Professor Krauss to Present at APA Event

Associate Professor of Psychology Dan Krauss will be part of a symposium hosted by the American Psychological Association during its annual convention Aug. 18 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The symposium, Do Observers Belong in the Testing Room? examines the long-studied effects by psychologists of how much the presence of other people can impact an individual’s performance on certain tasks, social facilitation, and whether that impact outweighs other consequences associated with this phenomenon.

Krauss, who has been a member of APA’s Committee on Legal Issues (COLI) for the past three years, will debate against Robert McCaffrey, a psychology professor from the University at Albany, State University of New York. While social facilitation is most commonly associated with athletic or physical skills, studies have shown that the presence of a third-party observer can also affect mental tasks like those involved in neuropsychological testing. McCaffrey will advocate a ban on third-party observers during neuropsychological testing, asserting that only the test-taker and the person administering materials are present during any examination.

Krauss will counter-argue that although third-party observation may affect testing and interviews, a complete ban goes too far: there are clearly situations in which observation may be necessary or desirable.

The Committee on Legal Issues is a group whose primary responsibility is to recommend whether to submit amicus briefs in United States Supreme Court cases where psychological knowledge may be relevant. COLI also reviews policy statements issued by other APA groups. Krauss first became involved in the debate over third-party observers when one of these groups, the Committee on Psychological Test Administration, began drafting a statement on third-party test observation for the APA.

Krauss has participated in other symposia hosted by the APA, but says this debate is of particular interest because of the controversy surrounding third-party observers. At the core is psychologists’ willingness to allow attorneys to be present during examinations.

Yet Krauss argues that any ban on third-party observation “has far reaching implications both within and outside the forensic realm.” For example, some states prohibit the exclusion of observers in certain court-ordered evaluations, and in other cases, interpreters (i.e. a third-party) are needed to facilitate the examination process. Furthermore, he argues that while third-party observers may affect performance, they are of “no greater threat to the validity of evaluations than many other factors.”

For more information about the APA conference, visit:

Elena Derby ’09