On March 22 2021 Lisa Wijsen defended her thesis Characterizations of Psychometrics at the University of Amsterdam
Psychometrics is a mostly technical and model-based discipline that is concerned with (quantitative) psychological measurement. This dissertation aims to uncover the intricacies of this discipline by drawing up three characterizations of psychometrics: a historical characterization, an ethnographic characterization, and a philosophical characterization. The historical characterization involves an academic genealogy of psychometrics, in which the history of psychometrics is visualized by tracing back the doctoral advisors of prominent psychometricians. In the ethnographic characterization, psychometricians are interviewed on the history and future of their discipline, as well as the dealings of contemporary psychometrics. The philosophical characterization offers a realist reading of psychometric models and an analysis of the use of values in psychometric research. Though each characterization certainly has its own distinct methodological features, together the characterizations paint a multidimensional and nuanced portrait of psychometrics. Psychometrics turns out to be a diverse discipline that incorporates a number of tensions: 1) psychometrics seems to be a subfield of psychology but also a discipline that can be characterized as a subdiscipline of statistics; 2) psychometricians use models that imply a realist philosophy (useful for formulating hypotheses), but at the same time engage in mostly building useful applications; and 3) though psychometrics has played a considerable role in historical and modern-day society, the discipline also seems quite isolated from real social involvement. All in all, I hope that this dissertation unlocks some of the complexities of psychometrics, and specifically, makes psychometrics a more accessible research area for fellow historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science.
Prof. Denny Borsboom & Prof. Willem Heiser
NWO Graduate Programme
1 September 2015 – 22 March 2021