The American Psychological Association says there is no sound reason for banning pre-employment tests seeking to determine whether potential employees are honest.

In a study reporting on the work of a 2-year-old task force looking at the use of paper-and-pencil honesty tests, the APA Task Force on the Prediction of Dishonesty and Theft in Employment Settings concluded that "there is no sound basis for prohibiting their development and use."Indeed, the task force said, banning such tests would "only invite alternative forms of pre-employment screening that would be less open, scientific and controllable."

Employers have been expressing growing concern about what they see as an escalating problem of dishonesty, especially theft, among their workers and have been turning to the use of tests as a means of testing the honesty of potential workers.

As with other forms of testing, the paper-and-pencil honesty quizzes have generated fierce debates as to their validity, and the task force acknowledged it continues to have a number of reservations.

In addition, the APA acknowledged that some of the task force's findings are contrary to those of a report released last fall by the Office of Technology Assessment, an arm of the Congress, that reported that the potential for the "integrity tests" being used to label people "dishonest" warranted subjecting them to to higher standards than other employment tests.

"APA's task force found no compelling arguments for holding such tests to higher scientific, technical or test use standards than other types of tests and instruments used to aid in decisions about employment," said Wayne Camara, director of scientific affairs for the APA.

Jim Powell, a director of the Association of Personnel Test Publihers, a trade association of test publishing firms, welcomed the APA study, saying it "now verifies what the clients of our member companies have known for many years - that these tests are valid, free of adverse impact and address a serious business concern."

According to the task force, while no evidence of validity exists for some of the honesty tests, extensive research has been completed for a few of the measures being sold to companies and that research supports their ability to accurately predict aspects of personal integrity, dependability and trustworthiness.

But, it said, even for those tests, publishers "have relied on the cloak of proprietary interests to withhold information concerning the development and scoring of the tests, along with other basic psychometric information."

"The entire field of honesty testing would benefit greatly from substantially increased openness," the task force report said.