Self-Starting Research on a Test of Personal Initiative

Topic: Research Methodology
Publication: Personnel Psychology (SUMMER 2009)
ArticleA situational judgment test of personal initiative and its relationship to performance.
Author: R. Bledow, M. Freese
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman

Predicting performance is the Holy Grail of Industrial/Organizational Psychology. I hate to whine, but how can we possibly measure performance when those darn applicants don’t take our perfectly designed tests properly? Sarcasm aside, self-report measures using Likert scales (e.g., 5-point rating scales, where 1 = Low and 5 = High) tend to elicit generalized responses based on previous experience or self-concept, both of which might not represent reality.

Consider the following example: 

Question:  To what extent are you likeable?Answer:  5 = extremely likeableReality:  Not really

In the present research, Bledow and Frese have attempted to get past the usual barriers presented in self-report measures by creating a behavioral construct-specific situational judgment test (SJT). An SJT is a measure that gives respondents scenarios and responses and then asks them which response they would be most and least likely to perform. An individual’s level on the desired trait is inferred from the response. In this article, the trait of interest was personal initiative. Their test was effective at predicting performance and did so differently than did the self-report measure.

For employers, this type of test could prove useful when trying to pin down relevant traits for potential employees. Rather than asking how employees would act or did act in a given situation, we can instead ask how they are acting.

Bledow, R., & Frese, M. (2009). A situational judgment test of personal initiative
and its relationship to performance. Personnel Psychology, 62, 229-258.