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Journal of Applied Psychology
1989, m 74, No, 3,478-494

Copyright 1989 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0021-9010/89/S00.75

Validity of Personnel Decisions: A Conceptual Analysis
of the Inferential and Evidential Bases
John F. Binning

Gerald V. Barrett

Illinois State University

University of Akron

Issues common to both the process of building psychological theories and validating personnel decisions are examined. Inferences linking psychological constructs and operational measures of constructs are organized into a conceptual framework, and validation is characterized as the process of accumulating various forms of judgmental and empirical evidence to support these inferences. The traditional concepts of construct-, content-, and criterion-related validity are unified within this framework. This unified view of validity is then contrasted with more conventional views (e.g., Uniform Guidelines, 1978), and misconceptions about the validation of employment tests are examined. Next, the process of validating predictor constructs is extended to delineate the critical inferences unique to validating performance criteria. Finally, an agenda for programmatic personnel selection research is described, emphasizing a shift in the behavioral scientist's role in the personnel selection process.

Demonstrating the validity of decisions based on psychological assessment procedures is of fundamental importance to personnel and other applied psychologists. Furthermore, few

concept of scientific validity implies a simple model in which constructs and measures of such are inferentially linked. In the next section, we suggest that in personnel selection contexts, a conceptually truncated adaptation of this model often implic-

would argue with the fact that generating and articulating validity evidence is a complex process. To fully appreciate this com-

itly guides the validation of predictor-criterion relationships. This truncation has for years had an undesirably limiting in-

plexity, it is important to realize that conceptions of validity have evolved over the years through the melding of legal, techni-

fluence on conceptions of validity. Perhaps its most damaging

cal, and practical concerns about the quality and utility of personnel decisions. Inevitably, differences of interpretation and

effect has been the relative neglect of criterion validity concerns. In remedial response to this, a third model is presented. This

opinion have arisen as each constituency has viewed these myriad concerns from uniquely important perspectives. Perhaps equally inevitable, however, is the confusion that has grown out of these differences. Because this confusion ultimately limits the

model is designed to restore and clarify the severed criterion portions of the original. Finally, suggested strategies for elaborating the proposed model and broadening conceptions of validation are discussed.

effectiveness of practitioners and theorists alike, the need for greater clarity cannot be overestimated (Guion, 1987; Landy, 1986; Tenopyr, 1986).

Validation Vis-a-Vis Theory Development
It is now commonly accepted that validity is not a character-

This article is based on the premise that all validity issues discussed in personnel contexts have some conceptual counterpart in the general process of theory development (Landy,

istic of a test or assessment procedure but, instead, of inferences made from test or assessment information (Cronbach, 1970;

1986). Moreover, various departures from this "ideal" process have led to myopic, if not erroneous, conceptions of validity. To elucidate how these departures have distorted conceptions of

Guion, 1980,1987;Landy, 1986; Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1987; American Psychological Association, 1985). An inference is valid to the extent that it is sup-

validity, the article is divided into four major sections. In the...
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