The feasibility of incorporating research results
from cognitive science into the modeling of
performance on psychometric tests and the construction
of test items is considered, particularly
the feasibility of modeling performance on a three-dimensional
rotation task within the context of
item response theory (IRT). Three-dimensional
items were selected because of the rich literature
on the mental models that are used in their solution.
An 80-item, three-dimensional rotation test
was constructed. An inexpensive computer system
was also developed to administer the test and
record performance, including response-time data.
Data were collected on high school juniors and
seniors. As expected, angular disparity was a
potent determinant of item difficulty. The applicability
of IRT to these data was investigated by
dichotomizing response time at increasing elapsed
times, and applying standard item parameter
estimation procedures. It is concluded that this
approach to psychometric modeling, which explicitly
incorporates information on the mental
models examinees use in solving an item, is workable
and important for future developments in psychometrics.
Index terms: cognitive psychology,
continuous response, item response theory, mental
rotation, response latency.