A testing technique that requires the subject to make a choice between two or more favorable or unfavorable alternatives. This technique was developed as a means of eliciting fuller information from a subject about his likes, dislikes, attitudes, interests or personality traits. He is required to give a definite answer instead of checking noncommittal responses such as “I” for indifferent, “DK” for don’t know, or “NP” no preference. The test itself has to be carefully constructed to offer equally plausible alternatives, otherwise it would not give a true indication of the individual’s preferences or attitudes. A forced choice test would therefore avoid offering a choice between attending a dance and doing homework, since for most people these alternatives would be weighted in favor of attending the dance. A choice between attending a dance and visiting an art museum would be far more revealing. The Edwards Personal Preference Schedule and the Kuder interest test are representative examples of this technique. It is also used in rating scales for employment or college entrance. One form of the test offers four favorable alternatives from which two are to be selected—for example, a rating scale might include this set: “is well informed in the field,” “can apply his knowledge to practical situations,” “creates confidence in others,” “explains the reasons for his suggestions.” In another form, two favorable and two unfavorable items are given and the rater must choose the one that is most applicable and the one that is least applicable to the individual. In both cases, some statements are closer than others to the attributes required for the particular job or educational institution. The method therefore helps to pinpoint the ratings. It also helps to make the rating scale more objective. However, as Freeman (1962) has pointed out, it has its disadvantages. Some raters find it too restrictive since none of the statements within certain sets may really apply to the person being rated. They also contend that the usual graphic, numerical and percentage ratings give them greater independence in making their own judgments. See PERSONALITY INVENTORIES, INTEREST TESTS. The forced choice method is also used in certain experimental investigations. In the standard studies of absolute threshold—that is the minimal detectable level of stimulation—-the subject is presented with a stimulus and asked to say whether he detected it or not. In the forced choice method he is told that a faint sound, for example, will be presented during one of four time intervals, and he is required to indicate or guess the period in which it occurs. This technique has resulted in lower threshold levels than the classical method. In other words, many of the so-called “guesses” are correct even when the sounds are below the accepted minimum intensity. This indicates that human beings are more sensitive than psychologists had previously realized—or, put in another way, we encode more information than we can usually express verbally. There is an interesting application of this idea in taking multiple choice examinations: our first choice is often the correct one, though we may later change it. Apparently we remember more than we realize, and our “antenna” captures this knowledge before we start to dissect and analyze the alternatives. See DETECTION THEORY, ABSOLUTE THRESHOLD.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "FORCED CHOICE," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed October 6, 2022).


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