The long-term objectives of the proposed project are to evaluate and implement a new procedure for test score validation, the process priming method. The process priming method uses experimental primes to alter respondents'psychological processes during testing and assess the impact of these primes on test scores, allowing researchers to draw more definitive conclusions regarding whether a test is actually measuring what it purports to assess information that correlational validity evidence cannot provide. Most important from the perspective of clinical assessment, the process priming method can be applied at the test item level to evaluate potential items for inclusion in newly developed scales or refine existing measures.
The specific aims of the proposed studies are to use the process priming method to refine measures of pathological narcissism and dependency by implementing the process priming method at the test item level in psychiatric inpatients. These studies establish the feasibility of the process priming method in clinical settings and provide evidence regarding the utility of this procedure in enhancing researchers'ability to quantify two clinically relevant traits with different antecedents and behavioral manifestations, but which have demonstrated utility in predicting risk for psychopathology, self-destructive behavior, and aggression toward others. The health relatedness of the project involves improving researchers'ability to measure the fundamental components and dimensions of mental illness: As mental health research increasingly emphasizes the role of impaired regulatory systems and aberrant neural circuits in various forms of psychopathology, progress in this area requires that we not only develop sophisticated strategies for quantifying the neurophysiological antecedents and correlates of different syndromes, but also that we develop valid and reliable indices of the behavioral and psychological manifestations of mental disorders (i.e., measures of cognitive function, emotion regulation, and other salient variables). The proposed studies support the mission of the agency in that Strategy 1.4 of the National Institute of Mental Health's 2008 Strategic Plan emphasizes the development of new methods for classifying mental disorders based on dimensions of observable behavior and neurobiological function;improved methods for assessing test score validity will enable researchers to develop better measures of fundamental components of mental disorders for use in basic studies and clinical settings. Experimental methods are used to achieve the goals of the proposed studies, with lexical primes used to activate narcissism- and dependency-related schemas so the impact of these primes on scores derived from measures of narcissism and dependency can be assessed. Studies 1 and 2 apply process priming methods at the test item level to refine an existing measure of pathological dependency by distinguishing prime sensitive from prime insensitive items, resulting in an improved (more valid and precise) scale;Studies 3 and 4 use the process priming method to improve the predictive validity of a widely used measure of pathological narcissism.
The traditional method of test score validation-assessing correlations between test scores and scores on various external criteria-represents a critical barrier to progress in classification, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders. The process priming method of test score validation uses experimental primes to alter respondents'psychological processes during testing and assess the impact of these primes on test scores, allowing researchers to draw more definitive conclusions regarding whether a test is actually measuring what it purports to assess, and to evaluate potential items for inclusion in newly developed scales or refine existing measures. The process priming method represents a substantive addition to the current research paradigm which will lead to improved classification systems and diagnostic frameworks, and support Strategy 1.4 of the National Institute of Mental Health's 2008 strategic plan, which emphasizes the development of new methods for classifying mental disorders based on dimensions of observable behavior and neurobiological function.
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