ERIC Identifier: ED389961
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Hansen, Jo-Ida C.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Interest Assessment. ERIC Digest.
The assessment of interests through the use of interest inventories is big
business in the field of testing today. Although publishers closely guard their
data on the number of inventories given, an estimate of 3,000,000
administrations per year probably is conservative. The first formal assessment
of interests using a published inventory occurred in 1927 with the appearance of
the "Strong Vocational Interest Blank." Since that time, the "Strong" has
survived numerous revisions and continues to be a popular and widely used
Interests were assessed prior to 1927 using, basically, four techniques. The
earliest of these techniques was "estimation", which simply involved asking an
individual to indicate her or his feelings towards an activity. Because
estimates were not always accurate, individuals often were encouraged to
"try-out" activities as another method for assessing their interests. Obviously,
try-outs could be quite time-consuming and costly, and "rating scales" and
"checklists", precursors to interest inventories, were developed to identify
interests more systematically. The interest inventories that we use today differ
from early checklists and ratings in that they use statistical methods to
summarize responses to pools of items representing various activities and
occupations (Hansen, 1984).
DEFINITION OF INTERESTS
The definition of interests, as
used by inventory developers, researchers, and counselors, typically reflects
five components that may be characterized as determinants: personality,
motivation or drive, expression of self-concept or identification, heritability,
and environmental influences (e.g., learning and socialization; Hansen, 1990).
One of the most popular theories for describing interests and their
relationship to jobs, people, and environments is that of John Holland. Holland
(1985) states that both people and environments can be divided into six
vocational personality types or some combination of the six types: Realistic
(outdoors, mechanical), Investigative (science, math), Artistic (art, language,
music), Social (helping, teaching), Enterprising (selling, business) and
Conventional (details, clerical). Holland's theory has had a tremendous impact
on the fields of career counseling and interest assessment, and many interest
inventories include scales that measure interests related to Holland's six
PURPOSE OF INTEREST ASSESSMENT
Interest assessment is used
in a variety of applied and research settings for several different purposes.
Career exploration, that leads to decisions such as choosing a major, selecting
a career, or making mid-career changes, probably is the most popular and
frequent use of interest assessment. Within this context, college and high
school counseling services are the most typical providers of interest assessment
and career counseling experiences. However, employment agencies, vocational
rehabilitation services, social service agencies, corporations, consulting
firms, and community agencies such as the YW or YMCA also provide career
counseling opportunities that incorporate interest assessment.
Researchers use objective assessments to operationalize the construct of
interests in studies that investigate variables relevant to understanding the
world of work. Current trends in vocational psychology research include analyses
of (1) the structure of interest; (2) the relationship of interests to other
psychological variables such as personality, satisfaction, and success; and (3)
the role that interests play in career development.
To a lesser extent, interests are assessed for use in selection and
classification evaluations. In some instances, assessed interests, which add
valuable data to career choice predictions, are used even after selection to
help an employee find the right position within a particular organization
CURRENT INTEREST ASSESSMENT INVENTORIES
inventories designed to assess interests have been published. The available
choices range from those inventories that measure a small number of relatively
broad interests and are self-administered and hand-scored to those that report
over 200 scores and must be scored by computers (Kapes & Mastie, 1994).
The "Self-Directed Search (SDS)" and the "Unisex Edition of the ACT Interest
Inventory (UNIACT)" are based on John Holland's theory of vocational
personalities and assess the six types that Holland hypothesizes. The "SDS" is
self-administered, self-scored and self-interpreted while the "UNIACT" is
computer scored and uses a computer-generated narrative report to relate the
scores to a World-of-Work Map.
The "Vocational Interest Inventory" ("VII"; 8 scales), the "Career
Occupational Preference System Interest Inventory" ("COPS"; 14 scales), the
"Ohio Vocational Interest Survey" ("OVIS"; 23 scales), and the "Jackson
Vocational Interest Survey" ("JVIS"; 34 scales) feature basic interest scales
that are composed of homogeneous groupings of items often identified by cluster
or factor analysis. With the exception of the "COPS-R" and the "JVIS", which can
be hand or computer-scored, all of these inventories are scored by computer.
Typically these inventories measure some configuration of basic interests such
as mechanical activities, athletics, nature, science, military activities,
mathematics, aesthetics, social service, teaching, clerical activities,
religious activities, business management, persuading, selling, health, or
The "Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS)", the "Kuder Occupational
Interest Survey (KOIS)", the "Career Assessment Inventory (CAI)", and the
"Strong Interest Inventory (SII)" all require computer scoring and include over
100 different measures of interests. The large number of scales allows these
inventories to present profiles that include: (1) global measures of interests
similar to those that represent Holland's six types; (2) basic interest scales
composed of homogeneous groupings of items (e.g., scales that measure an
interest in mechanical activities, medical service, or selling); and (3) scales
that measure the interests of specific occupational groups such as engineers,
physicians, journalists, guidance counselors, buyers, and accountants.
The choice of the appropriate inventory to use with a particular population
depends on factors such as their age, the purpose of the interest assessment,
the amount of time available for testing and interpretation, and the funding
available to purchase materials and pay for scoring. Generally, the smaller the
number of scales offered by the inventory, the less expensive the materials and
scoring will be.
COMPUTERS AND INTEREST ASSESSMENT
The option now exists to
use personal computers for every phase of interest assessment, including
administration of the inventory, in-house scoring of the scales, production of
the profile, interpretation of the results, and integration of the assessed
interests into computerized career counseling sequences (Hansen & Sackett,
1993). The most important advantage of using personal computers in interest
assessment is in-house scoring that eliminates the need to mail answer sheets to
a scoring service for processing, thus reducing the lag between inventory
administration and interpretation of the results. A second advantage is the
financial savings realized through the use of interactive computerized career
guidance programs. Although these programs do not eliminate the need for
counselors to work with clients, computers do provide an effective mechanism for
identifying and conveying routine information and data to the client.
The assessment of interests originally developed as
an outgrowth of efforts in education and in industry to supplement special and
general abilities information about individuals. However, the most powerful uses
of interest assessment continue to be in the context of other data, such as
values, reinforcers, abilities, personality, and biographical information, that
captures the life experiences of an individual. As both education and industry
have discovered, the integration of a variety of information, including the
assessment of interests, can contribute effectively to improving individual and
Hansen, J.C. (1990). Interest inventories.
Chapter in S. Goldstein & M. Hersen (eds.). "Handbook of psychological
assessment" (pp. 173-194). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.
Hansen, J.C. (1994). The measurement of vocational interests. Chapter in M.G.
Rumsey & J.H. Harris (eds.). "Personnel selection and classification" (pp.
293-316). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Hansen, J.C. (1984). The measurement of vocational interests: Issues and
future directions. S.D. Brown & R.L. Lent (eds.). "Handbook of counseling
psychology" (pp. 99-136). New York: Wiley.
Hansen, J.C. & Sackett, S.A. (1993). Applications of computer technology
in career interventions. B. Schlosser & K.L. Moreland (eds.). "Taming
technology: Issues, strategies and resources for the mental health practitioner"
(pp. 79-81). Phoenix, AZ: Division of Independent Practice of the American
Holland, J.L. (1985). "Making vocational decisions" (2nd edition). Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Kapes, J.T., & Mastie, M.M. (1994). "A counselor's guide to career
assessment instruments" (3rd edition). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling