Norms: The Behind-the-Scenes Player with Big Impact

Because items on personality assessments have no correct or incorrect answers, users must apply norms to interpret scores. Norms exist largely behind the scenes, and aren’t as sexy as other issues. As a result, they receive little attention relative to other issues, and many do not consider their importance. However, norms can determine whether a person gets a job, receives admittance to academic programs, or is deemed clinically “disordered.” These examples show why test takers should care about norms, but why should test users care?

The answer is simple – validity. Put simply, validity concerns the accuracy of assessment-based decisions, or whether the instrument does what it’s designed to do. Because norms inform decisions based on a person’s score, they impact validity. As an example, consider two assessments designed for adult working populations. The only difference between the two instruments is their norms. Norms for one instrument come from an anonymous sample of Internet users. Norms for the other assessment come from working adults sampled based on labor force and demographic estimates. Because both assessments are intended for adult working populations, the validity of decisions based on these assessments depends on how well the scores reflect the intended audience. Here, norms for one assessment give users confidence in making decisions based on an apples-to-apples comparisons; norms for the other do not.

Hogan takes great pride in the quality and continued accuracy of our assessment norms. We continuously monitor our norms, completing incremental updates as necessary. More importantly, we obtain proportionate representation across occupational and demographic categories to make certain that our norms accurately reflect intended audiences. Internationally, we also develop local norms to give our clients and partners confidence that results reflect intended audiences in local populations. Collectively, these efforts ensure that Hogan remains an industry-leader in assessment norming practices.

Blaine Gaddis
International Research Manager
Hogan Assessment Systems