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APPENDIX B 37 Cognitive Skills and Job Performance Over the past four decades, thousands of studies have explored the relationship between job performance and tests of cognitive skills and abilities. Recent summaries of these studies have made clear the central result that basic cognitive skills and abilities are directly related to job performance. (The interested reader should see Ghiselli, 1973;1 Hunter, 1980;2 Pearlman, Schmidt, and Hunter, 1980;3 Schmidt and Hunter, 1981;4 and Hunter and Hunter, 1982.5) In particular, these studies have shown that cognitive skills and abilities are more important determinants of productivity in complex jobs than in simple jobs. Furthermore, cognitive skills and abilities are more important for job success than many other attributes of job performance. For example, Hunter and Hunter summarized hundreds of studies and showed that basic cognitive and psychomotor abilities were nearly three times more important than the amount of experience or class rank/grade point average for predicting job success, and four times more important than behavior in em- ployment interviews or scores on measures of interest. An example of this type of study is one recently completed at the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) (Kehoe, 19836). It involved over 2,500 persons and 4 entry-level jobs that often have been used as career- initiating jobs by noncollege persons. Nine out often distinct cognitive skills and abilities were found to be related to job proficiency and turnover. These included such educable skills as numerical computation, reading comprehen- sion, vocabulary, attention to detail, and attention-sharing. As a result of selecting job applicants with these skills and abilities, AT&T reports that work force productivity was higher and turnover lower than they would have been if these skills and abilities had been ignored. Submitted by panel member Mary L. Tenopyr.

OCR for page 37
38 APPENDIX B The research summarized above indicates that measured cognitive skills and abilities may account for as much as one third of the productivity differ- ences between workers. Other characteristics, such as motivation to succeed, also may play substantial roles, but currently are less well understood and require considerably more research focused on work productivity. References ' E. E. Ghiselll. "The Validity of Aptitude Tests in Personnel Selection," Personnel Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 4, Winter 1973, pp. 461-477. 2 J. E. Hunter. Validity Generalization for 12,000 Jobs: An Application of Synthetic Validity and Validity Generalization to the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATE). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Employment Service, U.S. Department of Labor, 1980. 3 K. Pearlman, F. L. Schmidt, and J. E. Hunter. "Validity Generalization Results for Tests Used to Predict Training Success and Job Proficiency in Clerical Occupations," Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 65, No. 4, August 1980, pp. 373-406. 4 F. L. Schmidt and J. E. Hunter. "Employment Testing: Old Theories and New Re- search Findings," American Psychologist, Vol. 36, No. 10, October 1981, pp. 1128- 1137. 5 J. E. Hunter and R. F. Hunter. The Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance. Report submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, June 21, 1982. 6 J. F. Kehoe. The Validity Generalization of Telephone Ability Battery Tests. New York: American Telephone and Telegraph Company, Employment Systems, 1983.