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A Psychological Report is Literally a Mind on Paper

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In psychological assessment, there is a tension between oral and written language. This tension is rarely troubled or even noted in clinical practice. For report writing purposes, psychologists routinely transform oral, socially embedded material into written texts. In this paper, I highlight three points in the psychological assessment process where this transformation occurs: one during testing, the second in the analysis and interpretation phase, and the third while writing the final report. As written language is not oral language put on paper, a conceptual linguistic leap is needed that has the potential to subtly distort how the minds of others are represented and constructed. Furthermore, there are literary aspects of scientific psychological report writing that are often invisible to both writers and readers, which leads to additional distortions. Underlying the above-noted conceptual leap is the assumption that the borderline between oral and written language is porous and the principles and rules of each are interchangeable. Some alternative approaches to psychological assessment are offered that acknowledge the specific nature of oral and written language.

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Correspondence to Maria I. Medved.

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Appendix A

Appendix A

Transcription Conventions


Speech that is louder than surrounding speech

Italics :

Increase in pitch

Underlining :



Prolongation of proceeding vowel

>  < ::

 Slow down talk

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Medved, M.I. A Psychological Report is Literally a Mind on Paper. Interchange (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10780-020-09388-z

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  • Assessment
  • Report-writing
  • Psychology
  • Literacy
  • Testing