Thursday, December 21, 2017

Presenting Survey Results

We can learn a lot about presenting survey results by looking at what experts do. The scientists at Pew Research presented findings from a Christmas in America survey. Take a look at their work.

1. Focus on highlights. For general audiences, select the most important facts. For example, it is no big news to say over 90% of Christian Americans celebrate Christmas. But to learn there’s a drop in celebrating Christmas as a religious rather than a cultural holiday is news (46% down from 51% in 2013). It’s also interesting to learn that younger persons are lower on the religious emphasis than are older adults. Of course, to focus on highlights, you have to create good survey questions in the first place. So, check out the items Pew reports to make their findings more meaningful (e.g., include age groups and religious affiliation in your survey).

2. Use percentages and graphics to depict trends. On fact 2, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” Pew shows a change in the trend for “it doesn’t matter” what people say in stores or businesses. Endorsing the phrase “It doesn’t matter” rose from 45% in 2005 to 52% in 2017. Percentages make sense to most educated readers. Means and standard deviations are not as widely understood. Simple line and bar graphs also help readers avoid losing focus in dense text. Again, see the Pew examples: Christmas in America survey.

3. Pew does a good job of presenting different answers to a complex question about Christian displays (e.g., Nativity scenes) on government property. Some think the displays should never be allowed (26%), others think its fine if there are other symbols (29%), while most think they should be allowed without other symbols (37%). By presenting years 2014 and 2017 on two different lines, we see how the views have changed. In addition, the report uses color to help us compare the different group responses.

4. Present controversial beliefs with enough detail to make it clear who believes what. Pew asked questions about the historicity of the Christmas story events—things like virgin birth and visitors guided by a star. The key words for each item are printed next to the data presented for two recent years (2014 and 2017). We see that belief in the virgin birth dropped from 73 to 66% from 2014 to 2017. You do have to read the text to learn that the findings are different among those in the sample who identify as Christian.

For those wanting more detail, Pew includes a link to their “Religion & Public Life” page. If you follow the link, you will see much more detail in the tables. The tables also provide another example of how to present data to a general audience.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How to Measure Wisdom


As you might guess, psychological scientists disagree on the definition of wisdom. Here's one definition with a list of features that captures some scientific thinking (from evidenced-based).

Psychologists are finding that societies do share an agreed understanding and conception of wisdom. Wisdom is a construct composed of the following traits:

  • Deep self-knowledge
  • Social intelligence and life skills
  • Broad compassion
  • Emotional management
  • Multi-model perspective-taking
  • Uncertainty navigation
Several scales have been developed to measure various characteristics. As with many psychological survey items, measures of wisdom rely on self-report. In this post, I will present one scale and provide links to information about additional wisdom scales.

3 D Wisdom Scale (3DWS)

Monika Ardelt is a professor of sociology at the University of Florida. She developed the Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (2003). Her model of wisdom included the following three dimensions:

Reflective: considers various perspectives when examining phenomena, which reduces excessive subjectivity and projection.

Cognitive: an ability to appraise reality and see how reality relates to intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of life.

Affective: capacity to consider others with sympathy and compassion

Early Scale items

The 3DWS items were reduced from 132 to 39 items in research conducted in North and Central Florida. The number of items for the scales are: Reflective 12, Cognitive 14, and Affective 13.

Take the Wisdom Test Online:  Link to the 39-item scale online.

3DWS12: A Short Version

Monica Ardelt and her colleagues (Thomas, Bangen, Ardelt, & Jeste, 2017) created a short version with 12 items. The larger sample has 1,546 adults in the age range of 21 to 100 (M = 66). The authors report adequate consistency values (Coefficient Alpha).

Full Scale = .86 and subscales .69

Short 12-item version = .73 and subscales .63

Item sample for Short Scale (all rated as 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree).

A problem has little attraction for me if I don’t think it has a solution.

When I look back on what has happened to me, I can’t help feeling resentful.

I’m easily irritated by people who argue with me.

See the Thomas et al., 2017 article for details.

There are other measures of wisdom, which you can find at evidence-based wisdom.


Ardelt, M. (2003). Empirical assessment of a three-dimensional wisdom scale. Research on Aging, 25(3), 275-324.

Thomas, M. L., Bangen, K. J., Ardelt, M., & Jeste, D. V. (2017). Development of a 12-item abbreviated Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (3D-WS-12): Item selection and psychometric properties. Assessment, 24, 71-82.

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Applied Statistics: Concepts for Counselors

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

GRATITUDE - Measuring Gratitude

I have written elsewhere about gratitude. People high in the virtue of gratitude are often high in other virtues as well such as optimism and life satisfaction. They also tend to be more religious. In the previous post, The Psychology of Gratitude, I list some suggestions to increase gratitude.

In this post, I refer to a set of items to assess gratitude. The Gratitude Questionnaire uses six items and was published by McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang in 2002.

In previous research, the authors found support for one factor. Coefficient alpha, a measure of interitem consistency, ranged from .76 to .84 in samples reported by the authors  (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002; McCullough, Tsang, & Emmons, 2002).

Rating the Scale Items

When using the scale in surveys the items are rated on a 7-point scale from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7). High scores indicate a higher level of self-reported gratitude.

Here's the 7-point rating: 1 = strongly disagree 2 = disagree 3 = slightly disagree 4 = neutral 5 = slightly agree 6 = agree 7 = strongly agree

Here is the six-item scale:

____1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.

____2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.

____3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for.*

____4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.

____5. As I get older I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history.

____6. Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.*

*The items marked with an asterisk are reverse scored so a score of 7 counts as 1 and a score of 6 become 2 and so on.

The total score should be between 6 and 42.

A score of 38 was at the 50th percentile in a sample of 1,224. See the link for more information.

And, here is a link to research studies using the scale (Gratitude Questionnaire). You will find information on scoring and interpreting the scores.

The scale has been used in research studies along with other scales.

It may also be relevant in some counseling situations.

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Gratitude References

McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112-127.

McCullough, M. E., Tsang, J., & Emmons, R. A. (2004). Gratitude in intermediate affective terrain: Links of grateful moods to individual differences and daily emotional experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 295-309.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Marriage & Divorce Rates by Age and Year

Two charts illustrate how the divorce rate and the remarriage rate in the United States vary across seven age groups. See the captions in the charts for the sources of these data.

The rate of divorce is much higher for younger persons than for older persons but the rate of divorce has declined among younger persons than for older persons for the two-year comparison—1990 and 2015.

Remarriage rates are also much higher for younger persons but there is a significant drop since 1990 for younger persons compared to the relatively stable rate for older persons.

What is not obvious in these data are changes in people living together.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Chart Example Marriage Age by year

The chart based on data from CDC 2015 provides an example of tracking three trends over time.

The bars indicate the percentage of births to unmarried women. The upper teal line represents the median age at first marriage and the orange broken line indicates median age at first birth.

Notice the "crossover" of the two lines referring to first birth and first marriage.

Note also the stabalized trend for births to unmarried women easily visible on the bar portion of the chart. About 40% of women are unmarried when their children are born.

You can read text related to the story at the BGSU weblink:

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

HOPE - How to measure hope

The Adult Hope Scale developed by C. R. Snyder of the University of Kansas is an easy to use measure of hope. The original scale has 12-items, which measure two dimensions of hope based on hope theory. Four measure agency and four measure pathways--the other four are distractors.

The agency concept measures the capacity to focus energy on a goal. The pathways concept assesses plans to achieve goals. In recent studies, the four distraction items are often dropped leaving 8-items. Researchers often use the total score for the 8-items as a measure of trait (aka dispositional) hope.

I have also included a Spanish language measure of hope in this post.

Here's the text we (Sutton et al., 2018) used to refer to the scale along with our findings.

The items used a response format of 1 = definitely false to 8 = definitely true. A sample item is, “I meet the goals I set for myself.” Snyder et al. (1991) reported alphas between .79 and .95 in four samples. 
In our two studies, the alpha reliability values were .82 and  .95.

As you might expect, hope is positively correlated with well-being, which provides some evidence supporting validity. Hope was significantly correlated with the Schwartz Outcome Scale in both studies (.64, .76) and with the Theistic Spiritual Outcome Scale in study 2 (.72).

Using the Hope Scale

Counselors and psychotherapists may consider the scale in assessment of clients because it strongly predicts satisfaction with therapy and patient well-being, which are used as outcome measures as noted above (See Sutton et al., 2018)

Researchers may want to use hope in a variety of surveys looking at characteristics of populations. The reliability values of the items vary with the study yet indicate an overall consistency in many contexts.

The 8-item Scale

LINK TO COPY OF THE ADULT HOPE SCALE (also called The Trait Hope Scale)

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La Esperanza

A Spanish hope scale (Escala de Esperanza de Herth) is also available. An article suggests adequate psychometric properties for a 28-item version (Uribe, Bardales, & Herth, 2012).

Read more about hope in Chapter 5 of 
Living Well


Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., Yoshinoba, L., Gibb, J., Langelle, C., & Harney, P. (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570-585. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.60.4.570

Snyder, C. R., Parenteau, S. C., Shorey, H. S., Kahle, K. E., & Berg, C. (2002). Hope as the underlying process in the psychotherapeutic change process. International Gestalt Journal, 25,11-29.

Sutton, G. W., Kelly, H., Worthington, E. L. Jr., Griffin, B. J., & Dinwiddie, C. (2018) Satisfaction with Christian psychotherapy and well-being: Contributions of hope, personality, and spirituality. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 5 (1), 8-24. doi: 10.1037/scp0000145 Academia Link    ResearchGate Link

Uribe, P. M., Bardales, M.C., & Herth, K. (2012). Propiedades psicom├ętricas de la Escala de Esperanza de Herth en espa├▒ol. RIDEP, 33, 127-145. (

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How to Compare Test Scores

When counselors and psychologists report test scores, they often report one of the scores found in the table below. When several tests are used, it is helpful to know how the scores compare from one test to another.

A good place to begin is to locate the average score-- that's the row where z = 0. Then look at the broad middle range between z = -1 and z = 1. About 68% of people score between z = -1 and z = 1.

Intelligence Tests use Standard Scores abbreviated as SS. These scores take the place of the old IQ score. An average IQ is 100 -- about 68% of people score between 85 and 115.

Here's a table from Appendix B of Applied Statistics: Concepts for Counselors

Each row contains the equivalent score on a different scoring system. For example, a z-score of 1 equals a T score of 60, and a standard score of 115. The score is at the 84th percentile.


Table Notes

z-scores, M = 0, SD = 1
T-scores, M = 50, SD = 10
SS-Standard Scores, M = 100, SD = 15
PR- Percentile Rank

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

INTELLIGENCE TESTS - What Counselors & Psychologists Know

Intelligence tests (IQ tests) are in the news lately as people banter about terms from many decades ago. IQ tests are widely used because they measure the ability of people to solve various problems, predict academic achievement, and help with job placement in some settings. The tests also help neuropsychologists assess functioning in people with impairments due to head injuries and brain diseases.

During part of my childhood, I passed a facility where American IQ testing began. I saw people on swings and on the grounds of the Vineland Training school in Vineland NJ. It turns out that a little over 100 years ago, American psychologist, Henry Goddard, brought a test by French scientist, Alfred Binet, to the New Jersey Training School for Feeble-Minded Girls and Boys in Vineland, NJ. The test was modified and widely used in the U.S.

What tests are used today?

Today, a number of tests are available in the US and elsewhere. Popular American tests are the Wechsler Intelligence Scales and the Stanford-Binet Scale. The tests are regularly updated with new materials and tasks appropriate to people of different ages. Several other tests are also available such as the Kaufman Assessment Battery, Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability, and the Differential Ability Scales.

A full scale test can last over an hour, so it is not surprising that a number of shorter tests are available. The shorter tests are considered "screening tests" because they include fewer subtests (or sets of tasks), to measure problem-solving skills. It is common to use a test of verbal ability such as vocabulary and a test of "nonverbal" ability such as tasks that require solving visually presented tasks.

Intelligence tests yield a variety of scores that recognize people have different abilities. This fits with common sense as we observe people with different abilities--strong verbal skills, incredible abilities to design complex structures, create various artistic works, and so forth. Still, many people want to know their IQ-- a short hand way of identifying an overall general ability. The overall score is controversial but remains in use.

In years past, the IQ (intelligence quotient) was measured as a ratio of chronological age to mental age. Mental age referred to a person's score on test tasks compared to others of the same age. As I posted previously, there are problems with age scores. Today, the scores on tests of intelligence compare people of similar ages to their age peers. For traditional reasons, the average IQ (or standard score) has an arithmetic average (M, mean) of 100 and a standard deviation (SD) of 15 points (read more about a few statistics).

It turns out that despite different test tasks and scales, people earn similar scores. An IQ score or standard score on one test is likely within a few points of the same score on a different test. As people age, the scores are more reliable-- that is stable. So, if an adult earns a score of 110 today, she would likely have a score within a few points of 110 in 2-years--unless something happened.

The stability of the scores make the tests useful when considering the effects of brain damage or disease. Of course, neuropsychologists use other tests as well (e.g., tests of memory, visual-spatial skills).

Read More


What is average intelligence?

That can be a trick question unless you clarify what you mean by intelligence. On tests that report standard scores, the average score is 100. Using the common standard deviation of 15 points, about 68% of our age peers will score beetween 85 and 115. Close to 95% of people the same age will have scores in the range of 70 to 130. As you can see, only a small percentage of people score above 130 or below 70.

The test scores compare people to others of the same age. The skill levels develop rapidly in young children. Several months can make a difference in average scores. In adults, scores vary in how they change for people in large age brackets. Some abilities decline more rapidly than others. For example, young adults tend to be faster than older adults when solving tasks requiring eye-hand coordination.

What are some problems with IQ tests?

Test scores do not capture the range of abilities of people who are differently abled. For example, those with severe visual impairments cannot see visual test tasks. And those with severe hearing impairments may not respond well to spoken instructions or auditory tasks. Clearly, it would be wrong to assume something about a person's intelligence using tests that are not designed for people who have limited vision, hearing, or some other similar condition.

Some clinicians fail to document vision, hearing, or other limitations. For example, many people show up for testing and leave their eyewear at home. A child may forget his glasses or hearing aids.

People with temporary limitations cannot take tests as well as they could at other times. If you cannot use your dominant hand due to an injury, you will have difficulty on tests that require using your hands.

People taking medication can respond differently when taking medicine that either helps or interferes with attention and concentration. Of course, illegal drugs can also affect the brain processes needed to remember instructions and solve problems.

People who are not fluent in the language of the test may have a difficult time depending on their language skills.

So called "nonverbal tests" measure different abilities than tests that include language so mistakes can be made when making judgments about general intelligence or ability.

Clinicians make mistakes in recording information, scoring, or writing reports.

Tests are not perfect measuring instruments. Even when administered to people under the best of circumstances, there is measurement error. Measurement error is usually more variable for children than for adults. Measurement error refers to a variation in scores from one administration to another.

What about labels?

I suppose we will have a hard time escaping labels. The words used for people getting high scores or low scores have changed over the years--too many to cover in this post. Insulting words about a person's intelligence were terms used many decades ago. Today, clinicians and organizations like schools use a variety of terms focused on helping high scoring students learn in more challenging environments. And students who score very low on several tests, are elligible for services designed to help them maximize their potential. Insurance programs use cutoff scores and other criteria when awarding benefits to people with severely impaired abilities.

Who administers IQ tests?

A variety of professionals are qualified to administer, score, and interpret IQ tests. They are most commonly used by School Psychologists in schools and private practices. But other psychologists who specialize in neuropsychology also use IQ tests as part of their assessment. Many school counselors also have the necessary skills. In some cases, a psychological technician will administer the tests but the interpretation is left to the clinian holding an advanced degree along with the appropriate license or certification.

Read more

Applied statistics: Concepts for counselors. 


You can also read more about the assessment of"thinking" in Creating Surveys.

Books by Geoffrey W. Sutton

Lifespan Self-Esteem Scale

  The Lifespan Self-Esteem Scale is a 4-item measure of self-esteem. The items are rated on a 5-point scale. Self-esteem is a dimension o...