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Abstract

This study investigates the personality processes involved in the debate surrounding the use of cognitive ability tests in college admissions. In Study 1, 108 undergraduates (Mage = 18.88 years, 60 women, 80 Whites) completed measures of social dominance orientation (SDO), testing self-efficacy, and attitudes regarding the use of cognitive ability tests in college admissions; SAT/ACT scores were collected from the registrar. Sixty-seven undergraduates (Mage = 19.06 years, 39 women, 49 Whites) completed the same measures in Study 2, along with measures of endorsement of commonly presented arguments about test use. In Study 3, 321 American adults (Mage = 35.58 years, 180 women, 251 Whites) completed the same measures used in Study 2; half were provided with facts about race and validity issues surrounding cognitive ability tests. Individual differences in SDO significantly predicted support for the use of cognitive ability tests in all samples, after controlling for SAT/ACT scores and test self-efficacy and also among participants who read facts about cognitive ability tests. Moreover, arguments for and against test use mediated this effect. The present study sheds new light on an old debate by demonstrating that individual differences in beliefs about hierarchy play a key role in attitudes toward cognitive ability test use.