CHAPTER 2 THE USE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS IN SELECTION WITH SPECIFIC FOCUS ON MEASUREMENT OF COGNITIVE ASPECTS
The notion of human assessment as a means of knowing and understanding another person has been around for a long time. Human behaviour has been assessed in a variety of settings and by individuals in many different disciplines (Walsh & Betz, 1995).
The recruitment of people as pilots in the aviation industry, in a multicultural society, poses a challenge, particularly in South Africa. Owing to the huge costs associated with pilot training, selecting candidates to successfully complete the pilot training programme has resulted in a special focus on the selection process.
In line with the objective of this research, namely to determine the predictive validity of the psychological tests to select cadet pilots, this chapter will discuss the selection of pilots and the psychological tests included in the test battery. One of the aims of the current research is to investigate variables that have positive correlations with the successful completion of the cadet training programme. According to Carretta (1992), medical and physical fitness, paperand-pencil aptitude test scores, academic performance and previous flying experience are variables currently considered in pilot candidate selection in the USAF.
The concept of selection will be explained in relation to the use of the psychological tests utilised during the process of pilot candidate selection. The various predictors, namely intelligence/aptitude, English Matric symbols and the ABET levels will also be discussed.
DEFINITION OF CONCEPTS
Bartram (2004) commented that in the workplace, tests, as part of assessment, are used to measure the performance and potential of current and future employees through selection and performance management respectively. This suggests that psychological assessments in organisations need to be used responsibly, ethically and equitably.
Moerdyk (2009) argued that in South Africa, with the socioeconomic differences continuing to be visible in the education and general socioeconomic status of different sectors of the country‟s population, large parts of society remain at a disadvantage when they are assessed with current assessment techniques and tools such as psychological tests. This implies that the use of psychological tests in their adapted and/or current format may unfairly discriminate against people, particularly in a multicultural society such as that of South Africa.
2.2.1 Selection process
In most organisations, recruitment and selection are the responsibility of human resources, who are tasked with recruiting and selecting suitable candidates to perform duties on the basis of their abilities. Unfortunately, there has been and still is a trend towards a large number of people with the abilities and/or competencies to perform a specific job and/or occupy a certain position in an organisation applying for very few jobs and positions. After attracting as many suitable applicants as possible, the process of selection commences.
Selection methods vary between two extremes on a continuum, from ”scientific approaches” at one extreme, to an ”intuitive approach”, at the other (Louw & Edwards, 1997). According to Louw and Edwards (1997), the intuitive approach is more subjective, whereas in the scientific approach, efforts are made to limit subjectivity. The requirements of the EEA support the scientific approach in the selection process.
According to Damos (1996), the term “selection battery” refers to either batteries administered as part of screening for air carriers that hire experienced pilots or to batteries administered to ab initio pilots, prior to admission to flight training or during the ground phase of training. In the current research, the focus is on ab initio pilots.
Literature on pilot selection suggests that much was achieved in the military institutions (Damos, 1996; Martinussen & Torjussen, 1998; Ree & Carretta, 1996; Tsang & Vidulich, 2003), because commercial airlines used to recruit their pilots from the military. According to Hunter and Burke (1994), the bulk of published reports have dealt with selection for ab initio (beginner) pilot military training, although much of what has been accomplished in the military setting is directly applicable to civic aviation.
In a study by O‟Hare and Walsh (2003) which involved a review of articles published during 1996 and 2000, with particular focus on the International Journal of Aviation Psychology (IJAP), which was the first journal devoted exclusively to aviation psychology, they established that of the 21 topics discussed in IJAP, 21% of the articles dealt with display issues, 13% with training, 10% with automation and 9% with selection. This observation led the authors to conclude that there is growing interest in the articles on display and automation and a decreasing proportion on workload. Hence there has been no sign of a broadening of the content base beyond the traditional flight deck and ATC concerns. This is not surprising in the light of the critical issue of flight safety in the airline business.
Locally, the literature review shows trend that is similar to the international one, from a research perspective. However, the research conducted locally was in the military and extremely limited in commercial and/or civil aviation. De Kock and Schlechter (2009) shared this view in their statement that traditionally, validation research received considerable attention in the military.
Military pilot selection has been heavily researched for a number of reasons. For instance, the literature indicates that training attrition rates over the last 20 years have typically been in the order of 25%, with an average cost for each failure ranging from $ $50 000 to 80,000 for the USAF (Hunter & Burke, 1994; Martinussen, 1996). De Kock and Schlechter (2009) concurred when they stated that in the UK, the estimated unit cost of training a fast-jet pilot is more than £3,7 million. In the South African Air Force (SAAF), it takes five years to train a fighter pilot.
These views confirm that training failures are costly. Having an efficient and properly structured selection process should ensure that there is a better “fit” between the selected applicants and the job, which would also ensure that the organisation obtains the “best” return on its investment. Also confirmed in relation to selection, is that it is essential to admit people to a training programme, with a high probability of success, thus minimising a mismatch with the position and reducing employment costs. According to Van Der Merwe (2002), the vast majority of employee selection programmes are based upon the successive hurdle technique. This means that in order to be hired, the applicant must successfully pass various screening steps. At each step or hurdle, some candidates are rejected. The selection process, as indicated by Van Der Merwe (2000), in figure 2.1, shows the method used during cadet pilot selection in the commercial airline.
The process is aligned to those in the military, as noted in Carretta and Ree (2003), who stated that selection for the military or civilian pilot training programme is typically a multistage process, in which decisions are made at several points.
One of the critical elements in ensuring outstanding organisational performance is the selection and development of excellent staff. International as well as local research has demonstrated the role that psychometric assessment can play in significantly improving the selection process for both new entrants and internal promotions (Van der Merwe, 2002). Effective psychometric assessment can also play a key role in staff development processes, and this is one of the main challenges presently facing South Africa (Van der Merwe, 2002). It can be inferred that selection is a vital process in identifying candidates with the potential to enter and/or join an organisation and to reach their optimum performance with relevant and appropriate training and development.
2.2.2 Definition of selection
The general objective of a selection process is to match the person to the job. As noted in the above discussion, the selection of a pilot for training is not that different from a selection process in any organisation. The term “selection” will be broadly defined and common features of a selection process highlighted.
Moerdyk (2009) defined selection as the process of matching people to the job requirements in order to meet organisational objectives, both current and in the longer term.
According to Jackson (1996), who described selection from a decision-making perspective, the concept involves only two categories – acceptance and rejection.
According to Louw and Edwards (1997), some of the features common to most selection processes are as follows: Through the job analysis process, the traits (or characteristics) required to perform the job competently are identified. Information is obtained about predictors. An evaluation is made of how well the predictors succeed in predicting the performance of applicants.
These features indicate that there should be close fit between the applicant and the job and that decision making should be based on objective information obtained during the selection process using psychological tests.
In their definition of pilot selection, Carretta and Ree (2003) asserted that in military aviation, the goal is to achieve and maintain a high level of mission readiness – hence the fact that organisations need people to serve in various capacities and people need jobs. They further stated that to achieve this, the needs of the organisation should be matched to those of the job applicant. Making the right selection decision thus reduces training costs, improves job performance and enhances organisational effectiveness (Carretta & Ree, 2003).
Effective selection procedures will produce cost avoidance savings through reduced attrition and reduced training requirements and will improve job performance. Poor selection will have the opposite effect on the organisation (Carretta & Ree, 2003). Moerdyk (2000) expressed a similar view when he noted that poor selection can result in quality and safety being compromised, increased risk of injury, underspending of allocated budgets and underdelivery of vital services, to mention but a few, in addition to direct costs. The implications of these views indicate that the commercial airline should aim to have a streamlined selection process that should impact positively on service delivery because of the type of people appointed in the various positions and capacities.
It is common practice for most organisations to use psychological tests in their selection process as an aid to decision making. In support of this view, Elkonin, Foxcroft, Roodt and Astbury (2005) stated that perhaps the mostly widely used function of psychological measures in industry is to assist with selection and employment decisions. Anastasi and Urbina (1997) concurred with this view when they stated that the goal of measuring human attributes in a work situation is to identify the potential of individuals and to match them with the right job.
It is becoming increasingly common for psychological tests or entire test batteries to be used in the selection of suitable candidates for a professional position or training programme, although internationally, the frequency of their use varies greatly (Schuler, in Sommer, Olbrich & Arendasy, 2004). Sommer et al. (2004) noted that the derivation of decisions and training from the results of such individual tests requires a sufficiently high level of agreement between the test used and the corresponding criterion variable. According to Nzama et al. (2008), in South Africa in particular, the use of psychological assessment as a means of determining the employability of individuals has had a mixed history, marked by acceptance, in some instances, and by scepticism, in others.
Aligned to this view is the comment on ability tests by Muller and Schepers (2003), who reported that Wood and Payne (1998) found that the proportion of organisations using tests to select staff rose from just below 50% in 1991 to 75% in 1996, making them as popular as curriculum vitaes.
It is against this background that the ensuing discussion will consider the definition and functions of psychological tests in a selection process.
2.3.1 Definition of psychological tests
Throughout the discussion thus far, psychological tests have been generally defined as an objective and standardised measure of a sample of behaviour. Psychological tests are like tests in any other science, insofar as they are observations on a small but carefully chosen sample of an individual‟s behaviour (Anastasi, 1990). This definition indicates that, if a psychologist wishes to measure a clerk’s ability to perform arithmetic computation or a pilot’s hand-eye coordination, he/she must examine their performance by means of a representative set of arithmetic problems or motor tests (Anastasi, 1990).
Cohen and Swerdlink (2002) defined psychological assessment as the gathering and integration of psychology-related data for the purpose of making a psychological evaluation, accomplished through the use of tools such as tests, interviews, case studies and behavioural observation, as well as specially designed apparatuses and measurement procedures. They define psychological testing as the process of measuring psychologyrelated variables by means of devices or procedures designed to obtain a sample of behaviour.
According to Shum, O‟Gorman and Myors (2006), a psychological test is an objective procedure for sampling and quantifying human behaviour to make inferences about a particular psychological construct using standardised stimuli and a method of administration and scoring. The assessment process is multidimensional and entails gathering and synthesising information as a means of describing and understanding functioning (Foxcroft & Roodt, 2005).
According to Elkonin et al. (2005), basically, two approaches are used in the application of psychological measures. In the input-based approach, individuals are compared with the job specifications in terms of their personal characteristics or personality traits. The other approach is output based in the sense that individuals are compared in relation to the required outputs of the job. In this instance, the aim is to determine whether the individual has the necessary competencies to perform a particular task or job.
In terms of this research, the output based approach is used to determine whether the applicants have the ability to successfully complete the cadet pilot training programme.
Based on the above definitions, one may infer that psychological tests may differ according to the number of investigated variables such as content, format, administration procedures, scoring and interpretation procedures and psychometric or technical quality.
These views suggests that the next step in the discussion is to understand the functions of psychological test in order to use the information obtained during assessment for the benefit of both the applicants and the organisation.
2.3.2 Functions of psychological tests
According to Anastasi (1990), although intelligence tests were originally designed to sample a wide variety of functions in order to estimate the individual’s general intellectual level, it soon became apparent that such tests were fairly limited in their coverage.
Aiken (1991) emphasised this view when he stated that because employment tests, which are classified as psychological tests, had been validated primarily on members of the dominant white culture, it was reasonable to ask whether they would be valid for black and other minorities.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
CHAPTER 1 BACKGROUND TO AND RATIONALE FOR THE RESEARCH
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.3 RESEARCH AIMS
1.4 THE PARADIGM PERSPECTIVE OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.6 RESEARCH METHOD
1.7 LAYOUT OF CHAPTERS
1.8 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 2 THE USE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS IN SELECTION WITH SPECIFIC FOCUS ON MEASUREMENTS OF COGNITIVE ASPECTS
2.2 DEFINITION OF CONCEPTS
2.3 PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS
2.4 THE DETERMINANTS OF PILOT TRAINING SUCCESS
2.5 THE DEVELOPMENT AND THEORIES OF INTELLIGENCE
2.6 DEFINITION OF APTITUDE
2.7 PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS THAT MEASURE INTELLIGENCE 53 AND APTITUDE
2.8 OVERVIEW OF THE STRUCTURE AND FORMAT
2.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3 LITERACY AND NUMERACY
3.4 INTEGRATION OF LANGUAGE, LITERACY AND NUMERACY
3.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4 THE EMPIRICAL STUDY
4.2 DESCRIPTION OF THE POPULATION AND SAMPLE
4.3 PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS USED AS MEASURING INSTRUMENTS
4.4 DATA COLLECTION AND PROCESSING
4.5 DATA ANALYSIS
4.6 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
4.7 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5 THE RESEARCH RESULTS
5.2 RESULTS OF THE PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS IN PHASE 1: COMPARISON BETWEEN THE RACE AND GENDER GROUPS
5.3 THE RESULTS OF THE PSYCHOMETRIC SUBTESTS DURING PHASE 2: COMPARISON OF RACE GROUPS
5.4 SUMMARY OF THE COMPARISON OF THE SUBGROUP RESULTS
5.5 CORRELATION BETWEEN PHASE 1 AND PHASE 2
5.6 INTEGRATION OF RESULTS
5.7 TESTING OF THE RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
5.8 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSIONS, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
6.2 LIMITATIONS OF THE PRESENT RESEARCH
6.4 CHAPTER SUMMARY
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
THE PREDICTIVE VALIDITY OF A PSYCHOLOGICAL TEST BATTERY FOR THE SELECTION OF CADET PILOTS IN A COMMERCIAL AIRLINE