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Book Reviews   |    
Encyclopedia of Psychological Assessment
Reviewed by Kenneth E. Fletcher, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2005; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.56.5.614-a
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edited by Rocío Fernández-Ballesteros; Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, 2003, 1,164 pages in two volumes, $395

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The stated objective of the two-volume Encyclopedia of Psychological Assessment is to provide a comprehensive and integrated view of assessment, both as a conceptual and methodologic discipline and as a professional activity, that is relevant to a variety of diverse fields, "from the most traditional such as clinical, educational, and work and organizational psychology to the most recent applications linked to health, gerontology, neuropsychology and psychophysiology, and environmental assessment." As if that objective weren't ambitious enough, the editor and her well-qualified international editorial board seek to offer an international and cross-cultural perspective on assessment, in terms both of authors of the individual entries in the encyclopedia and of assessments and topics covered.

These objectives have been met to a remarkable degree. A broad spectrum of issues is covered in 234 entries by 290 authors from 20 countries and three continents. Sixty entries cover topics associated with theory and methodology, ranging from usual topics, such as classical reliability and validity, to topics that are less frequently discussed, such as ambulatory assessment, automated test assembly systems, personality assessment through longitudinal designs, and ethics. Thirty-eight entries in the domain of methods, tests, and equipment discuss issues on which information is less readily available to the general audience of social scientists for whom the encyclopedia is intended.

The advantages and disadvantages of different methods of assessment, including Internet- and other computer-based methods, are considered in these articles. Other articles provide information about such methods as goal-attainment scaling, test accommodations for disabilities, and adaptive and tailored testing. A wide variety of assessments related to personality are described and discussed in 31 entries, ranging from a discussion of the "big five" model of personality to more specific topics such as coping styles, optimism, self-efficacy, time orientation, and attachment. Another 24 articles consider different aspects of intelligence, from general intelligence assessment to less well-known measures of emotional intelligence, triarchic intelligence components, creativity, fluid and crystallized intelligence, and even wisdom.

Clinical and health assessment issues are discussed in 41 articles that cover topics ranging from anger, hostility, and aggression to dementia, irrational beliefs, mental retardation, mood disorders, stress, and quality of life. Discussions of educational and child assessment are covered in 32 entries that examine such topics as achievement testing, child custody, giftedness, learning strategies, planning of classroom tests, and testing in the second language for persons from ethnic minority groups. Work and organizational testing are considered in 22 articles and neurophysiopsychological assessment in 13. What the editor calls environmental assessment is examined in 17 articles covering such topics as social networks, life events, cognitive maps, and behavioral settings and behavior mapping.

The primary limitation of these two volumes is the limited space available for the topics covered. With only 1,114 pages devoted to 234 entries, the length of individual articles averages only four or five pages. Topics the editor deems to be of more importance have more space devoted to them, resulting in reduced coverage of other topics. As diverse and wide-ranging as the articles are, it is not possible to comment on all topics that might be considered important. For example, the discussion of measures of posttraumatic stress disorder, limited enough in its application for adults, does not address issues associated with the assessment of the disorder among children; there are very important differences not only between children and adults but also between different developmental stages, such as the difficulty of assessing posttraumatic stress disorder among infants and young children aged six years and under and the differences among assessment options for school-aged children and adolescents. A more important limitation concerns the lack of depth and detail in the entries. Frequently articles appear to consist of lists of assessment tools with little discussion of the content other than a superficial overview.

It is fortunate that the editor included an index, because, although listings are arranged alphabetically, specific topics of interest are not always located where the reader might expect to find them. Thus, for instance, although anxiety is discussed in an entry by that name, depression is discussed in the entry on mood disorders. That may make sense to some readers, but not necessarily to all. As a first place to start looking for relevant measures of specific domains, or to learn the basics of unfamiliar methodologies, this encyclopedia's advantages outweigh its limitations. Researchers who regularly need to assess psychological and psychiatric variables would find these two volumes very useful. A copy belongs in every academic and medical library.

Dr. Fletcher is affiliated with the department of psychiatry and the Graduate School of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

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