[Blueboard] Clarifying Sereno's Psychological Assessment

Mhal M. Rivera mmrivera at ateneo.edu
Fri Mar 2 13:14:19 +08 2018


2 March 2018

This statement is issued by the Psychological Association of the
Philippines (PAP) to inform the public regarding the ethical and valid use
of psychological assessments, in response to the recent legislative
proceedings that highlight the alleged mental/psychological condition of
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The PAP maintains that in giving this
statement, the organization is neither supporting nor opposing any position
regarding the issues involving Chief Justice Sereno. It only seeks to
clarify the function of psychological assessments and the diagnosis of
psychological conditions.

First, the purpose of psychological assessment is to help understand a
person’s functioning in various aspects of life for informed decision
making (for example, for job positions) or for treatment planning.
Psychological tests are developed and applied via scientific methods, but
they are not perfectly accurate. Actual behaviors and performance are more
valid than what psychological assessments may predict.

Second, a psychological assessment is often conducted for a specific
purpose, and should only be used for that purpose. To use a psychological
assessment conducted in 2012 (which was for the purpose of Chief Justice
Sereno’s appointment) for the current legislative proceedings is a misuse
of those results.

Third, statements that the Chief Justice “failed” the psychological
evaluation are misleading, as no one “passes” or “fails” a psychological
assessment. Instead, a psychologist recommends a person to a position after
the assessment indicates that he/she possesses the characteristics that fit
the demands of the given position.

Fourth, decisions and recommendations are derived from psychological
assessments that use a combination of methods, such as interview,
observation, standardized norm-referenced tests, and relevant informal
tools. Good practices entail the application of all these methods, and
using only one or two of these methods is inadequate. If a psychologist
bases his/her assessment on only one of these methods, or from second-hand
reports, then conclusions about “mental disturbance” based on alleged
symptoms that indicate such a condition are misleading, if not inaccurate.

The PAP upholds the dignity of every human being and we reject recent
narratives that directly or indirectly use psychological assessments to
stigmatize those with mental or psychological conditions. We condemn the
unethical practice of using confidential psychological information for
purposes of discrediting or damaging a person’s character. Even if
psychological test results become public documents, this does not grant
permission for anybody to use it for any purpose other than its original

The PAP Code of Ethics (PAP, 2009) lists as its guiding principle our
“professional and scientific responsibility to society.”  The PAP upholds
the Psychology community’s responsibility to conduct its affairs in
accordance with the highest ethical standards, and to contribute “to the
knowledge about human behavior and to the persons’ understanding of
themselves and others”. It is our obligation to use our expertise in
educating the members of our discipline and the public about our profession
and practice.



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