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Unveiling the Truth: Understanding and Minimizing False Positives in Psychological Assessments

  Psychological assessment has become a means of assessing psychological problems, both in the professional field and in public perception. As the public’s awareness of psychological assessment increases, professionals should be more aware of the limitations of the use of psychological assessment, especially are potentially false positive results in the assessment.
  False positive results refer to the fact that the results of the assessment cannot reflect the true psychological condition of the subject. Simply put, it means that the psychological problems of the subject are not detected. These problems may mainly include the following situations: ●
  There are psychological problems but the results show complete Normal;
  ● Have serious mental illness but the results only indicate mild abnormality;
  ● Have extremely high risk of psychological crisis (such as strong suicide intention or attempt to harm others) but the results do not indicate.
Reasons for false positive results in assessments

  According to the analysis of practical experience, the reasons for the above false positive results are as follows:
  ◆ The assessment scale is old, the assessment methods for people of different ages are single, and the results cannot guarantee the detection of real high-risk problems.
  ◆ The assessment methods are not uniform. Many questionnaires have not been standardized by authoritative organizations. The assessment agencies combine some questionnaires for comprehensive assessment. The reliability and validity have yet to be confirmed.
  ◆ Psychological measurement itself does not have the value of diagnosing psychological problems and mental diseases, but only serves as a reference.
  ◆ The subject deliberately conceals the true psychological condition for some purpose. This is the most common and complex factor. For example, the purpose of administering the test is to select talents, and subjects generally tend to avoid
  options that indicate psychological problems/diseases, even if there is an L factor (i.e., lie detection factor) in the scale. This situation cannot be completely avoided.
How to reduce false positive results?

  1. Select a scale before the assessment. Try to choose a scale with a high degree of standardization, international use or commonly used within the industry. It is best to choose a scale with L factor. “L” is used as a validity scale in psychological measurement to indicate whether the subject’s answers are true and whether the measurement results are valid. It is mainly used in personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire.
  2. The introduction to the assessment should be as neutral as possible, or explain it from the perspective of the subject, so that they can feel that the value of the test to them is to understand their mental health status rather than “being spied on”, “selected” or “being assessed”. In this way It can reduce the subject’s inner resistance and answer truthfully.
  3. If the test is really used for talent selection, some positions need to examine the psychological quality of the individual. In this case, it must be explained clearly to the subject before the test. Since the position requires people with certain psychological qualities and certain psychological characteristics, the more difficult it is during the test, The more truthful the answer is, the more beneficial it is to him. There is no need to deliberately speculate on the test options. If he wants to answer as much as possible to show that he has a good psychological quality, the result is more likely to be unfavorable to him.
  4. Self-measurement tables and other measurement tables are used in combination with each other. For other measurement tables, trained professionals ask questions to the subjects, or the evaluator asks the subjects about their feelings based on the evaluator’s observations of the subjects, and then obtains the evaluation results based on comprehensive observation and evaluation. Commonly used other rating scales include: Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, Beck-Van Lasen Mania Scale, etc.
Key points in suicide risk assessment

  In all psychological assessments, the assessment of suicide risk needs to be more careful, and individuals who reveal any suicidal thoughts need to be concerned. Here are some strategies for suicide assessment.
Mental preparation before suicide assessment

  Without training, most people are usually worried that it is inappropriate to directly ask about suicidal thoughts. In fact, when a person has suicidal thoughts, directly asking and discussing suicide issues can help reduce the risk of suicide and is a very standard professional method. The most important thing in preventing suicide is for counselors to put aside their anxiety and fear, adjust their attitudes and emotions, and ensure that they are aiming to protect the other person rather than avoiding their own responsibilities, and to ensure that they are emotionally stable and confident.
  ※ How to adjust your attitude: Ask yourself, “Am I doing it for the other person, or to avoid my own responsibilities?” Strengthen your motivation and confidence to protect the other person, and then enter the conversation.
  ※ Methods to regulate emotions: Breathe abdominally 3 to 5 times, and feel your emotions, whether they are “fear, anxiety, tension, worry…” or something else. No matter what kind of emotion you are, tell yourself “Facing a psychological crisis situation” “Every emotion is normal.” “Believe in yourself, care for and protect the other person, follow professional methods, and do it bravely, and you will definitely be able to do it well.”
The beginning of a suicide assessment

  Although the assessment target is the suicide risk level, you should avoid making the subject feel overly nervous or that he or she is an outlier, especially professionals, who should avoid making the other person feel that they are a “guinea pig”, so they should ask sincerely and caringly. It starts like this:
  Opening statement 1: XX, your evaluation report indicates that you are not very happy. The evaluation is just a reference. I am a little worried about you and need to chat with you. Can you tell me about your recent status? What happened?
  Opening Statement 2: XX, I want to chat with some people after the psychological general test. I noticed that you answered “occasionally”/”often” in the test question “Have you had suicidal thoughts recently”, which makes me very happy. Worried and want to know more.
Suicide Assessment Process

  The subjects listened actively when they spoke and responded appropriately with empathy. This basically established trust and assessed suicidal thoughts and plans on the basis of trust.
  First express concern and concern: “You look very depressed, I’m worried about you.” You can directly assess suicidal thoughts: “Are you considering suicide?” If you deny it, use an open-ended question: “What happened to make you so Are you sad?” While listening, continue to look out for signs of suicide. If admitted, continue to evaluate the suicide plan: “How did you plan to commit suicide?” If there is a plan, evaluate the lethality, feasibility, and urgency of the suicide plan. That is to say, when, where, and how to commit suicide are planned, and whether the suicide method has been rehearsed. During the interview, attention should also be paid to assessing protective factors for suicide. For example: “What makes you feel hopeful?” “What prevents you from taking suicidal action?” “If something happened that allowed you to live, what would it be?” etc.
  What needs to be pointed out in particular is: Assessment is also a process of coaching and protection. Do not ask the other party to answer one by one on the form and record the scores simultaneously. This will make them feel like they are being interrogated and may make them more nervous. The evaluator should integrate the assessment into inquiry and care. During the counseling session, I kept the evaluation items in mind, and assessed the severity in the quiet conversation. This point is very important. It is often a mistake that many professionals make, which is to look at “things but no people” and destroy trust in order to complete their own assessment tasks. In addition, if possible before the assessment, a follow-up support team should be provided. For example, family members and hospitalization can be arranged for extremely high-risk individuals.
  In short, a person’s psychological condition can be roughly understood through psychological assessment, but one cannot rely entirely on assessment. Potential false positive results need to be reduced in the assessment, and a variety of methods can be used to conduct self-evaluation or other-evaluation. For serious psychological crises, situation, observing high-risk signals revealed in daily contacts is still the most important way of early warning.

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