Each year, the U.S. Army must select from an applicant pool in the hundreds of thousands to meet annual enlistment targets, currently numbering in the tens of thousands of new soldiers each year. A critical component of the selection process for enlisted service members is the formal assessments administered to applicants to determine their performance potential. All applicants passing basic educational attainment and moral character screens take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a cognitive knowledge, skill, and ability battery of ten tests used by all branches of the armed services. A subset of four of these tests focusing on verbal and mathematical skills is used to create a composite known as the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT), which is used as a basic entry screen. In addition, Army applicants scoring below the 50th percentile on the AFQT also take the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS), a personality assessment used to predict job performance and risk of attrition. The results from these assessments determine whether or not a candidate may proceed in the application process; they are also used to inform decisions about assignment of new enlisted soldiers to occupational specialties.
While the validity evidence supporting both the ASVAB and TAPAS is very strong, the ability and personality domains they measure are not the sole determinants of key outcomes such as job performance and attrition. Thus, the ASVAB and TAPAS do not predict these outcomes perfectly, raising question as to whether prediction could be improved further by supplementing the ASVAB and TAPAS results with measures of additional individual-differences constructs. Given the large numbers of individuals screened each year and the high costs of decision errors in screening po-
tential soldiers (e.g., the high costs of recruiting and training a soldier who subsequently performs poorly or leaves the service prior to completing a tour of duty), even small increases in the predictive accuracy of a selection system can be of great value.
In light of these considerations, the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences approached the National Research Council to develop an agenda for basic research to maximize the efficiency, accuracy, and effective use of human capability measurement in the military’s selection and initial occupational assignment process. In response to this request, the National Research Council established the Committee on Measuring Human Capabilities: Performance Potential of Individuals and Collectives.
The committee operated under a number of constraints, focusing on (1) attributes broadly useful for first-term enlisted soldiers and for which there is a theoretical foundation for the measurement of the attribute and for its relevance to important military outcomes; and (2) measures that can be administered pre-accession in a cost-effective manner to large numbers of candidates without requiring elaborate equipment or special skills. Within these constraints, and after a careful review of the research literature and consideration of presented material, the committee arrived at a basic agenda for research presented in four sections as follows.
IDENTIFICATION AND MEASUREMENT OF NEW PREDICTOR CONSTRUCTS
Fluid intelligence, working memory capacity, executive attention, and inhibitory control. Fluid intelligence reflects the ability to think logically and develop solutions when faced with novel or unfamiliar problems. Working memory capacity is the cognitive function that enables individuals to hold information in mind and simultaneously manipulate that information or other information. The related function of executive attention is the ability to prevent attention capture by other endogenous and exogenous events. Similarly, inhibitory control involves the ability to resist distractions and control one’s responses.
Cognitive biases. Cognitive biases refer to ways of reflexive thinking that can produce errors in judgment or decision making or produce departures from the use of normative rules or standards.
Spatial abilities. Spatial abilities involve the capacity to understand an object’s (including one’s own) spatial relationship to and within surroundings and to understand representations of multidimensional figures in one-dimensional displays.
IDENTIFICATION AND PREDICTION OF NEW OUTCOMES
Teamwork behavior. This topic covers individual attributes and team factors that may be of use in predicting team success.
HYBRID TOPICS WITH JOINT FOCUS ON NEW PREDICTOR CONSTRUCTS AND PREDICTION OF NEW OUTCOMES
Hot cognition: defensive reactivity, emotional regulation, and performance under stress. Hot cognition refers to how individuals perform in situations that elicit strong emotions (in contrast to cognition under circumstances of cool, level, or moderate emotions, or “cold cognition”).
Adaptability and inventiveness. Adaptability involves the ability to adjust and accommodate to changing and unpredictable physical, interpersonal, cultural, and task environments. Inventiveness refers to the ability to think innovatively and produce novel high-quality and task-appropriate ideas, incorporating an orientation toward problem solving.
METHODS AND METHODOLOGY
Psychometrics and technology. Psychological measurement methodology and data analytics, especially those made possible through advances in technology, offer new opportunities and challenges with potential for high payoffs in testing efficiency and effectiveness.
Situations and situational judgment tests. Situational judgment tests are measures that assess individuals’ abilities to use judgment to interpret, evaluate, and weigh alternate courses of action appropriately and effectively.
Assessment of individual differences through neuroscience measures. Within the vast field of neuroscience, science-based strategies for monitoring neural activity may be useful for yielding important information about factors underlying candidates’ test performance or testing the validity of various assessment strategies.
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