The Journal of Social Psychology, 1983, 120, 279-280.


PSG College of Arts and Science, India; and University of New South Wales, Australia


Psychological research in India and many other countries frequently utilizes translated versions of scales developed elsewhere -- generally in the United States: Quite often no real attempt is made to test the psychometric adequacy of the scales in their new setting. Even internal reliability statistics are often not provided. As long as the translation is carefully done, it is assumed that the scale will measure the same thing across cultures. The aim of the present project, therefore, was to forestall any such assumptions in the case of the recently developed "Catchphrase" Achievement Motivation Scale (1). Because of its ease of use and apparent simplicity in translation, it could well be expected to attract just the sort of uncritical use described. Both reliability and validity data were felt to be necessary before the scale could be evaluated for use in India.

Two random samples of 60 people each were selected from the industrial city of Coimbatore in the State of Tamil Nadu, South India. One was a general population sample and the other was a small-scale-entrepreneur sample, generally owners and operators of one machine producing spare parts for different types of pumps and motors. It was hypothesized that the "Catchphrase" Achievement Motivation Scale would be reliable in both groups and that the entrepreneurs would get significantly higher scores than the general population. The scale was translated (and back-translated for checking purposes) into Tamil by the faculty of PSG College in Coimbatore.

Reliability was assessed by use of the average split-half technique (coefficient alpha). The reliabilities were .29 for the general population sample and .14 for the entrepreneur sample. This finding represents a total internal consistency collapse and means that any results obtained with the scale were meaningless. The items did not relate to one another in the way expected and the scale hence had no construct validity. Even the two 10-item subscales (positive vs negative items) showed essentially no internal consistency (alphas of .23, .14, .39, and .10). These data suggest that not even acquiescent response bias was operative. A strong acquiescence effect would have made the subscales at least appear internally consistent. As was to be expected in the circumstances, therefore, the scale also failed to discriminate significantly between the two S groups.

Occasionally, when the reliability collapse is not too bad, a translated scale can be "salvaged" for meaningful use by examining the item-to-total correlations for each item and deleting those items that correlate anomalously -- i. e. those items that correlate negatively or not at all with the scale total: In the present case, however, all items were essentially in this category. A successful "Catchphrase" Achievement Motivation Scale could presumably be constructed in Tamil, but it would need a much larger body of candidate items than were available on the present occasion.

The present data, then, provide a warning about the use of scales in translation. No matter how careful the translation, elementary internal consistency checks should at least be carried out before the scale is accepted for use. Users that do not provide such data for translated scales must be regarded as reporting suspect data. Without specific evidence to the contrary, one must assume that a translated scale could be measuring nothing at all.


1. Ray, J.J. (1981) Measuring achievement motivation by immediate emotional reactions. J. Social Psychology, 113, 85-93.

Department of Psychology, PSG College of Arts & Science, Coimbatore 641 014, Tamil Nadu, India and School of Sociology, University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 1, Kensington 2033, Australia

Go to Index page for this site

Go to John Ray's "Tongue Tied" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Dissecting Leftism" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Australian Politics" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Gun Watch" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Education Watch" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Socialized Medicine" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Political Correctness Watch" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Greenie Watch" blog (Backup here)
Go to John Ray's "Leftists as Elitists" blog (Not now regularly updated)
Go to John Ray's "Marx & Engels in their own words" blog (Not now regularly updated)
Go to John Ray's "A scripture blog" (Not now regularly updated)
Go to John Ray's recipe blog (Not now regularly updated -- Backup here)

Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of recent writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page (Backup here)
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs (Backup here)
Go to Another picture page (Best with broadband)