Optentia: Guiding adaptation of psychological tests
South Africa is a country is a country renowned for being diverse in every possible way. Such diversity also means that psychological tests must be adapted for the different beliefs and contexts of various culture groups.
This means that one test does not fit all and in a quest to help academics and professionals in the field of psychology and related fields with the tricky task of test adaptation and acculturation, Optentia Research Focus Area recently hosted a workshop with Prof Fons van de Vijver from Tilburg University in the Netherlands.
The workshop focused on two related topics, the first was test adaptation and how to adapt test developed for one cultural group for other cultural groups? Three options are available in translating tests: make a close literal translation; adaptation whereby contents of one or more items are change to increase the cultural appropriateness; and the last being the assembly of a new instrument. Though this may seem like a rather lengthy process, Prof Van de Vijver contends that “the participant is always right”, which means that whenever a psychological test is administered, it must be adapted to the requirements of the participants if validity is to be safeguarded.
This means that no test instrument is ever completely finalised and must be subjected to constant adaptation, not only to be appropriate for different language and cultural groups, but also for younger generations growing up in a world different to that of previous generations.
The second topic was acculturation, which describes the psychological consequences of extended contact between cultural groups. Acculturation poses a number of challenges in South Africa where the ethnic culture is usually well defined but the mainstream culture is less well defined. The link between the two themes is the challenge to deal with the diverse nature of the South African population in psychological studies and practice.
Prof Van de Vijver is an Extraordinary Professor with Optentia. He has published more than 400 publications primarily on cross-cultural psychology. The main topics under his investigation involve bias and equivalence, psychological acculturation and multiculturalism, cognitive similarities and differences, response styles, translations and adaptations.
* The mission of the Optentia Research Focus Area is to develop and organise knowledge for the optimal expression of individual, social and institutional potential, with specific interest in the African context. The research programme utilises the inputs from various disciplines in the social sciences, including Psychology, Industrial/Organisational Psychology, Educational Psychology, Sociology, Educational Sciences, Employment Relations, and Social Work. To learn more about Optentia visit their website.