Ecological Validity

Term of the day: ecological validity.

Ecological validity is a pretty big concern in ed psych, obviously. But I’ve also just read an interesting paper in Health, Risk, and Vulnerability which talks about the ecological validity of psychiatric assessment of criminals being treated for mental illness. The idea there is that many prisoners that do poorly in the highly restrictive environment of the facility (e.g. people with authority issues) are actually quite ready to function in a real world setting, whereas many offenders who do well in these situations (e.g. sex offenders) are actually high recidivism risks. Assessment in the confines of the center, irregardless of the validity of the instrument, is compromised by this. 

I hate to draw a link between colleges and psychiatric prisons, but one sometimes wonders about the ecological validity of college itself. Even aside from the tests themselves, you have to ask if the peculiar nature of college — consisting of a social environment unlike any other, really — provides an ideal environment for the assessment of ability as applied to the outside world.

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