Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
Why Trump Won't Give Up the Verbal Abuse
Donald Trump is many things. . . businessman, entertainer and politician. But did you know that he is a verbal abuser?
The Verbal Abuse of Donald Trump

The presumptive Republican Candidate for President is a verbal abuser. Donald Trump has called his political opponents names like “hypocrite,” “weak,” “a pathetic figure,” “liar,” “choker.” And he relishes repeating nasty nicknames for his opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb.”

I have seen and treated many targets of verbal abuse over my last forty years as a practicing psychologist. With Donald Trump as a candidate, we can all see the cycle of abuse playing out on the national stage.

Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
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How to Read the Numbers and Statistics in a Psychological Report

A psychological report about you or your child needs to have technical accuracy because the numbers in it may have important consequences for you. But it’s also important for you to understand the scores, so this article explains some of the terms and numbers you will find in a psychological report.

You’re already an expert with scales and numbers because you attach meaning instantly to many numbers, on many scales, every day. For example, you know that the number “3” means something different when you talk about a child in “Grade 3” compared to a temperature of “three degrees Fahrenheit.” Reading the numbers in a psychologist’s report is just a matter of finding out what scales are used, so that you can compare yourself or your child to the proper group.

The Bell-Shaped Curve

The graph above is a “bell-shaped curve.” If I were to draw a graph of many human characteristics, I’d find that the graph would take exactly this shape. For example, if I did a graph of the height of students in a certain seventh-grade class, and drew a picture of the frequency of various heights, I’d find that it would most likely resemble this picture, because there would be a few short seventh-graders, many who were of medium height, and a few who were tall. To get the most information, I should draw two different graphs, one for boys and one for girls, since a short boy may be taller than a short girl. It’s important for you to know who is in the comparison group so that when I compare heights, for example, I’m not comparing a 12- year old to an adult (or to a 5-year old) because age has a significant effect on height, just as the sex of the student does.

Most tests given by psychologists are “norm-referenced tests” which means that the test-makers gave the test to many individuals and it is possible to compare your performance or your child’s performance on this test with those individuals who were in the “norming sample.” For example, I know that age has a great influence on how much knowledge and experience a child has, so if I want to compare a child’s knowledge and experience with others, I compare the child with others who are the same age. If I am measuring intelligence, I don’t have to compare boys with boys or girls with girls because sex doesn’t much influence performance on intelligence tests.

Many scales that psychologists use are listed and diagrammed under the graphic and each may be used in a psychological report. Take a look at the graph, and I’ll try to describe how each of the different scales behaves, and what the numbers mean:
Some Scales that Psychologists Use
Percent of cases under portions of the normal curve:
This is a general description of how the bell-shaped curve works. If you have a characteristic (like height, intelligence, reading skill) which is “normally distributed” in the population, that means that when you graph the number of people with that characteristic, it produces a graph which comes out as a bell-shaped curve. The meaning of “normal distribution” is that most people are clustered towards the middle of the scale. When you look at the vertical lines under this curve, you see that 34.13% of the population fits between the middle line (which is the numerical center, or mean) and the first line to the right, and the same 34.13% fits between the mean and the first vertical line to the left of the middle. Therefore about 68% of people fall within one standard deviation from the mean on this characteristic. About 95% of the population falls within two standard deviations from the mean.

Standard deviations:
Sometimes psychologist scores are written as “standard deviations from the mean.” This measurement is mostly used for tests where the test producers do not provide “look-up tables” to translate the scores into a more easily-reported format. For example, scores on the California Verbal Learning Test are expressed in standard deviations from the mean, and this measurement tells you roughly where you fall above or below the average.

Cumulative percentages rounded:
This measurement is the one most people are familiar. The figure 1% usually measures someone who is very low in the characteristic, and 99% usually measures someone who is very high in the characteristic. For example, someone who has reading skill scores at the first percentile for his age, is having more trouble in reading (or on that test) than 99% of other students that the test compares him to. A score of 99% on that reading test indicates someone who scores higher than 99% of other students.

Percentile equivalents:
This little scale shows that most of the population clusters in the middle, and that a person who scores at the 40% level will actually have a score that is much closer to someone who scores at the 50% level than someone who scores at the 10% is to someone who scores at the 20%. In other words, there is much less difference between people in the middle, while people at the ends of the curve will be much larger distances away from each other on the graph for the same percentile difference.

Typical standard scores:
Psychologists usually translate scores from a normal distribution into scales. These are some typical scales, or standard scores, that psychologists use, and examples of the tests that use them.

T-scores: A T-score distribution uses a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. Thus, 68% of the population will cluster in the middle, between 40 and 60. This scale is usually used in personality tests like the M.M.P.I.-2 or the P.A.I..

CEEB Scores: Just for your information, I am showing you the scale used on the College Entrance Examination Board tests (e.g., the SATs or the GREs) because you may be familiar with that scale. As you can see, 68% of students who take the test will score between 400 and 600.

Standard Scores: Typical cognitive tests, like tests of intelligence and memory, usually use Standard Scores to describe their scales. The overall scales (like Verbal IQ, or Full Scale IQ) use Deviation IQs which have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. This means that 68% of the population has an IQ between 85 and 115.

Subtest scores: For the brief tests which are added together into overall scores, psychologists often use a scale which has a mean of 10 and a standard deviation of 3. This means that 68% of the population will score between a 7 and a 13 on a cognitive subtest that uses this system.

Descriptive labels:
Sometimes labels are used to describe scores in a particular range. For example, if using an intelligence scale, psychologists will often use the following labels:

130 + Very Superior
120 - 129 Superior
110 - 119 High Average (or Above Average)
90 - 109 Average
20 - 89 Low Average (or Below Average)
70 - 79 Borderline
69 - Very Low

Sometimes the descriptive label has a technical meaning, for example a “Within Normal Limits” profile on the MMPI-2 means that no scale is above a t-score of 70.

Sometimes the descriptive label is not a convention used by all psychologists, but is used by a particular psychologist to describe what a certain score means. For example a score on an MMPI-2 scale may be described as representing “a high distress level,” but perhaps other psychologists would call that same score a “high rate of distress” or “extreme distress” or say that the person’s distress is “very much above average.”

Some General Considerations

Just as with any other measurement, you may be concerned about whether or not a test measures what it is supposed to measure, that is, whether it is accurate or valid. A great deal of a psychologist’s training goes into learning to administer, score, construct, do research on, and judge whether a test is valid in general, or whether a test is valid for a particular individual at a particular time.

Measures of validity are basic to whether or not a test is respected or used by psychologists for a particular purpose. Even the best test is only valid, or accurate, for the purpose for which it was designed or for a purpose which research indicates has usefulness. A good intelligence test should measure problem-solving ability primarily, and compare an individual to someone of the same age without actually measuring personal characteristics unrelated to intelligence.

This means that a good test of intelligence has little or no reading on it, since a person may have a learning difficulty that is unrelated to intelligence, but the learning difficulty could impair the ability to learn to read. You would not want an intelligence test to mistake a learning disability for mental retardation!

At the same time, you want a test to bear some resemblance to a real-world characteristic. A good test should allow you to predict something important about an individual. For example, if an intelligence test measures primarily problem-solving ability, then a score on an intelligence test should predict how well a person does at certain problem-solving tasks at school or on the job. Or the intelligence test should measure other outcomes (such as school or job success) which are thought to be related to problem-solving ability. But tests should only be used to predict those outcomes which research shows are related to scores on the test. For example, it would be incorrect to predict a person’s happiness in life based on intelligence, or to judge their artistic talent based on their intelligence because an IQ test does not measure or predict either of those characteristics.

When you ask, “How likely was my performance on this test to really predict what I would do every day?” you are asking an important question about the validity of your test performance for prediction purposes. Certain physical causes might mean that the test performance shouldn’t be counted or compared with the original group. For example, if a person is intoxicated at the time of testing, or if the person were near-sighted, hadn’t brought glasses, and couldn’t really see the testing materials, then the test results probably won’t be a good predictor of ability in every day life, even though the test itself is a good, widely-respected test.

Certain psychological causes also might mean that the test performance shouldn’t be compared to the comparison group. For example, if the person is not trying to do his best, on cognitive tests, or if the person doesn’t really want to share personal information, on personality tests, then the test results may not be valid. That’s why, on a test report, the “Behavioral Observation” section is so important. In that section, the examiner describes any difficulties, physical or psychological, that might have interfered with the validity of the person’s test performance at that time. It is the examiner’s job to gain the cooperation of the person being tested, for example an inattentive child, or an anxious adult. It is also her job to decide if the cooperation was sufficient to provide valid testing. If the person’s cooperation and persistence are good, usually the psychologist will consider the testing session and the person’s performance valid.


Another important question you may be asking yourself is, “How do I know that I would get the same score on another day?” This question is about test reliability. Generally, psychologists provide measures of how reliable a test is before a test can be used for patients or students so the psychologist will generally be able to give you a numerical score for how reliable a test is.

Obviously, when you believe that a real-world characteristic changes over time, you want the test score that is supposed to measure that characteristic to change over time. For example, a test of mood should respond to the ups and downs of mood, and not retain the same score when a person’s mood changes. On the other hand, a test of height (like a tape measure) should show the same scores over time in normal adults, rather than going up and down.

If you believe that a characteristic doesn’t change much (if at all) over time, then you want the scores to show the same stability. For example, I know that if I give intelligence tests to children under the age of 3, the score is less reliable than it will be at older ages. That is, there is a good chance that on the next administration of an intelligence test, the score will go up or down substantially. Does this mean that the child is getting much smarter or slower over time? No. Intelligence tests don’t become very reliable until a child is about 7. After the age of 7 or so, the scores earned on the same intelligence test, even by different examiners, in different circumstances, don’t change very much for most individuals. With a good, individually-administered intelligence test, scores can go up, but they can equally go down, by 3 points (for the most common tests), but in 68% of the cases for those tests, the scores won’t change more than that.

If, for some reason, a particular administration of a test had less validity, then the test scores may change much more than the three points I mentioned above. For example, if a nearsighted person takes a test without wearing his glasses, then is tested a second time with glasses, he may do substantially better than before. Or if an inattentive child takes a test, then later takes medication to improve her attention span, she may do substantially better on tests that require good attention to the task.

How Shall I Use the Test Information?
  1. Your first step is to understand the results. This information is intended to help you in that process. You can also find references to books, pamphlets, or other educational materials on your characteristics, or the meaning of your scores. It’s always valuable to have one or more feedback sessions with the psychologist to explain the results to you, to answer your questions, and to provide you with the specific information that is of most concern to you.
  2. If your numbers (or your child’s numbers) are not what you had hoped or expected, make special efforts to find out what the psychologist thinks may be contributing to the difficulty. Ask what the scores may predict in real life, or what choices you have to teach or treat any difficulties.
  3. Remember that a low score is not a criticism of you or your child, and it is also not a sign to “lower your standards” or “forget about succeeding.” Psychologists rarely are called upon to give as much attention to strengths as to weaknesses. Use the numbers to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and to focus your efforts in directions that will meet your goals. And you are the best judge of what those goals should be.
  4. New information from studies of the physical characteristics of the brain indicate that the brain is much more “plastic” than we realized. The things you study and learn improve your brain and improve your test scores throughout your life span. You can learn to learn. Your hard work and persistence can make that happen!


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