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Scoring and interpretation

Further details on the assessment of views of mental health problems

The quiz on the previous step was developed at the University of Liverpool, based on several undergraduate students’ research over a number of years.

It’s well known that there are many different viewpoints on the nature and causes of mental health problems – that’s what this course is all about!. There has also been some research on what people think the nature and causes are (which is a slightly different issue). The bio-psycho-social model (which I’ll discuss in detail later in this course) implies that there are three main factors, but other research suggests that there are many more different perspectives. In particular, work by Bill Fulford and Anthony Colombo suggests that there are at least six different conceptual models used by professionals in mental health services, and it seems reasonable to assume that the general public have views that are at least as complex as this.

So when I started trying to develop a simple assessment measure, I used a very wide range of possible questions (covering all the elements of Colombo and Fulford’s approach). But, when we analysed the results of people completing earlier versions of this quiz (using a technique called factor analysis) it seemed clear that there were two main explanatory approaches revealed by people’s responses.

In technical terms, there were two dominant factors – although it’s important to bear in mind that these aren’t choices; people who score highly on one factor can also score highly on the other, too. The first was biological – characterised by high scores on questions such as “Mental health problems are the result of physical or chemical changes in the brain” – and the second was social – characterised by high scores on questions such as “Mental health problems are the result of experiences of trauma or abuse”.

The quiz is scored in a very simple way. Six questions (1, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10) contributed to the “biological” sub-scale, and seven questions (2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12 & 13) contributed to the “social” sub-scale.

Because there were different numbers of questions in the two sub-scales, and because people can score high (or low) on both sub-scales, you shouldn’t read too much into the raw numbers. But we can say something about what the numbers mean on the basis of previous results.

When we ran this course previously, we had (anonymous) data from over 10,000 people. That revealed that the average score on the “biological” sub-scale was 21.3 and the average score on the “social” sub-scale was 28.4.

That might give you some idea as to what your scores mean – if you score higher than 21 on the “biological” scale, it means that you are slightly more likely than the average person (on this course) to agree with biological explanations for mental health problems.

Of course, there was a huge range of scores (in fact, on this quiz, the range was particularly broad) with 95% of scores on the “biological” sub-scale falling between 12.9 and 29.6, and 95% of scores on the “social” sub-scale falling between 20.6 and 36.2.

We’ll continue to do work on this, to see whether it has value as a research instrument. For now… use it as an educational tool, and as a way of initiating discussion.

© University of Liverpool
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Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

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