Measurement: A Manifestation of Self-Other Testing

"A self, if it is not to wither away, must forever be testing itself against the nonself in a process of active assertion... Testing implies both respect and consideration for what we test ourselves against. Otherwise it becomes not a test of self, but of something entirely different, perhaps of brute force. As a matter of fact, what a person selects as a testing ground is most indicative of the nature and quality of the self" (Bettelheim, 1967).

Let us develop two parts of Bettelheim's insight: first, the process of self-testing, its origin in human nature, and its manifestation in measurement; second, what measurement reveals about `the nature and quality of the self.'

Self-Testing
"The self is not a thing or an entity; it is a concept; a symbolic abstraction. The self refers to the uniqueness that separates the experience of an individual from those of all others while, at the same time, conferring a sense of cohesion and continuity to the disparate experience of the individual" (M. Basch, 1983).

This definition of self has much in common with Rasch measurement. Measurement involves testing expectations for workable fictions called "variables". Like the self, variables are not things or entities. They are concepts. Measurement separates one variable from all others. Measures describe continuity in a variable. Fit statistics indicate cohesion.

Jane Loevinger (1976) argues that the `self' reasons, judges, evaluates in order to make sense of the world. Rasch measurement relies on a model that functions to make sense of the world. The model takes into account the actors and their tasks in the world. It makes predictions. It allows us to evaluate and judge the "world" on the basis of those predictions.

Many developmental psychologists consider the development of self to occupy only a short time span. They suppose that while newborn infants do not separate `self' from `other', by 24 months children have made the distinction. Bettelheim suggests, however, that testing the distinction between self and other never ends. Measurement, too, is a never-ending process: every attempt at measurement confirms or challenges the measurement process and the underlying variable - we can never stop.

The Nature and Quality of the Self
The way we choose to conduct measurement reveals our beliefs about self and other. Rasch measurement defines an understanding of the way the world works which leads to expectations. The expectations are examined using data gathered from the world. The data might confirm the expectations or might suggest improvements to the variable underlying the expectations. Most important, the tested sample has a voice, a way to inform and enrich the measurement process. A Rasch measurement sample does not consist of victims, voiceless objects to be studied. A Rasch sample consists of participants who provide feedback about the measurer's intentions.

Whom we choose to test ourselves against is telling. How we constrain those we choose is also telling. The self that seeks feedback about the distinction between self and other is a self that grows. It is also a self that believes others have something to say. The self that does not permit feedback is a self without information, a self whose model of the distinction between self and other cannot improve. On the other hand, allowing others to determine the self, rather than inform it, is analogous to allowing the data to determine the model. No improvement can take place because there is no self to improve, no variable to enrich. Zaner (1981) writes that testing is "a continually ongoing, internally rhythmed, and always precarious mutuality." This mutuality is the key to self-other testing. It is also the key to Rasch measurement.

Self-other testing is one of our first tasks in development. Rasch measurement mirrors this natural and essential tendency. In the first stage of constructing measures, our understanding and expectations for the world are organized into a variable. This variable is based on our experience in the world, our understanding of ourselves and our position, and our observation of and interaction with others. In a second stage, Rasch measurement compares expectations based on this variable with a sample. The resulting comparison informs and enriches the variable. In Rasch measurement both self and other participate in exploring relationships. It is this essential ongoing, dynamic mutuality that sets Rasch measurement apart.

Basch, Michael Franz. The Concept of "Self": An Operational Definition, 1983. In Lee, B. & Noam, G. (Eds.) Developmental Approaches to the Self. New York: Plenum Press.

Bettelheim B 1967. The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self. New York: The Free Press, p. 81. Quoted in Fisher, 1991.

Fisher, William Jr. 1991. Bettelheim's Test. Rasch Measurement Transactions 5:3 p.164-5.

Loevinger, J. 1969. Ego Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zaner R 1981. The Context of Self: A Phenomenological Inquiry Using Medicine as a Clue. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. p. 188. Quoted in Fisher, 1991.


Manifestation of self-other testing. Alred K. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1996, 10:1 p.484



Rasch Publications
Rasch Measurement Transactions (free, online) Rasch Measurement research papers (free, online) Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Applying the Rasch Model 3rd. Ed., Bond & Fox Best Test Design, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis, Wright & Masters Introduction to Rasch Measurement, E. Smith & R. Smith Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement, Thomas Eckes Invariant Measurement: Using Rasch Models in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, George Engelhard, Jr. Statistical Analyses for Language Testers, Rita Green
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Journal of Applied Measurement Rasch models for measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences, Boone, Stave, Yale
in Spanish: Análisis de Rasch para todos, Agustín Tristán Mediciones, Posicionamientos y Diagnósticos Competitivos, Juan Ramón Oreja Rodríguez

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