall, the authors found support for the idea that these individual difference variables can impact individuals’ perceptions of cognitive ability tests, though some variables, such as prior selection system success, were only predictive of reactions to one of the tests. The authors point out that continued research should be conducted on the impact of individual differences and individuals’ implicit theories on their perceptions of selection systems. While research in this area continues, it is worth remembering that different people can have very different perceptions of cognitive ability tests, and appreciating all of these individuals’ perceptions is important.


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