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Reinvigorating the Concept of a Situation in Situational Judgment Tests

  • Nicolas A. Brown (a1), Ashley Bell Jones (a1), David G. Serfass (a1) and Ryne A. Sherman (a1)

What is the role of the situation in situational judgment tests (SJTs)? Lievens and Motowidlo (2016) assert that SJTs are somewhat of a misnomer because they do not actually measure how individuals would behave in a given situation per se. According to these researchers, SJTs assess general domain knowledge—whether potential employees recognize the “utility of expressing certain traits” (p. 4). As a result, SJTs map onto personality measures, which are a summary of behavior across time and situations. SJTs provide predictive validity in part because they tap into personality. However, rather than renaming SJTs, it is possible to reintroduce the concept of a situation to provide even greater predictive power. Thus, the goals of this commentary are to (a) clarify what constitutes a situation, (b) describe what SJTs might actually measure, and (c) set forth a path for a taxonomy of workplace situations.

Corresponding author
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nicolas A. Brown, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33433. E-mail:
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D. C. Funder (2006). Towards a resolution of the personality triad: Persons, situations, and behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 2134.

G. Johns (2006). The essential impact of context on organizational behavior. Academy of Management Review, 31, 386408.

J. F. Rauthmann (2012). You say the party is dull, I say it's lively: A componential approach to how situations are perceived to disentangle perceiver, situation, and perceiver × situation variance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 519528.

J. F. Rauthmann , D. Gallardo-Pujol , E. M. Guillaume , E. Todd , C. N. Nave , R. A. Sherman , . . . D. C. Funder , (2014). The Situational Big Eight: Taxonomizing major dimensions of situation characteristics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107, 677718.

J. F. Rauthmann , R. A. Sherman , & D. C. Funder (2015a). New horizons in research on psychological situations and environments. European Journal of Personality, 29, 363381.

D. G. Serfass , & R. A. Sherman (2013). Personality and the perceptions of situations from the Thematic Apperception Test. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 708718.

R. A. Sherman , C. S. Nave , & D. C. Funder (2013). Situational construal is related to personality and gender. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 114.

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Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • ISSN: 1754-9426
  • EISSN: 1754-9434
  • URL: /core/journals/industrial-and-organizational-psychology
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