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Archives of Scientific Psychology 2019, 7, 119–128 © 2019 American Psychological Association DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/arc0000064 2169-3269 Archives of Scientific Psychology www.apa.org/pubs/journals/arc Kara M. Styck Northern Illinois University A. Alexander Beaujean and Marley W. Watkins Baylor University ABSTRACT The multidimensionality of intelligence has become commonly accepted among psychologists. As a result, the question “How intelligent is an individual?” has been replaced by the question “In what ways is an individual intelligent?” The construction of modern intelligence tests has followed suit and most intelligence tests today provide scores for some general intellectual attribute as well as multiple specific types of intellectual attributes. This has led to the common practice of interpreting profiles of intellectual strengths and weaknesses, with the subsequent conclusion that these profiles represent real differences in individuals’ underlying intellectual attributes. These conclusions are premature, however, because they assume intelligence tests measure these specific intellectual attributes well. A necessary condition for interpreting score profiles is consistency—an individual’s profile should be relatively similar across time. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the consistency of intelligence test score profiles on a sample of children who were given a widely used intelligence test two times. We found that strengths and weaknesses of specific types of intelligence were not measured consistently. Thus, although “In what ways is an individual intelligent?” may be the question psychologists want to answer, results of this study suggest that we are currently able to answer only the question, “How intelligent is an individual?” SCIENTIFIC ABSTRACT Clinical profile analysis of intelligence test subscores remains a popular practice among psychologists who work in applied settings, despite decades of accumulating evidence indicating that IQ subscores have poor psychometric properties. Bulut, Davison, and Rodriguez (2017) recently developed a method to estimate the within-person (profile pattern) and between- person (profile level) reliability of subscores. Given that reliability is a necessary, albeit insufficient, condition for score interpretation, the purpose of the present investigation was to estimate the within-person and between-person profile reliability for intelligence test subscores using a contemporary version of the Wechsler intelligence scales using a sample of children (N 296) twice assessed for special education eligibility. Results indicated that between-person reliability estimates were higher than within-person reliability estimates at both the subtest (.79 vs. .37) and index score (.78 vs. .53) levels of interpretation, indicating that the profiles were not very reliable. Moreover, this pattern of results remained consistent even when evaluating a subsample of students diagnosed with specific learning disabilities. These findings contribute to the empirical literature base that indicates the interpretation of intelligence test subscore profiles is not psychometrically defensible. Keywords: clinical profile analysis, cognitive ability, subscores, specific learning disability Data repository: http://dx.doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37285.v1 This article was published December 23, 2019. Kara M. Styck, Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University; A. Alexander Beaujean, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Baylor University; Marley W. Watkins, Department of Educational Psychology, Baylor University. The authors have made available the data that underlie the analyses presented in this article (see Styck, Beaujean, & Watkins, 2019), thus allowing replication and potential extensions of this work by qualified researchers. Next users are obligated to involve the data originators in their publication plans, if the originators so desire. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kara M. Styck, Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, 1425 West Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, IL 60115. E-mail: email@example.com This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. 120 STYCK, BEAUJEAN, AND WATKINS Clinical profile analysis (CPA) has been around almost as long as to themselves. Thus, it cannot be assumed that any properties of the psychological tests (Beaujean & Benson, in press). The idea behind original subscores apply to the profiles (McDermott, Fantuzzo, Glut- CPA is that score patterns are more useful to interpret than the scores ting, Watkins, & Baggaley, 1992). themselves. According to this logic, psychological tests exhibit clin- CPA relies heavily upon the existence of statistically significant ical utility by estimating some “nonlinear joint functions” of the within-person subscore differences to identify profiles worthy of scores comprising a given profile, such as the mean (i.e., elevation), interpretation and minimizes the importance of base rates or the variability of scores about the mean (i.e., scatter), or the location of abnormality of observed score differences. However, the difference high and low scores (i.e., shape; Cronbach & Gleser, 1953; Lykken, between two subscores can be both “real” (i.e., not due to chance) and 1956). common (Silverstein, 1981). For example, the authors of the Wechsler CPA has been applied to many types of psychological tests, includ- Intelligence Scales for Children–Fifth Edition Technical and Inter- ing vocational (e.g., Gottfredson & Jones, 1993; Jones, 1989; Maurer pretive Manual Supplement (WISC-V; Wechsler, 2014b) wrote that & Tarulli, 1997), personality (e.g., Meehl, 1946; Voglmaier et al., special population studies indicated “children identified as [having a 2005; Voglmaier, Seidman, Salisbury, & McCarley, 1997), and intel- specific learning disability in the area of mathematics] demonstrate ligence (e.g., Beeldman et al., 2016; Flanagan, Ortiz, & Alfonso, cognitive weaknesses on the VSI, FRI, and QRI” (p. 13). A 12-year- 2013; Letteri, 1980; Raaphorst, de Visser, Linssen, de Haan, & old examinee may demonstrate a significant relative strength on the Schmand, 2010; Rizza, McIntosh, & McCunn, 2001). WISC-V Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) of 12 points when The use of CPA with intelligence tests became popular after the compared with his or her Visual Spatial Index (VSI) score (p .05), publication of the Wechsler–Bellevue (Wechsler, 1946). Clinicians, but this observed score difference occurs in 32.4% of the standard- usually with a psychodynamic orientation, believed they could assess ization sample. This subscore difference is likely not due to chance noncognitive attributes based on the pattern of scores (Kamphaus, but could hardly be considered abnormal. Winsor, Rowe, & Kim, 2012; Sugarman & Kanner, 2000). Since then, score patterns from intelligence tests have been used for a range of Subscore Reliability purposes, such as diagnosing psychopathology (e.g., specific learning disabilities, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Canivez, There are a variety of methods available to assess subscore reli- 2013), determining cognitive strengths and weaknesses (Hale et al., ability (Brennan, 2005). Usually, this is examined by assessing the 2010; Ortiz, 2015), and developing interventions (Braden & Kratoch- variation within each subscore across all examinees (i.e., between- will, 1997). person) via separate internal consistency estimates for each subscore. The fervor with which some advocates have promoted CPA has had When examining profiles in order to determine patterns of strengths a profound impact on applied practice. Surveys of psychologists who and weaknesses, however, the variation among the subscores for each work in a variety of settings have indicated the widespread use of individual (i.e., within-person) is more important. Consequently, re- CPA for individual decision-making (Maki & Adams, 2019; Pfeiffer, liability of subscore profiles should be assessed using a method that Reddy, Kletzel, Schmelzer, & Boyer, 2000; Sotelo-Dynega & Dixon, includes within-person variability (Conger & Lipshitz, 1973). If the 2014). Moreover, the technical and interpretive manuals of all three within-person reliability is not sufficiently high, then high-stakes contemporary iterations of the Wechsler intelligence scales decisions should not be made using clinical profiles. (Wechsler, 2008, 2012, 2014a), the Woodcock-Johnston Tests of Because there is a finite amount of variance in a given set of scores, Cognitive Ability–Fourth Edition (Schrank, McGrew, & Mather, the between-person and within-person variance are not independent. 2014), and the Stanford-Binet–Fifth Edition (Roid, 2003) contain Increasing the between-person variance (which is often a goal with instructions on how to conduct CPA and recommend it as a means of intelligence tests) comes at the price of decreasing the within-person test score interpretation, without mention of any contradictory peer- variance (Huang, 2015). This could be why previous research has reviewed research. typically found subscore profiles tend to be unstable across time (Borsuk, Watkins, & Canivez, 2006; Watkins & Canivez, 2004). Despite this instability, psychologists continue to rely on subscore Problems With Interpreting Clinical Profiles profile analysis for high-stakes clinical decisions (Maki & Adams, Despite its popularity, methodological research has consistently 2019; Sotelo-Dynega & Dixon, 2014; Toffalini, Giofrè, & Cornoldi, cautioned against CPA of intelligence test scores (McGill, Dom- 2017). Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to examine browski, & Canivez, 2018; Watkins, 2000). First, for clinical profiles the reliability of cognitive subscore profiles. Specifically, we sought to have meaning, subscores (e.g., subtests, index scores) need to be to address the following research questions: (a) What is the within- distinct from aggregate scores (Bulut et al., 2017). Yet, most modern person reliability for cognitive subscore profiles using subtest scores, intelligence tests are constructed such that a single aggregate score and (b) What is the within-person reliability for cognitive subscore explains the majority of the variance in test scores (e.g., Canivez, profiles using index scores? 2014; Canivez, Watkins, & Dombrowski, 2017; Dombrowski, McGill, & Canivez, 2018; Watkins & Beaujean, 2014) and informa- Method tion from inherently unidimensional tests cannot be decomposed to produce useful multidimensional profiles of subscores (Luecht, Gierl, Tan, & Huff, 2006). Participants Second, subscores should have sufficient validity and reliability evidence for interpretation (Bulut et al., 2017). If subscores assess Participant data were extracted from archival special education their target attributes poorly, then the information they yield may not records from two large public-school districts located in the South- be trustworthy (Sinharay, Puhan, & Haberman, 2011). Because CPA western United States. Participants were included in the present study requires interpretating scatter, it shifts the interpretation unit from the if their school records contained scores for all core subtests, index original scores to ipsatized versions of the scores (Cattell, 1944). That scores, and the full-scale IQ (FSIQ) on the Wechsler Intelligence is, interpretation moves from how individuals perform in comparison Scales for Children–Fourth Edition (WISC-IV; Wechsler, 2003a) at to their same age peers to how do individuals perform in comparison two time points. Before collecting the data, the study was approved by This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. IQ SUBSCORE RELIABILITY 121 an university institutional review board and by school district admin- approximately 3 years) for children from referred and clinical samples istrators. (Lander, 2010; Watkins & Smith, 2013). Participants were children (N 296) aged 6.1 to 13.9 years old Research investigating the structural validity of the WISC-IV has who were administered the WISC-IV two times, an average of 2.84 consistently revealed four factors that match the scoring structure of (SD 0.60) years apart. Demographic information is presented in the test in the standardization sample (Watkins, 2006; Wechsler, Table 1. The majority of participants (66.6%) in the study sample met 2003b) and in referred and clinical samples (Bodin, Pardini, Burns, & criteria for a specific learning disability (SLD), which is unsurprising Stevens, 2009; Canivez, 2014; Devena, Gay, & Watkins, 2013; Na- given that it is the most common disability observed in school-based kano & Watkins, 2013; Styck & Watkins, 2016, 2017; Watkins, settings across the United States (McFarland et al., 2017), and diag- 2010). This four-factor structure has also been demonstrated to be nostic decisions for SLD often involve standardized individually invariant across gender (Chen & Zhu, 2008), age (Keith, Fine, Taub, administered intelligence tests (Braden & Althanasiou, 2013). Of Reynolds, & Kranzler, 2006), clinical and nonclinical samples (Chen participants who were diagnosed with SLD, approximately 21.3% & Zhu, 2012), and testing occasions (Richerson, Watkins, & Beau- (n 42) displayed deficits in reading, 10.7% (n 21) displayed jean, 2014). Nonetheless, the proportion of reliable variance in deficits in mathematics, 7.1% (n 14) displayed deficits in writing, WISC-IV subtest scores due to variance in the four index scores tends and 60.9% (n 120) displayed deficits in multiple academic areas. to be low: ranging between .26 and .48 for the VCI, ranging between .02 and .17 for the PRI, ranging between .33 and .53 for the PSI, and ranging between .10 and .23 for the WMI (Canivez, 2014; Gomez, Instrument Vance, & Watson, 2016, 2017; Styck & Watkins, 2016, 2017). The WISC-IV is an individually administered intelligence test for children aged 6 to 16 years old. It contains 10 core subtests that Analyses comprise four index scores and the FSIQ score. The VCI is derived from the Vocabulary, Similarities, and Comprehension subtests. The Bulut and colleagues (2013; Bulut et al., 2017) proposed a method Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) is derived from the Matrix Rea- of estimating reliability of clinical profiles that divides total subscore soning, Block Design, and Picture Concepts subtests. The Processing variability obtained from parallel test forms into within-person and Speed Index (PSI) is derived from the Coding and Symbol Search between-person variability. It produces between-person ( ) and subtests. The Working Memory Index (WMI) is derived from the within-person ( ) reliability estimates. Digit Span and Letter–Number Sequencing subtests. is the proportion of variance in the observed profile levels that Internal consistency reliability coefficients for WISC-IV subtest can be attributed to variance in true profile levels across test score and index scores range between .79 and .90 and .88 and .94, respec- profiles. It is calculated as tively, while test–retest stability coefficients for WISC-IV subtest and index scores range between .68 and .85 and .79 and .89, respectively . (1) (Wechsler, 2003b). Long-term stability (i.e., approximately 11 2 months) for the subtest and index scores range between .22 and .81 and .49 and .75, respectively, for typically developing children (Ryan, The true between-person variability ( ) is calculated as Glass, & Bartels, 2010) and between .28 and .70 and .52. and 76 (i.e., D , (2) where D is the total number of subscores and is the variance in true Table 1 j profile levels (i.e., variance of average true subscore values between Demographic Information for Study Participants (N 296) persons). The between-person observed score variance is calcu- lated as Variable % n Characteristic 2 D , (3) Female 32.1 95 White 78.7 233 Hispanic 11.1 33 where is the variance in observed profile levels (i.e., variance of Black 7.1 21 average observed subscore values between persons). Asian/Pacific Islander 1.7 5 is the proportion of variance in the observed profile patterns due Missing .3 3 W Primary diagnosis to variance in true profile patterns across test score profiles. It is Specific learning disability 66.6 197 calculated as Other health impairment 11.1 33 Emotional disturbance 7.4 22 None 6.4 19 . (4) Autism 3.4 10 Speech/language impairment 2.4 7 Intellectual disability 2.0 6 The true within-person variability ( ) is calculated as Multiple disabilities .3 1 Hearing impairment .3 1 D [T T ] jd j Secondary diagnosis j1 , (5) None 76.7 227 d1 Speech/language impairment 10.8 32 Missing 4.4 13 where T is the true subscore value for person j on subscore d, T is Specific learning disability 3.7 11 jd j Other health impairment 2.4 7 the average true score for person j across all d subscores, and J is the Emotional disturbance 1.7 5 total number of people in the sample. The observed within-person Hearing impairment .3 1 ) is calculated as variance ( This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. 122 STYCK, BEAUJEAN, AND WATKINS J ity values should be supplemented with validity and utility evidence D [X X ] jd j j1 2 before using subscore profiles to make high stakes decisions. , (6) d1 The sample included in the present study is theoretically equivalent to administering two essentially -equivalent forms of a test, which is a where X is an observed score and the rest of the terms are defined the requirement for Bulut’s (2013; Bulut et al., 2017) profile reliability same as in Equation 5. method. Essentially -equivalent forms exist when the true score variance Total profile reliability ( ) is the weighted average of and . T B W is equal across forms (Graham, 2006). Same-time and cross-time corre- It is calculated as lations between pairs of subscores should, therefore, be highly similar. To examine this assumption, we calculated the same-time and cross-time 2 2 , (7) correlations for all the WISC-IV scores in the study sample. T B B W W 2 2 B W To examine consistency across administrations, we transformed mean differences between scores at time one and time two using where terms are the same those defined in Equation 1 through Equa- Hedges’ (1981) standardized effect size measure (g) as well as its tion 6. The value of is constrained to be between and . T B W confidence interval. Subsequently, we estimated the between-person As gets closer to one, the distinct information provided by and within-person profile reliability from participants’ WISC-IV sub- subscores becomes more precise. Thus, if is large, then test tests and the four index scores. Some researchers have asserted that interpretation needs to account for subscore patterns. is a measure students’ diagnosed with SLD possesses specific patterns of cognitive of reliability for the total test score, so values closer to one indicate and academic patterns of strengths and weaknesses which can be used there will be more precision with the actual test scores. If is large, for diagnostic and intervention decisions (Flanagan et al., 2013; Hale then test interpretation should focus on the individual scores. If both et al., 2010). Consequently, we examined profile reliability separately and are large, then score interpretation may be able to include W B for the subsample of respondents with a primary classification of both subscore values and their patterns. SLD. All analyses were conducted in R (Version 3.4.1; R Core Team, Bulut et al. (2017) found that for a fixed subtest length, as the 2017). Profile reliability was estimated using the profileR package correlations among subscores increased, increased at the expense (Version 0.3–4; Bulut & Desjardins, 2017). of decreasing. This led them to conclude that “the test conditions that lead to subscores with high between-person reliability... significantly reduce the distinctiveness of the subscores,” which then Results result “in subscores with unacceptably low within-person reliability” (p. 102). In other words, there is a trade-off between maximizing Summary statistics, Time 1 to Time 2 score correlations (i.e., and (Huang, 2015). test–retest reliabilities), and between-administration effects sizes are Evidence to support the reliability of subscore profiles for the presented in Table 2. The Block Design and Coding subtests were WISC-IV would be indicated if is close to one. If is close to both somewhat lower at Time 2 than Time 1, but overall there were W W zero, this would indicate subscore profiles do not have sufficient minimal mean differences between scores across time. reliability for individual interpretation. Of course, reliability is nec- Tables 3 and 4 contain same-time (see Table 3) and cross-time essary evidence for interpretation, but not sufficient. So, high reliabil- correlations (see Table 4) for all the WISC-IV scores for the study Table 2 Descriptive Statistics for Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children–Fourth Edition Scores at Time 1 and Time 2 (N 296) Time 1 Time 2 Effect size Variable M SD M SD r g 95% CI T1,T2 Subtest scores Block design 9.25 2.74 8.81 2.88 .69 .20 .04 .36 Similarities 8.81 2.58 9.15 2.69 .56 .13 .30 .03 Digit span 8.07 2.51 7.83 2.53 .58 .10 .06 .26 Picture concepts 9.63 3.25 10.15 2.89 .43 .16 .32 .00 Coding 8.61 3.13 7.66 2.83 .50 .32 .16 .48 Vocabulary 8.65 2.47 8.43 2.65 .65 .11 .06 .27 Letter–number sequencing 8.12 2.74 8.18 3.01 .45 .02 .18 .14 Matrix reasoning 9.11 2.84 9.27 2.94 .61 .06 .22 .10 Comprehension 9.00 2.54 8.97 2.48 .44 .00 .16 .16 Symbol search 8.53 3.19 8.75 3.03 .51 .07 .23 .09 Index scores Verbal Comprehension Index 92.94 11.74 93.09 12.46 .70 .02 .18 .14 Perceptual Reasoning Index 95.91 14.26 96.44 14.68 .73 .05 .21 .11 Working Memory Index 88.78 12.41 88.08 13.67 .63 .06 .10 .22 Processing Speed Index 92.08 14.83 89.94 14.64 .62 .17 .00 .33 Full-scale score Full-scale IQ score 90.87 12.67 90.48 13.25 .79 .05 .12 .21 Note. Subtest scores are standardized to have a mean of 10 and a standard deviation of 3; and, index scores and the full-scale IQ score are standardized to have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15.g Hedge’s g effect size; r correlations between scores at Times 1 and 2; CI confidence interval. T1,T2 This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. IQ SUBSCORE RELIABILITY 123 Table 3 Same-Time Correlations of WISC-IV Scores at Time 1 and Time 2 Subtest 123456789 10 11 12 13 14 15 1. BD .69 .22 .44 .37 .22 .26 .37 .51 .17 .34 .26 .77 .47 .33 .63 2. SI .39 .56 .30 .36 .02 .60 .30 .32 .44 .33 .81 .39 .35 .21 .60 3. DS .40 .38 .58 .33 .14 .36 .44 .36 .18 .32 .34 .48 .83 .28 .61 4. PCn .40 .41 .28 .43 .18 .38 .28 .42 .36 .35 .44 .78 .36 .32 .67 5. CD .23 .04 .24 .18 .50 .14 .29 .13 .12 .40 .12 .23 .26 .84 .45 6. VC .32 .70 .38 .38 .09 .65 .38 .33 .60 .28 .87 .42 .44 .26 .68 7. LN .40 .35 .51 .29 .24 .46 .45 .41 .30 .30 .39 .44 .86 .35 .65 8. MR .62 .45 .44 .50 .21 .40 .39 .61 .28 .34 .37 .80 .46 .28 .66 9. CO .32 .48 .37 .36 .31 .60 .43 .34 .44 .25 .82 .35 .29 .23 .57 10. SS .35 .22 .27 .25 .60 .22 .36 .36 .32 .51 .34 .44 .37 .83 .65 11. VCI .41 .85 .45 .45 .17 .90 .49 .47 .80 .30 .70 .46 .43 .28 .74 12. PRI .82 .51 .45 .77 .25 .45 .44 .87 .41 .39 .54 .73 .54 .40 .83 13. WMI .46 .42 .84 .33 .28 .49 .89 .48 .46 .37 .54 .52 .63 .38 .75 14. PSI .33 .15 .28 .24 .89 .18 .34 .31 .35 .90 .27 .36 .36 .62 .66 15. FSIQ .69 .67 .64 .62 .50 .69 .68 .73 .67 .61 .80 .83 .76 .62 .79 Note. Time 1 correlations are depicted in the upper triangle, Time 2 correlations are depicted in the lower triangle, and test–retest correlations are depicted on the diagonal in boldface type. WISC-IV Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children–Fourth Edition; BD block design; SI similarities; DS digit span; PCn picture concepts; CD coding; VC vocabulary; LN letter–number sequencing; MR matrix reasoning; CO comprehension; SS symbol search; VCI Verbal Comprehension Index; PRI Perceptual Reasoning Index; WMI Working Memory Index; PSI Processing Speed Index; FSIQ full-scale IQ score. sample. Absolute deviations between same-time and cross-time cor- tions, the between-person reliability estimates are all moderate, relations for all WISC-IV subtest score pairs ranged between .00 and whereas the within-person reliability estimates are slight-to-fair. .41 (Mdn .06); for the index scores, the absolute deviations ranged Within-person reliability coefficients of this magnitude do not between .00 to .21 (Mdn .08). Consequently, differences between provide sufficient evidence for interpreting within-person cogni- same-time and cross-time correlations appear to be negligible, which tive ability strengths and weaknesses. Of note, the between-person lends support to the assumption of essential -equivalence. reliability estimates are close to the correlation between FSIQ Profile reliability estimates for the subtest and index scores for scores at time one and time two. Because the FSIQ scores have the the entire sample are provided in the top part of Table 5, while highest reliability of any score on the WISC-IV (Wechsler, 2003b), estimates for the SLD subgroup are provided in the bottom part of likely the between-score reliability estimates are maximized for Table 5. The results were relatively similar across subscores and this particular sample. groups as is evident by the mean subtest and index scores depicted in Figures 1 and 2. Specifically, the between-person reliability Discussion estimates were higher than the within-person estimates, with the difference in values being larger for the subtests than the index The purpose of the present study was to examine profile reli- scores. Using the Shrout and Lane’s (2012) reliability classifica- ability of intelligence test subscores. Using Bulut et al.’s (2017) Table 4 Cross-Time Correlations of WISC-IV Scores at Time 1 and Time 2 Time 2 subtest Time 1 subtest 123456789 10 11 12 13 14 15 1. BD .69 .35 .34 .39 .20 .32 .35 .56 .29 .35 .38 .67 .40 .31 .60 2. SI .21 .56 .29 .28 .02 .50 .30 .28 .34 .17 .54 .32 .34 .12 .46 3. DS .34 .32 .58 .25 .11 .33 .45 .36 .21 .22 .35 .39 .59 .18 .48 4. PCn .34 .40 .31 .43 .10 .34 .34 .40 .35 .24 .43 .47 .38 .19 .50 5. CD .21 .03 .17 .25 .50 .06 .14 .22 .17 .45 .11 .28 .18 .52 .34 6. VC .25 .58 .37 .31 .08 .65 .36 .30 .50 .20 .68 .35 .41 .16 .55 7. LN .32 .29 .38 .20 .27 .34 .45 .37 .23 .33 .34 .36 .48 .34 .50 8. MR .51 .35 .32 .39 .17 .33 .34 .61 .29 .29 .38 .61 .38 .26 .56 9. CO .20 .45 .29 .27 .16 .47 .35 .24 .44 .22 .53 .29 .37 .21 .46 10. SS .35 .22 .28 .23 .40 .19 .32 .32 .24 .51 .25 .37 .35 .51 .48 11. VCI .27 .63 .38 .34 .11 .64 .41 .33 .51 .24 .70 .38 .45 .20 .59 12. PRI .64 .47 .41 .51 .20 .42 .44 .65 .40 .37 .50 .73 .49 .32 .70 13. WMI .38 .35 .56 .27 .23 .40 .53 .43 .26 .33 .40 .44 .63 .31 .58 14. PSI .33 .15 .27 .29 .54 .15 .28 .31 .25 .57 .22 .38 .31 .62 .49 15. FSIQ .56 .55 .52 .49 .34 .55 .54 .59 .48 .49 .62 .66 .61 .47 .79 Note. Cross-time correlations between Time 1 (rows) and Time 2 (columns) are depicted in the upper and lower triangles. Test–retest correlations are depicted on the diagonal in boldface type. WISC-IV Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children–Fourth Edition; BD block design; SI similarities; DS digit span; PCn picture concepts; CD coding; VC vocabulary; LN letter–number sequencing; MR matrix reasoning; CO comprehension; SS symbol search; VCI Verbal Comprehension Index; PRI Perceptual Reasoning Index; WMI Working Memory Index; PSI Processing Speed Index; FSIQ full-scale IQ score. This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. 124 STYCK, BEAUJEAN, AND WATKINS Table 5 Moreover, this pattern of results remained when examining pro- WISC-IV Subtest and Index Subscore Profile Reliability Estimates files for a subsample of students diagnosed with SLD. Bulut et al. stated that “subscores with high between-person reliability and low Profile reliability estimate within-person reliability would indicate that subscores may not Subscore provide any valuable information about examinees beyond what B W T the total test score already provides” (p. 92). Consequently, sub- Entire sample (N 296) score profiles using subtest and index scores from the WISC-IV do Subtest .79 .37 .54 not appear to provide reliable information. Index .78 .53 .67 These results contribute to a growing empirical literature base SLD subsample (n 197) that strongly suggests subscore profiles from intelligence tests do Subtest .77 .36 .51 not yield clinically meaningful information (McGill et al., 2018; Index .76 .52 .64 McGill, Styck, Palomares, & Hass, 2016; Watkins & Glutting, Note. WISC-IV Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children–Fourth Edition; 2000; Watkins, Glutting, & Youngstrom, 2005). This makes one between-person reliability; within-person reliability; total B W T wonder why test publishers and clinicians continue to recommend reliability; SLD specific learning disability. that these patterns of subscores contain clinically useful informa- tion and should be interpreted (e.g., Flanagan et al., 2013; Hale et al., 2010; Wechsler, 2003b, 2014a). As per Grice et al. (2017), this method for examining profile stability, we estimated the between- may be an example of inappropriately attempting to explain person ( ) and within-person ( ) reliability for the WISC-IV B W individual-level phenomenon with group-level data. subtests and index scores using a sample of students twice referred for special education services. Results indicated that was sub- It is unknown exactly why empirical studies that examine sub- stantially higher than for both subtest and index score profiles. score patterns from intelligence tests tend to demonstrate poor Figure 1. Mean Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children–Fourth subtest scores for a sample of 296 children referred for special education evaluations and a subsample of 197 children identified with specific learning disabilities by multidisciplinary evaluation teams. BD block design; SI similarities; DS digit span; PCn picture concepts; CD coding; VC vocabulary; LN letter-number sequencing; MR matrix reasoning; CP comprehension; SS symbol search; SLD specific learning disabilities. This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. IQ SUBSCORE RELIABILITY 125 Figure 2. Mean Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children–Fourth Edition index scores for a sample of 296 children referred for special education evaluations and a subsample of 197 children identified with specific learning disabilities by multidisciplinary evaluation teams. VCI verbal comprehension index; PRI perceptual reasoning index; WMI working memory index; PSI processing speed index; SLD specific learning disabilities. psychometric properties— both in the present study as well as in Another likely contributing factor is that the scores from these many other studies (e.g., McGill & Busse, 2015; Smith & Watkins, cognitive ability tests, at best, have an ordinal measurement struc- 2004; Watkins, Kush, & Schaefer, 2002). Likely, there are at least ture (Michell, 2012). Thus, from a measurement perspective, in- two contributing factors. First, cognitive ability tests are implicitly terpretations that require direct score comparisons (e.g., a– b designed to maximize between-person reliability, which function- c– d) are questionable because they assume homogeneity of mag- ally precludes having high within-person reliability. nitude differences that have not been empirically demonstrated. Subscores have added value beyond a total test score when they Moreover, in their desire to make intelligence tests as commer- have high reliability, are distinct from other subscores (i.e., low cially appealing as possible, test publishers and authors provide a subscore correlations), and the total test score has low reliability bevy of scores appealing to a wide range of clinicians. A result of (Haberman, 2008; Sinharay, 2010; Sinharay, Haberman, & Puhan, this is that many of these scores are neither theoretically nor 2007). Most intelligence tests are designed to maximize efficiency, psychometrically defensible (Beaujean & Benson, 2018,). avoid examinee fatigue, and produce a total test score (e.g., FSIQ The present study does contain limitations. Children in our in the WISC-IV) with very high reliability. Moreover, the between- subsample of participants diagnosed with SLD exhibited unex- person correlations among subscores on intelligence tests tends to pected underachievement in a variety of academic areas. Sample be relatively high (Bodin et al., 2009; Canivez, 2014; Devena et al., sizes precluded the estimation of SLD within specific academic 2013; Nakano & Watkins, 2013; Styck & Watkins, 2016, 2017; areas (i.e., reading, writing, mathematics) and there is some evi- Watkins, 2010). Consequently, some of the very properties cogni- dence to suggest that WISC-IV subtest and index scores may not tive test developers seek to maintain in order to support the measure intelligence in the same way for children with and without structural validity of their between-person score interpretations are SLD (Giofrè & Cornoldi, 2015). Future studies may wish to apply likely contributing to the poor properties of within-person subtest the procedures outlined in Bulut et al. (2017) to estimate the and index subscore profiles. subscore profile reliability in more homogeneous samples of stu- This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. 126 STYCK, BEAUJEAN, AND WATKINS dents with SLD in specific academic areas or in other homogenous Cattell, R. B. (1944). Psychological measurement: Normative, ipsative, inter- active. Psychological Review, 51, 292–303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ clinical groups. In addition, the sample contained in the present h0057299 study is a referred sample. Referred samples have been demon- Chen, H., & Zhu, J. (2008). Factor invariance between genders of the Wechsler strated to have lower mean scores that are less variable when Intelligence Scale for Children-Fourth Edition. Personality and Individual compared with test standardization samples (e.g., Bodin et al., Differences, 45, 260–266. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2008.04.008 2009; Canivez, 2014; Styck & Watkins, 2016, 2017) and results Chen, H., & Zhu, J. (2012). Measurement invariance of WISC-IV across may only generalize to other referred samples. normative and clinical samples. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, Despite these limitations, the present study adds to the body of 161–166. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2011.10.006 research questioning the practice of cognitive ability clinical pro- Conger, A. J., & Lipshitz, R. (1973). Measures of reliability for profiles and file interpretation. Clinicians are advised to eschew interpretation test batteries. Psychometrika, 38, 411–427. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/ of subscore profiles until evidence indicates that they are reliable BF02291663 and contain information that is not available from the total test Cronbach, L. J., & Gleser, G. C. (1953). Assessing similarity between profiles. score (Bulut et al., 2017; Sinharay et al., 2011; Wainer & Feinberg, Psychological Bulletin, 50, 456–473. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0057173 Devena, S. E., Gay, C. E., & Watkins, M. W. (2013). Confirmatory factor 2015). analysis of the WISC-IV in a hospital referral sample. 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