Cognitive ability in selection decisions

Ones, D. S., Viswesvaran, C., & Dilchert, S. (2005)
In O. Wilhelm & R. W. Engle (Eds.),
Handbook of understanding and measuring intelligence (pp. 431-468).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

In this chapter, our objective is to summarize the evidence supporting the use of cognitive ability tests for personnel selection and for university admissions. We first provide an overview of results from meta-analyses examining the criterion-related validity of cognitive ability tests in multiple educational and occupational settings, across national boundaries. The overwhelming evidence suggests that cognitive ability tests are predictive of important criteria across jobs and cultures. Given this evidence, we then explore why these tests are valid. In doing so, we discuss the different theoretical causal process mechanisms proposed and tested to explain how and why cognitive ability tests come to predict important behaviors and outcomes in educational and work settings. We also discuss controversial issues around cognitive ability testing in selection settings: (a) predictive value of general mental ability versus specific abilities and (b) gender and ethnic group differences on cognitive ability measures and implications for adverse impact. We conclude with a discussion of individual and societal implications of using cognitive ability test scores for making important selection decisions in applied settings.