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A Lens Model Analysis of Vocational Interests

James Athanasou
Sydney, Australia

The purpose of this research is to analyze which components of an occupation contribute to an individual's self-judgment of likes or dislikes.

Adult participants (N=12) were administered the RAMAK interest inventory (Meir & Osipow, 1993) which is a 72-item questionnaire containing occupational titles such as flight attendant, research assistant, executive director, stage hand, shop employee, and geologist.

Participants judged whether they liked, disliked or were indifferent to the occupations, and results are provided as scores ranging from 0 to 18 for eight nominal categories (Business, Organization, General Culture, Science, Arts and Entertainment, Outdoor, Science, Technology).

These same occupations are being rated independently in terms of key occupational descriptors for Australian occupations. The occupational descriptors include qualifications, literacy, numeracy, physical strength, on the job training, activities, interests, competencies, and labor market characteristics.

A single lens model analysis will be used to capture the idiosyncratic policies adopted to produce each person's pattern of likes and dislikes. Unlike earlier research, the aim is not to combine the results into scale scores, but to analyze which components of an occupation are responsible for the judgment of liking or disliking. The research seeks to use the lens model to answer the question, "What does it mean when I say I might be interested in an occupation?"

The findings have implications for the assessment of vocational interests, which is currently almost exclusively conducted by self-report inventories. The extent of this is that one major publisher proudly announces that over 21 million copies of its particular interest questionnaire have been sold. Such questionnaires rely exclusively upon self-judgments of a "latent trait."

Secondly, the nature of the construct of interest is being addressed in this judgment approach which contrasts with the typical nomothetic approach to the assessment of interests. It is hypothesized that judgments of interest, liking or disliking are so idiosyncratic as to encompass wide individual perceptions and referents.

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