Steven R. Smith
University of California, Santa Barbara
There is an Indian parable of six blind men who encounter different parts of a large elephant
and are asked to describe what it is they are feeling. The man who grasps the trunk
reports that he’s holding a snake; the next man, who is holding one of the large tusks, insists
that it is a spear; another man, grasping one of the animal’s large legs, says that it is a tree.
The point of the parable is that incomplete evidence results in incomplete conclusions and a
narrow perspective of the entire beast.
As applied psychology becomes increasingly specialized, psychologists also run the
risk of drawing incomplete conclusions about patients ...view middle of the document...
Throughout, I argue that the meaning of a given personality or neuropsychological test score
should be seen as contingent upon the full array of patient functioning.
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The separation between neuropsychology and personality assessment begins early in training.
Neuropsychologists receive extensive specialized training in cognitive neuroscience,
neuropsychological assessment, and psychometrics, in addition to generalist training in
clinical psychology (Hannay et al., 1998). The ultimate goal of neuropsychological training
is a board certification that would attest to the clinician’s expertise in the field. Those who
conduct personality assessments, on the other hand, are not required to engage in a specified
course of training, but do need to be well versed in their particular tools and instruments
as well as the complexity of human personality, psychopathology, and interpersonal
dynamics. Although the Society for Personality Assessment has outlined some training
guidelines and board certification in assessment is available through the American Board of
Assessment Psychology, these are not as tied to clinical training experience as is seen in neuropsychology.
This does not imply, however, a lack of rigor in personality assessment training;
my point here is merely that the foci,...