Items, scales, and profiles thus form three levels of interpretation in psychological assessment. The item is the standard stimulus in psychological assessment. Because every subject who completes an instrument answers the same items, responses can be directly compared to those of others. A scale is composed of many items that tap the same psychological construct, so that a scale score reflects a summary of the particular behaviors expressed in those same item responses. Means scores constitute expectable behavior across a group, and substantial deviations from the mean are expected to have interpretive significance. The more deviant from average, the more significant the result. A set of scale scores is referred to as a profile or profile configuration. The profile stands in place of the person as a collection of scales, just as a collection of items stands in place of the construct they assess. Accordingly, for the profile to be valid, every scale composing the profile should be valid. Methods for writing items, constructing scales, and interpreting profiles are highly developed within the self-report format, with which this section is mostly concerned.
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