Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Bertram Gawronski


Inspired by the history of the development of instruments in the physical sciences, and by past psychology giants, the following dissertation aimed to advance basic psychological science by investigating the metric calibration of psychological instruments. The over-arching goal of the dissertation was to demonstrate that it is both useful and feasible to calibrate the metric of psychological instruments so as to render their metrics non-arbitrary. Concerning utility, a conceptual analysis was executed delineating four categories of proposed benefits of non-arbitrary metrics including (a) help in the interpretation of data, (b) facilitation of construct validity research, (c) contribution to theory development, and (d) facilitation of general accumulation of knowledge. With respect to feasibility, the metric calibration approach was successfully applied to instruments of seven distinct constructs commonly studied in psychology, across three empirical demonstration studies and re-analyses of other researchers’ data. Extending past research, metric calibration was achieved in these empirical demonstration studies by finding empirical linkages between scores of the measures and specifically configured theoretically-relevant behaviors argued to reflect particular locations (i.e., ranges) of the relevant underlying psychological dimension. More generally, such configured behaviors can serve as common reference points to calibrate the scores of different instruments, rendering the metric of those instruments non-arbitrary.

Study 1 showed a meaningful metric mapping between scores of a frequently used instrument to measure need for cognition and probability of choosing to complete a cognitively effortful over a cognitively simpler task. Study 1 also found an interesting metric linkage between scores of a practically useful self-report measure of task persistence and actual persistence in an anagram persistence task. Study 2, set in the context of the debate of pan-cultural self-enhancement, found theoretically interesting metric mappings between a trait rating measure of self-enhancement often used in the debate and a specifically configured behavioral measure of self-enhancement (i.e., over-claiming of knowledge). Study 3 demonstrated the metric calibration approach for popular behavioral measures of risk-taking often used in experimental studies and found meaningful metric linkages to risky gambles in binary lottery choices involving the possibility of winning real money. Re-analyses of relevant datasets shared by other researchers also revealed meaningful metric mappings for instruments assessing extraversion, conscientiousness, and self-control. Gregariousness facet scores were empirically linked to number of social parties attended per month, Dutifulness facet scores (conscientiousness) were connected to maximum driving speed, and trait self-control scores were calibrated to GPA. In addition, to further demonstrate the utility of non-arbitrary metrics for basic psychological research, some of my preliminary metric calibration findings were applied to actual research findings from the literature. Limitations and obstacles of metric calibration and promising future directions are also discussed.