Recruitment & Selection

Perceptual Speed and Accuracy are More Useful Than You Know

Tests of perceptual speed and accuracy have stronger practical implications than many people realize. These tests are commonly used as part of selection systems for jobs requiring workers to quickly identify errors or mistakes, such as those in clerical, assembly, or warehouse positions.  Such positions generally require less intellectual complexity, but high ability to process information quickly and accurately – particularly under periods of time pressure.

Why perceptual speed & accuracy is important

With approximately 20% of the U.S. working in “low complexity” jobs, adding assessments measuring these constructs to the selection system has the potential to provide a massive ROI in terms of predicting job performance. Many organizations utilize selection systems comprised of multiple predictive elements. They may include assessments such as:
  1. Biodata/applications,
  2. Ability tests, and
  3. Interviews.
The most effective way to use multiple predictors is to add predictors offering incremental validity (i.e., additional predictive power) above what is already included.

Perceptual speed & accuracy – two ways

Perceptual speed and accuracy tests measure the ability to focus attention and quickly process information. The operationalization of perceptual speed and accuracy has typically focused strictly on the number of items correct (NC), for assessing the ability to quickly process information. Typically the items on these tests are very simple, allowing all respondents the opportunity to answer all items correctly, given enough time. However, the scores can also be used to focus on the number of items answered wrong/incorrectly (NW) – since errors are likely due to the inability to focus attention. High levels of NW may indicate carelessness, distractibility, or recklessness on the job.

Implications for Practice

In organizations where the ability to focus attention is extremely important – in terms of accidents and safety violations – including a measure of perceptual speed and accuracy focusing on NW can offer great dividends. By looking at the same information in different ways, separate predictions may be made.
  • Using the NC, predictions regarding facets of task performance are possible.
  • Using the NW, predictions regarding who is likely to be non-compliant to rules, tardy, or involved in accidents are possible
Thus the use of both sets of test information is able to provide more detail about a person’s total job performance than either one alone.

Interpretation by:

Kathleen Melcher

The DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Mount, M.K., Oh, I.S., & Burns, M. (2008). Incremental Validity of Perceptual Speed and Accuracy Over General Mental Ability.  Personnel Psychology, 61, 113 – 139.