Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On-line death row database available from DPIC

I'm not sure if this may be useful for the purpose of this blog, but just in case, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) just announced an on-line death row database.  A unique feature is that the database is editable, which means that individuals with knowledge of inmate cases may add information.  Wouldn't it be nice if someone had the time and resources to flag those cases that involve Atkins MR/IQ/AB issues?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book recommendation: Mental Retardation--Determining Eligibility for SS Benefits

I recommend the book Mental Retardation:  Determining Eligibility for Social Security Benefits) to professionals engaged in Atkins MR death penalty related assessments and decisions, especially since it is relevant to the Vidal (2007) California Supreme Court decision (prior post) where the court and experts grappled with the use of the Wechsler Verbal IQ (and not Full Scale IQ) in estimating Vidal's general intelligence.  The topic of part vs total scores from IQ tests is discussed in detail, and there was some dissent within the committee that produced the book.

It is not a widely known book given its narrow focus (determining mental retardation for social security benefits).  I recommend it as a starting point for a number of intelligence test issues in Atkins cases as the book is the result of a two year process comissioned by the National Academy Press/National Research Council.  The Committee on Disability Determination for Mental Retardation consisted of 16 experts from various disciplines.  The issues and recommendations for MR assessment and eligibility determination for SS eligibility, which are not much different from the three-prong criteria used when deciding Atkins cases, are based on a national expert panel.  Although determining MR eligibility for social security benefits is a much less serious decision than determining MR for Atkins capital punishment cases, the eligibility issues discussed are nearly identical.

The book covers the topics of policy context, the role of intellectual and adaptive behavior assessment, the relationship between intelligence and adaptive behavior, differential diagnosis, and the panels recommendations.

Again...I mention this book primarily because it is a good starting point for reflecting on the Vidal (2007) court decision that hinged on the use of a Verbal IQ score (and not the Full Scale IQ score) in the  determination of Vidal as qualifying as  MR (part vs total score discussion in the text).

When time permits I will likely summarize the key issues and recommendations from the book as they related to the part vs total IQ score issue.  It is a complicated issue.

Conflict of interest notes
  • As mentioned in the acknowledgements section of  the book, I was one of a number of  individuals who provided feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript.
  • Also, it is interesting to note, that Dr. Keith Widaman, a leading scholar in intelligence, adaptive behavior, and developmental disabilities research, was a member of the panel and was one of the expert witnesses in the Vidal court decision.  I have the highest professional regard for Dr. Widaman's expertise and credentials.  He is one of the top research methodologists in psychology and a leading scholar in intelligence, adaptive behavior and mental retardation.  I regularly see and chat with Dr. Widaman at the annual ISIR conference.  Furthermore, Dr. Widaman and I coauthored a chapter on adaptive behavior (The Structure of Adaptive Behavior;  Widaman & McGrew, 1996) published in the 1996 Americian Psychological Association (APA) Manual of Diagnosis and Professional Practice in Mental Retardation.  Reflecting his scholarly integrity, Dr. Widaman's reported expert testimony in the Vidal case is 100% consistent with his minority dissenting opinion (in the MR-SS related book) regarding the issue of part vs total IQ scores for diagnosing mental retardation.

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Court decision: Vidal 2007 California Supreme Court decision: Use of part scores vs FS IQ

Two different individuals, one a legal professional the other a neuropsychologist, independently sent me copies (within hours of each other) of a very intriguing 2007 California Supreme Court ruling in an Atkins case.  After taking a quick peek, I can see why.  The court dealt with the thorny issue of using the individuals composite Full Scale IQ vs his Verbal IQ to determine if the individual was mentally retarded as per Atkins criteria.  The subject had been repeatedly tested with various editions of the Wechsler batteries over many years and displayed a very large and consistent Verbal vs Performance IQ split.

As reported at In The News Blog: "The Court unanimously held that a defendant may be spared the death penalty because he is mentally deficient in one area, even if his overall IQ score falls in the normal range. The decision overturned an appeals court finding that “full-scale IQ” was the best measure of intelligence."  Click on the In the News Blog for a lengthier summary.

I've posted copies of the original 2005 decision (click here) and the final California Supreme Court decision (click here) for readers to digest. 

I'm going to read the decision carefully as it raises many important intelligence testing and measurement issues.  I'm not sure if I will eventually make a single post re: my observations, comments, conclusions, quesitons, etc., or if I will present snippets from the two decisions and make comments in separate posts.

My knee jerk reaction, after seeing four different Wechsler test administrations (and a fifth abbreviated Wechsler---WASI), all that produced very consistent findings, is why someone didnt' recommend the administration of other measures of cognitive abilities (not measured by the Wechslers) to gather information re: important cognitive abilities related to intellectual functioning.

I would love to hear from other psychologists, intelligence scholars, and experts in mental retardation re: their opinion of the courts ruling and the evidence presented, logic of the court, etc.  This is a case that can be very instructive.  I just need to find time to do it justice.  Guest blog posts would be much appreciated.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

New York Times Op-Ed on cost of death row and death penalty

The New York Times had an Op-Ed yesterday on the high cost of capital punishment.  Although not specific to Atkins cases, I thought readers may be interested. 

Trying to keep this blog as objective as possible, I'm following my policy of not entering the fray either pro/con re: the positions taken in the editorial.  This is a pass-along FYI only.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Determining Current Level of Intellectual Functioning: The Courts Dropped the Ball (guest post by K. Foley)

On month ago the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rendered a psychometrically puzzling (and troubling) decision in an Atkins mental retardation death penalty case, in favor of the defendant...Eric Lynn Moore.  It was brought to my attention by Kevin Foley who wanted to share his observations regarding the decision (in a guest blog post), particuarly since the ruling hinged on the unusal procedure of mathematically averaging three different IQ scores obtained across decades.  According to the records, the courts averaged a group IQ score administered when the defendent was 7 years old, a 1991WAIS-R, and a 2004 WAIS-III.  Although the scores were very consistent, I have never heard of such a simple mathematical method being applied to scores from different tests across such a long period of time.  The measurement questions raised by this simplistic approach are beyond the scope of a single blog post. 

My initial amazement is echoed in a  32 page dissenting opinion by Appeals Judge Jerry Smith.  As per an AP story
  • Appeals Judge Jerry Smith, in a 32-page dissent that was twice as long as the court's decision, called the majority ruling "intellectually sluggish" and chastised his colleagues on the court for using "haphazardly-applied standards of review, casually-read caselaw, and superficially-scrutinized evidence." 
 Judge Smith's dissenting opinion starts on page 16 of the final court ruling.

Kevin Foley was similarly struck by the manner in which the court invoked the simplistic approach to establishing mental retardation.  As a result, he wrote the following guest blog post which I'm posting on his behalf "as is."  In addition, I've located copies of the final ruling (click here), and three prior appeals (click here, here, and here). 

I've only skimmed the final ruling but would urge all psychologists  involved in Atkins cases, or psychologists who do intellectual testing of any kind, to read it.  The ruling is an interesting window into a courts logic re: how intelligence testing and scores can be viewed...and how  measurement and psychometric principles can be ignored.   Aside from the simple arithmetic averaging of three different IQ scores, other interesting comments center on the WAIS being the "standard" IQ test for Atkins cases and the argument for determining an MR diagnosis based on IQ scores only (dismissal of adaptive behavior evidence and testimony).  I will be reading it more and may offer additional comments upon greater reflection. 

Below is the Kevin Foley's unedited guest post:

Moore v. Quarterman, Case No. 05-70038, 5th Cir., Aug. 21, 2009 (unpublished).

Eric Lynn Moore, an African American inmate under a sentence of death, sought to escape the death penalty by invoking Atkins. The federal district court ruled in Moore’s favor, exempting him from the death penalty. The state appealed. According to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Moore obtained the following IQ scores: a 76 on the WAIS-R; a 66 on the WAIS-III; and a 74 on the Primary Mental Abilities test. Moore also scored in the bottom eight-tenths of a percentile on the TONI-2. The dissenting opinion in Moore states that the PMA was given to Moore when he was in the first grade; the WAIS-R was given to Moore, in prison, in 1991; and the WAIS-III was given to Moore in 2004. The district court resolved the issue of Moore’s current intellectual functioning by averaging the three scores to come up with an average score of 72, to which he applied the standard error of measurement. The appeals court approved this approach, stating, “In averaging the test scores and relying on the five-point margin of error . . . the district court attempted to find a way to reconcile all three test scores.”

The lone dissenting judge issued a scathing dissent, including biting comments accusing the majority of using “[h]aphazardly-applied standards of review, casually-read case law, and superficially-scrutinized evidence [which] make for an unfortunate combination; here, they result in shallow analysis and the wrong result. The only mitigation is that the majority opinion is unpublished, so it is not binding on anyone or any court.” Ouch!

The dissent correctly, in my opinion, took the trial and appeals courts to task on the issue of using an average of IQ scores from as far back as 1973 to determine current level of functioning. First, the trial court neglected to address issues surrounding the accuracy of the three scores. According to the dissent,

“All three of those test results were called into question at the evidentiary hearing. The PMA score, for example, is only a number; there is no evidence that it was properly scored or whether it was administered individually, as the test protocol requires, or to an entire school class. The vocabulary section of the WAIS-R, according to [defense expert] Llorente, was improperly scored, and in a way that may have slightly inflated the score. Llorente also testified concerning the ‘Flynn Effect,’ the apparent increase in the average IQ scores in populations over time, as measured by a given IQ test. Because the WAIS-R was an older test when it was administered to Moore, Llorente suggested adjusting Moore’s score of 76 downward by about four points.”

In addition, the state’s expert asserted that Moore’s expert improperly scored the WAIS-III test. The dissent correctly complained that the trial court took the easy way out by averaging the scores.

“Instead of grappling with those conflicting upward and downward adjustments, the district court gave the three scores equal weight, averaged them, reached an IQ of 72, applied the ‘five-point standard error of measurement,’ and therefore concluded that Moore had borne his burden of proof. It is that finding, and the district court’s actual reasoning in making it, that the panel must consider, and yet the majority refuses to address it at anything resembling an acceptable level of detail. . . .

“For one thing, there is no legal or record support for taking an average of Moore’s IQ scores. Averaging IQ scores is, to say the least, a creative approach to their analysis and comparison and is highly unusual. Neither expert suggested, employed, or endorsed it. The district court assumed, without any evident backing, that averaging is a meaningful way to compare scores from different IQ testing protocols administered years apart and that the margin of error was the same for all three and was the same after the averaging as before. All of those assumptions are facially implausible, and the district court had no apparent reason to think any of them is correct.”

Although the dissent erred in other respects (some of which may make for other interesting blog entries), it hit the nail on the head on this issue. Although these issues – assertions of invalid results, mis-scoring of tests, application of the Flynn Effect, and determining what weight to give to certain evidence - might be complicated and hard to resolve, that is what courts do. They should educate themselves and use the experts to provide the information necessary to properly decide the case. Moreover, federal judges can appoint an independent expert to offset the parties experts, it the judge feels the need for some impartial testimony to help guide the court.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Court decision added: North Carolina v Jones (2006-2008)

Related to my prior FYI book post (re: The Last Lawyer), I found copies of all relevant court decisions from 2006 to 2008 (North Carolina v Jones) at the ACLU web site. Click here.  The links to the PDF court papers are near the bottom of the page.  A quick search of the files using the keyword "mental retardation" indicates that this is a case where MR was an issue....and it thus fits with other Atkins cases posted at this blog.

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Book review: The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates

I just stumbled across the forthcoming book (fall, 2009)"  The Last Lawyer:  The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates, by John Temple.  It is not yet published so I have no copy and no reviews.  This is an FYI post without endorsement either way.  Below are a few snippets from the books longer description that is available at the book link above.  It does mention the issue of mental retardation

I plan to do some web research to see if I can find the formal court decision for this case (Bo Jones).  If anyone has a pdf copy of the final decision, or can direct me to a URL where it is available, it would be much appreciated.

  • The Last Lawyer chronicles Rose's decade-long defense of Bo Jones, a North Carolina farmhand convicted of a 1987 murder.
  • Rose called it his most frustrating case in twenty-five years, and it was one that received scant attention from judges or journalists. The Jones case highlights the thorniest issues surrounding capital punishment, including inadequate defense, mental retardation, mental illness, and sketchy witness testimony. Yet for many years, Rose's advocacy gained no traction, and Bo Jones came within three days of his execution.

Applied Psychometrics 101: How IQ tests are developed

This past summer I was asked to conduct an introductory level four hour course on the "art and science of test development" for an international psychological assessment conference in Brazil.  It was the first time in 25 years of clinical testing and applied cognitive/IQ/achievement test development that I had ever tried to put the basics of applied test development down in a presentation.  The end result was a series of modules (which are "works in progress") that can be viewed on-line via my sister blog, IQs Corner. 

You can access them by visiting the last post I made re: these PPT modules or go to the main IQs Corner home page and look for the Applied Test Development Series section on the left blog panel.

The goal of the modules is to educate laypersons, psychologists, and other professionals in  the basics of how intelligence (and achievement) tests are developed...kind of an "IQ test development for dummies" series.  It is hoped these materials will increase the sophistication of knowledge of people who use intelligence tests and/or are consumers of intelligence test results (e.g., physicians, lawyers, judges, etc).  The long-term goal will be to turn the PPT modules into either a series of Applied Psychometric 101 research reports or cobble them together in a grand single manuscript.

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Cultural sensivity in test selection in death penalty cases (Perlin & McCain, in press)

The following article came to my attention via Michael Perlin, first author of the article.  Thanks for the contribution.  I do not have a copy of the manuscript for a complete reading.  It is "in press" in Psychology, Public Policy and the Law.

Perlin, Michael L. and McClain, Valerie Rae, 'Where Souls are Forgotten': Cultural Competencies, Forensic Evaluations and International Human Rights (July 30, 2009). Psychology, Public Policy and Law, Vol. 15, 2009; NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09/10 #6. Available at SSRN(click here):

Cultural competency is critical in criminal forensic evaluations. Cultural competency eschews reliance on stereotype, precluding the mistake of assuming that cultural dictates apply with equal force to all who share a cultural background, thus allowing the forensic examiner to provide a comprehensive picture of the defendant to the factfinder. While raised frequently in death penalty cases, it is equally important to the entire criminal process. Cultural sensitivity in test selection and interview techniques that enhance validity of results are addressed. In a parallel fashion, ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has drawn importance to cultural competency. Although international human rights and cultural sensitivity have been considered with regard to race, gender and religion, applications to criminal matters are still in their infancy. This paper considers strategies to enhance the effectiveness of testimony and mitigation efforts.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Research on malingering: IAP database search 9-23-09

I simply have not had the time to read the articles in my in-box related to malingering issues during psychological assessment, issues that are often critical in Atkins MR death penalty cases.  So...I decided to run a search of the IAP Reference Database for any  empirical research related to malingering.  Click here for the result.

Damn....there is a ton.  Not enough time in the day, week, or year to digest it all.  But, for folks looking for references, I hope this reference list helps.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

StandDown Texas Project: Thank you

Thanks to the StandDown Texas Project blog for the post and blogroll link.  I monitor this blog and will FYI/link readers to StandDown when information may be relevant to the purpose of Intellectual Competence and the Death Penalty blog.

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Book Review: IQ Testing 101 by Alan Kaufman

Anyone involved in the field of intelligence testing is familiar with the work of Dr. Alan Kaufman, a leading expert on interpretation of the Wechsler intelligence batteries, an author of his own intelligence tests, and a scholar/researcher who has published extensively in professional psychology journals on various aspects of intelligence and intelligence testing.

This past week I was pleased to receive a copy of his new book:  IQ Testing 101.  The number of books and published articles re: intelligence testing is beyond comprehension by any single reader.  Thus, although only having skimmed select sections at this time, I can say that this is the book I would recommend to anyone who wants an easy-to-read, accurate, introductory overview of the past and current state-of-the-art of the field of intelligence testing.  It appears to be an excellent book for those first learning about intelligence testing and for non-psychologists (e.g., physicians, lawyers, etc.) who want to become familiar with the basics of the field of IQ testing. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Why Would Anyone Want to Read a Book About IQ Testing?
Chapter 2: History, Part 1: Who Invented the IQ Test?
Chapter 3: History, Part 2: At Long LastTheory Meets Practice
Chapter 4: The IQ Construct, Part 1: We All Know What IQs AreDont We?
Chapter 5: The IQ Construct, Part 2: How Accurate Are IQ Tests?
Chapter 6: Hot Topic: Is IQ Genetic?
Chapter 7: Hot Topic: Are Our IQs Fixed or Are They Malleable?
Chapter 8: Hot TopicIQ and Aging: Do We Get Smarter or Dumber as We Reach Old Age?
Chapter 9: Hot TopicIQ Tests in the Public Forum: Lead Level, Learning Disabilities, and IQ
Chapter 10: The Future of IQ Tests


Question: Looking for research on Atkins MR cases and stress/malingering impact on IQ scores

I've yet to get to the stack of articles I've put aside on malingering and IQ testing in Atkin's cases, so I am not able to answer the following question that someone posed to me today.  So...I'm asking readers if they have any information re:  research that addresses the following question of a colleague.  Please post your response in the "comment" section.  Or, if it is long, send me a personal back channel email ( nd I'll post as a guest blog response.  Thank you.

Question:  If someone is being tried in a capital case, is it likely for them to do worse, intentionally or unintentionally, on the WAIS-III or other IQ tests than if not experiencing that stress or facing the prospect of death if they do too well?  Are there any studies comparing the results of the WAIS-III or other IQ tests given to people before they were arrested and afterwards?  In short, are there any studies regarding how the stress (or incentives) of facing the death penalty might depress their scores?

Monday, September 21, 2009

In the News blog: Thanks

Thanks to In the News blog (see immediate prior post) for the mention of Intellectual Competence and the Death Penalty blog.

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New blog added to blog roll: In the News

I just learned of another potentially informative blog for readers of Intellectual Competence and the Death Penalty.  The blog is "In the News: Forensice psychology, criminology, and psychology-law." Readers may want to check it out.  The blog does have a place where you can enter your email address to receive a regular e-newsletter.  I'm adding "In the News" to my RSS feed so I can monitor the posts and post FYI messages re: content that is related to the purpose of Intellectual Competence and the Death Penalty.  I've also added a link to my blog roll.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why IQ test scores differ: Applied Psychometrics 101---IQ scoring errors (next report)

Is it possible for an individual evaluated for mental retardation (as part of an Atkins proceedings) to have an increased probability of facing execution depending on whom administers them an intelligence test?  Is it possible for an experienced psychological examiner to make a sufficient number of scoring errors that significantly change a person's IQ score from what it should be (if properly scored)?  Unfortunately, the answers are "yes." 

I learned this first hand when I reviewed the test record and scoring of a intelligence test (on which I'm a coauthor) in a Federal death penalty appeal hinging on the diagnosis of mental retardation.  I've since been locating research articles on the accuracy of IQ test scoring for novice and experienced psychological examiners.  The results are discouraging. 

The next AP101 report will address the issue of test scoring errors in intelligence testing, with a particular emphasis on implications for Atkins MR death penalty cases.  The report will include a summary of representative literature, a discussion of my findings in the recent case for which I was a consultant (presented in such a manner to not reveal the identity of the case or any individuals/agencies involved in the case), and recommendations to address the issue.

Stay tuned.

If you have not read the first report in the series, check it out.  AP101 101:  IQ Test Score Difference Series--#1 Understanding global IQ test correlations.

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FYI: NERONORMA Project: Spanish norms for common neuropsychological tests

Today, during my weekly literature search, I ran across a series of articles providing results from the NERONORMA project (Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies).  The project is described in a free on-line copy of an article available in the Archives of Clinical Psychology.  The abstract for the article is below.  Psychologists who engage in forensic testing related to Atkins cases may find this information informative.  I have not read the series of articles in depth yet. 
This paper describes the methods and sample characteristics of a series of Spanish normative studies (The NEURONORMA project). The primary objective of our research was to collect normative and psychometric information on a sample of people aged over 49 years. The normative information was based on a series of selected, but commonly used, neuropsychological tests covering attention, language, visuo-perceptual abilities, constructional tasks, memory, and executive functions. A sample of 356 community dwelling individuals was studied. Demographics, socio-cultural, and medical data were collected. Cognitive normality was validated via informants and a cognitive screening test. Norms were calculated for midpoint age groups. Effects of age, education, and sex were determined. The use of these norms should improve neuropsychological diagnostic accuracy in older Spanish subjects. These data may also be of considerable use for comparisons with other normative studies. Limitations of these normative data are also commented
Other articles published in the series are listed below:

  • PenaCasanova, J., Blesa, R., Aguilar, M., GramuntFombuena, N., GomezAnson, B., Oliva, R., Molinuevo, J. L.,Robles, A., Barquero, M. S., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Fernandez, M., Alfonso, V., & Sol, J. M. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies (NEURONORMA Project): Methods and Sample Characteristics. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 307-319.
  • PenaCasanova, J., GramuntFombuena, N., QuinonesUbeda, S., SanchezBenavides, G., Aguilar, M., Badenes, D., Molinuevo, J. L., Robles, A., Barquero, M. S., Payno, M., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Fernandez, M., Alfonso, V., Solk, J. M., & Blesa, R. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies (NEURONORMA Project): Norms for the Rey-Osterrieth Complex Figure (Copy and Memory), and Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 371-393.
  • PenaCasanova, J., QuinonesUbeda, S., GramuntFombuena, N., Aguilar, M., Casas, L., Molinuevo, J. L., Robles, A., Rodriguez, D., Barquero, M. S., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Fernandez, M., Molano, A., Alfonso, V., Sol, J. M., & Blesa, R. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies (NEURONORMA Project): Norms for Boston Naming Test and Token Test. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 343-354.
  • PenaCasanova, J., QuinonesUbeda, S., GramuntFombuena, N., Quintana, M., Aguilar, M., Molinuevo, J. L., Serradell, M., Robles, A., Barquero, M. S., Payno, M., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Fernandez, M., Alfonso, V., Sol, J. M., & Blesa, R. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies
  • (NEURONORMA Project): Norms for the Stroop Color-Word Interference Test and the Tower of London-Drexel. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 413-429.
  • PenaCasanova, J., QuinonesUbeda, S., GramuntFombuena, N., QuintanaAparicio, M., Aguilar, M., Badenes, D., Cerulla, N., Molinuevo, J. L., Ruiz, E., Robles, A., Barquero, M. S., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Fernandez, M., Alfonso, V., Sol, J. M., & Blesa, R. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies (NEURONORMA Project): Norms for Verbal Fluency Tests. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 395-411.
  • PenaCasanova, J., QuinonesUbeda, S., QuintanaAparicio, M., Aguilar, M., Badenes, D., Molinuevo, J. L., Torner, L., Robles, A., Barquero, M. S., Villanueva, C., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Sanz, A., Fernandez, M., Alfonso, V., Sol, J. M., & Blesa, R. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies (NEURONORMA Project): Norms for Verbal Span, Visuospatial Span, Letter and Number Sequencing, Trail Making Test, and Symbol Digit Modalities Test. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 321-341.
  • PenaCasanova, J., QuintanaAparicio, M., QuinonesUbeda, S., Aguilar, M., Molinuevo, J. L., Serradell, M., Robles, A., Barquero, M. S., Villanueva, C., Antunez, C., MartinezParra, C., FrankGarcia, A., Aguilar, M. D., Fernandez, M., Alfonso, V., Sol, J. M., & Blesa, R. (2009). Spanish Multicenter Normative Studies (NEURONORMA Project): Norms for the Visual Object and Space Perception Battery-Abbreviated, and Judgment of Line Orientation. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 24(4), 355-370.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New book: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment

I just heard about this new publication via my Twitter account (@iqmobile).  I do not have a copy nor have I read any reviews.  Below is a description of the contents.  I've highlighted the section that indicates that it does touch on the issue of capital punishment and mental retardation.  If anyone has read this book and would like to provide comments related to the them of this blog, please use the "comment" feature and/or email me comments for a possible guest blog post.

The documents section of the volume includes:
  • Selections from key Supreme Court decisions, both majority opinions and dissents

  • Amici briefs by a variety of organizations

  • Selections from proponents and opponents of capital punishment

  • Legislative debates on proposed moratoriums on capital punishment that took place in Nebraska, Vermont and Illinois during the past few years

  • Congressional debate on the Racial Justice Act

  • Statistical studies such as that conducted by Iowa law professor David Baldus
Important topics covered in Supreme Court and Capital Punishment include the following:
  • Judicial philosophies on the death penalty throughout the history of the Court

  • Debate over the execution of juveniles, the mentally retarded, and the insane

  • Race and capital punishment

  • Constitutionality of methods of execution

  • Changing public opinion and its impact on capital punishment

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Atkins case Amicus Briefs (friends of the court) added

Added to the "Amicus Briefs" section of this blog today.

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc of the United States, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, The Arc of Georgia, and the Georgia Advocacy Office, in support of Petitioner, Stripling v. Head, No. 03-1392, cert. granted, Oct. 14, 2003 (co-counsel with Carol M. Suzuki, Norman Bay, Christian G. Fritz).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and TASH, Tennard v. Dretke, No. 02-10038, cert. granted, Oct. 14, 2003 (consolidated for oral arguments with Smith v. Dretke, No. 02-11309) (co-counsel with Norman C. Bay, Michael B. Browde, Christian G. Fritz, April Land & Robert L. Schwartz, of counsel).

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MR and Atkins cases: Guide to state legislative issues (James Ellis)

In my morning web searching I ran across the following document that may be of interest to readers of this blog.  The title of the document is Mental Retardation and the Death Penalty:  A Guide to State Legislative Issues.  It is written by a law professor--James W. Ellis, Regents Professor of Law, University of New Mexico School of Law.  According to his faculty web page, Ellis has "worked on behalf of people with mental disabilities in the civil and criminal justice system." The publication is associated with the International Justice Project.  I noticed that some of the MR related links at the IJP page are not I'm not sure how active or current this project is.

Below is the first paragraph.
The interest in State Legislatures in the topic of mental retardation and the death penalty has obviously heightened with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia, 122 S.Ct. 2242 (June 20, 2002). The purpose of this document is to provide legislators and advocates with guidance in implementing the Atkins decision, so that each State’s death penalty legislation is in full compliance with constitutional requirements.

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Looking for Atkins case court decisions

As readers will note, I've listed links to three formal Atkin's MR death penalty court decisions.  The readers input poll is indicating that readers want access to more of these decisions.  I would appreciate any readers who have URL links to court decisions or PDF copies of such decisions to send that information to me at  I'll make all I can accumulate available as I find more.

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dr. Dale Watson added to expert list

Dr. Dale Watson has been added to the expert blog roll list. His contact information is below:

Dr. Dale Watson
Clinical and Forensic Neuropsychology

Mail address:
3377 Deer Valley Road
PMB 310
Antioch, CA 94531

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why IQ test scores can differ: Applied Psychometrics 101 Report #1 9-12-09 revision

If you downloaded the report AP101 #1 yesterday, you should return to the post and download a revised version. Some confusion in the discussion and estimation of the range of expected IQ difference scores (between different IQ tests that correlate at different levels) has been clarified.

I want to thank Dr. Joel Schneider for pointing out the confusion in the first draft. I plan to post future reports in a similar "draft" form--with the goal to receive comments and feedback that will result in better revised reports.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why IQ test scores can differ: Applied Psychometrics 101 Report #1--Understanding global IQ test correlations

Announcing Applied Psychometrics 101: IQ Test Score Difference Series--#1 Understanding global IQ test correlations. (click here to view and/or download)

Toady I'm announcing the first in what I hope is a series of applied psychometric brief reports. The goal of this project is to explain basic psychometric issues to help professionals and the public better understand psychological measurement, IQ testing, etc. Above is the title of the first report (and a link where it can be accessed). Below is the abstract, followed by some thoughts and questions the report might generate. This report (and future reports) are accessible via a section [(Applied Psychometric 101 (AP101) Reports] on the side bar of this blog.

Despite reported evidence of strong concurrent correlations among IQ tests (concurrent validity), different IQ tests often produce different IQ scores for the same individual. This may be due to a number of factors. Prior to discussing the various factors, one must first understand the basic language of typical IQ-IQ comparison research. In the first of this series, IQ-IQ test correlations are explained. Statistically significant high correlations between different IQ tests, although providing strong concurrent validity evidence for tests, do not guarantee similar or identical IQ scores for all individuals tested.
Blogmaster comments

After reading the report, I would encurage readers to come back and reflect on the comments below. I would like to thank Dr. Dale Watson for comments on an earlier draft of the report. Most all of the ideas generated below are thoughts he shared (and that I had been contemplating) after reading the report. I will shortly be adding Dr. Watson to the "experts" blog roll on the blog sidebar.

Some Post "AP101: IQ Score Difference Series--# 1 Understanding global IQ test correlations" thoughts for consideration

I (the blogmaster) assume that most laypersons and, more importantly, agencies that have developed strict prescriptive guidelines for IQ cut scores for service eligibility and/or life or death decisions (e.g., U.S. Supreme Court Atkins ruling that no one with intellectual disabilities/mental retardation can be executed), are unaware of the variability in IQ scores that can arise simply by using different IQ tests (see report). Based on the IAP AP101 report, one should reach the conclusion that the selection of which IQ test to adminster (to determine if an individual is mentally retarded--esp. mild MR) can be a life-or-death decision (i.e., Atkins death penalty cases)! Furthermore, given the adversarial nature of a court hearings/trials and due process hearings, it is clear that a wide variety of questions could arise regarding how to determine which test battery is the "best" measure of intelligence (when different IQ tests used by different psychologists and experts produce significantly different scores). A few examples are listed below:

1. What does “best” mean? Is “best” relative to the purpose for the testing (e.g., best for service eligibility; best for developing instructional education programs; best for making formal legal diagnosis, etc.)? Might certain IQ tests be “best” for certain purposes and other IQ test “best” for other purposes? Is it possible for one test to be “best” for all purposes, all ages, all cultures, etc. ?

2. Could a scenario occur where the courts request that a standard be used to identify the potentially “best” test when IQ-IQ differences are reported by experts? This raises extremely complex questions. For example:
  • Does the popularity of an IQ measure determine which IQ test battery is “best”? Historically the Wechsler series of tests have been considered the “gold standard of IQ tests” largely because of their popularity. Does popularity + more sales = “best?”
  • Can (should) an empirical standard be developed? Is it even possible?
  • Some in the field of intelligence testing have suggested that an IQ tests g (general intelligence) saturation (“g-ness”; amount of variance attributed to the first principal component extracted in principal component analysis—PCA) is a good criterion.
  • Or, is the “best” IQ indicator a composite score that differentially weights the tests in the global IQ score as determined by PCA?
  • Or, is the “best” IQ battery one that only includes tests that have high g-ness?
  • Or, is the “best” IQ battery the one that provides the broadest coverage of the major cognitive abilities established by the most accepted psychometric model of intelligence?
3. Is the amount of g-ness measured in an individual central to the definition of intelligence and/or different diagnostic categories (MR, LD, gifted, etc.). Is g-ness more central to a diagnosis of mental retardation and less (or equally) relevant to a diagnosis of specific learning disability?

4. If it were even possible (which the current author doubts) to establish a consensus on a “best-ness” criterion, would assessment personal be required to administer the so designated test? Who would make the judgment regarding which test battery (or batteries) are the best—would it be in the hands of individual psychologists, professional association, a judge, or…..?

It is hoped the above cited IAP AP101 report has clarified the reality that different IQ tests will often provide different IQ scores for the same individual. IQ-IQ difference scores will occur, and if the IQ tests are properly administered to a cooperative individual, the resultant IQ-IQ score differences are reliable and valid. The “why” of psychometrically sound IQ-IQ score differences is due to a number of possible factors, factors that will be explored in future reports in the Applied Psychometrics 101 series. The potential policy implications, as briefly illustrated by the above set of hypothetical questions, are many, complex, and will not have an easy answer. There may not be a suitable answer and the use of IQ scores in legal and/or adversarial settings may need to change to become more nuanced (i.e., allow for more expert interpretation of the meaning of IQ test scores and IQ-IQ difference scores) and less rigid and prescriptive.

The issues raised in the report do not reflect problems in the state-of-the-art of psychometrically sound IQ tests, but in the use (and misuse) of IQ test scores to make important decisions about individuals and to create public policy and law.

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