Arbitrary metrics in psychology

Hart Blanton, James Jaccard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many psychological tests have arbitrary metrics but are appropriate for testing psychological theories. Metric arbitrariness is a concern, however, when researchers wish to draw inferences about the true, absolute standing of a group or individual on the latent psychological dimension being measured. The authors illustrate this in the context of 2 case studies in which psychologists need to develop inventories with nonarbitrary metrics. One example comes from social psychology, where researchers have begun using the Implicit Association Test to provide the lay public with feedback about their "hidden biases" via popular Internet Web pages. The other example comes from clinical psychology, where researchers often wish to evaluate the real-world importance of interventions. As the authors show, both pursuits require researchers to conduct formal research that makes their metrics nonarbitrary by linking test scores to meaningful real-world events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-41
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Clinical significance
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Prejudice
  • Reliability
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Arbitrary metrics in psychology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this