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Psychological and physical fidelity

Researchers often distinguish between the psychological and physical fidelity of the assessment (Binning & Barrett, 1989; Goldstein, Zedeck & Schneider, 1993). Psychological fidelity refers to the extent to which an assessment requires test-takers to utilize the knowledge, skills and abilities during the assessment that they will use on the job.

Physical fidelity refers to the extent to which an assessment replicates actual tasks performed on the job. For an assessment to be valid it must have psychological fidelity. In addition, in most cases, as the level of physical fidelity increases, so does psychological fidelity. Many simulations, such as SJTs, only exhibit psychological fidelity. These simulations do not require a hands-on performance as applicants are presented with hypothetical scenarios to which they respond verbally or in writing. At the other end of the continuum are simulations such as call centre assessments where applicants take calls and enter information into programs or databases, and computer skills assessments where applicants are asked to perform tasks using real software packages. These assessments are hands-on and the tasks performed closely replicate the real-world setting. Between these extremes there is a range of simulations, such as managerial in-baskets with computer-based assessments that mirror the applicant’s desktop, exhibiting a higher fidelity than paper-based in-baskets.

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