History of The Highlands Ability Battery


The Highlands Ability Battery traces its history back to the pioneering studies begun more than seventy-five years ago by Johnson O'Connor, a research scientist who devoted his work life to the study of innate human abilities. O'Connor perceived that every individual is born with a pattern of abilities unique to him or her, that those abilities are essentially hard-wired and that they can be measured successfully when the individual is sufficiently mature to manifest or express them — usually, after the age of fourteen.


O'Connor developed a series of laboratory tests requiring the client to perform a number of hands-on tasks. The tasks were performed before a test administrator. They were designed to test and measure the client's basic aptitudes — ability to work with figures and symbols; color perception; inductive reasoning; analytical reasoning; idea flow; numerical aptitude; structural visualization; musical aptitude; manual dexterity; and memory. The individual tasks were timed. Timing separated those clients who were able to perform a given task easily from those who required more time and application.


As the work by O'Connor progressed, a group of O'Connor researchers conceived of the idea of translating the O'Connor laboratory tests onto paper and pencil. They worked over many years to devise tasks on paper which would measure the same essential abilities and produce the same essential results as in the O'Connor laboratory. Their work finally resulted in a battery of tests which ultimately required the performance of twenty-one different tasks. Over time, these tasks came to be known as work samples.


In completing their paper and pencil battery, these researchers contributed a new and exciting perception — that a valid assessment of innate abilities did not require attendance at a designated laboratory but could be done anywhere that a paper and pencil test could be administered by trained personnel. Further, the tests could be scored empirically and without intervening interpretation by the person administering the test. Over time, norms could be calculated and applied to assure reliability.


During the 1980's, the paper and pencil test was administered to clients in the Washington, DC area by a number of practitioners trained in its use. In the early 1990's, the test and its enthusiastic reception by clients came to the attention of two men in Atlanta, one with a background in psychology and the other, an entrepreneur who understood the potential for training affiliates nationwide in the administration of the test and in the use of the test in a variety of contexts.


They saw that the test could be used effectively by high school and college students who need guidance in their choice of studies and careers; by adults who seek insights towards a career change, or to better performance or greater satisfaction in their jobs, or, simply, to an unbiased assessment of their true abilities; or by groups of workers in a common corporate or institutional setting who can be helped to restructure their work habits and their relationships to achieve greater group performance and to minimize stress.


In 1992, these men acquired the rights to use the paper and pencil test developed by the O'Connor researchers and set out to develop the enterprise which is now embodied in the Highlands Company. Over the next eight years, they trained scores of affiliates to administer the paper and pencil test, to interpret the results, and to deliver an analytical and instructive feedback to each client.


In 1994, the Company contracted with an independent consultant who was director of the graduate program in organizational psychology at a major state university to design a study of the reliability and validity of each of the work samples comprising the Battery. The study reviewed the results of 298 test participants, 146 males and 152 females. Most were either college graduates or college students. The results showed individual test reliabilities ranging from .83 to .95. The Company has also done a series of validity studies which show strong evidence of convergent validity. In all, there is strong and convincing evidence for reliability and validity of the paper and pencil Battery.


Beginning in 1997, the Company devoted its energies and resources to development of a computerized version of the Battery. That version is now embodied in the Highlands CD Battery, consisting of eighteen work samples and a measure of vocabulary, replicating the tasks on the paper and pencil test. The CD enables each client to complete the test on his own PC and to obtain a bar chart and report displaying and analyzing his or her scores electronically. At the same time, the report is transmitted to the test administrator, who incorporates the result in the feedback which follows.


Since the introduction of the Highlands CD battery in 1999, more than 4200 individuals have completed the Battery. Their results were recently tabulated in a study of norms conducted by the Chauncey Group, an affiliate of the Educational Testing Service.


In 2001, ownership of the Highlands Company was acquired by a new group of investors who are dedicated to the continuing development of the Highlands Ability Battery. 


© 2002 The Highlands Company