Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peronality Tests

I did a very strange thing the other day apparently without realising at the time how abberant my actions were.

I went through a statement -scale agreement response personality test and answered everything with complete honesty.

The situation was not directly position related and I had no one to impress. I had neither nervousness nor excitement.

Now before in life as a job candidate I had both nerves and excitement and a deal of performance angst. I felt often very driven to have come so long in an interview process as to have the DISC test applied to me.

In the recent test, the most comprehensive I have had, I was relaxed and interested in exploring how extreme or non chalant my actual feeling based reactions would be.

I answered by in large also in the middle ground, "slightly agree" and the other side with only a very few what I would consider outlyers.

How I scored: well a hell of a lot more self centered and unstable than you would hear from any of my references and family. In fact I scored as down right antisocial, with no real need for much human contact in the work place, and recommended to take up laboratory work. Very far from the truth.

However, the extremes of the scale, are not actually that extreme and do not represent outlyers in the population.

Not Alone in Being a Psychographic A-Hole

Some years ago Scottish Enterprise decided that the country need to identify the "right stuff" which highly successful entrpreneurs had: people like Tom Farmer and Michelle Mone. Now they tested several successful, self made business people with some kind of "instrument", quite possibly like the NEO PI-R, and unfortuntely, Scottish Enterprise would have rather kept the results to themselves. What they uncovered, as was leaked later, was that many top Scottish ( and I presume no difference on an international basis) entrepreneurs were really quite unsavoury types: egocentric, aggressive, insecure, narcissitic....the leak went on but was PR dammage limited.

Basically they couldn't really go out and advetise for "WANTED Ruthless, self centred - control freaks to lead the Scottish Economic Revolution", which in all truth of the light of the profiles, may well have been the end result of being honest in marketing comms for a change!

The point being that these self made millionaires have nothing to lose in answering honestly. You see where I am going with this....

Understanding How Personality Tests Work

Even since times of the Greeks, personality traits have been grouped into four or five major categories, and the in ancient Athens people would be described by their predominant, expressed or percieed trait as one of four: Phlegmatic, Choleric, Sanguine or Melancholic.

Now in modern times psychologists have been able to organise "instruments" to measure the key personality trait categories: These have been by in large built from studying in detail a small group of diverse people to describe many aspects of their personality-. From these the "instrument" : a list of statements, questions or adjectives and measuring how they then answer to these. The tools are then condensed into less than 250 statements and later they have been compressed even lower to aroudn 60-70 as the key capture mechanism for job interview scenarios.

Often the original study group demonstrated strong traits or abnormal, even psychotic personality disorders. Hence the intial results were highly polar. Further candidates with a range of normal, definable personalities : most likely students and residents in the cities the Universities or institutions reside in.

Once the tools then were validated on this well characterised set of personalities, then it could be used to gather a normal distribution of answers from the population as a whole. Thus an average score within each of the categories coudl be produced, and therefore the original scores compared to this. The tool's wider validity could be estabished or fine tuned for results with averages which did not concur with normal or abnormal score-profiles.

What does this mean for me??

It means you are compared to how Mr Average responds : now in fact Mr Average does not respond in the middle scores to everything. Also if you take the profiling overall, there is not an average distribution of people between each of the five traits.

This also varies by nation, and probably region and of course sub culture especially religious groups. For national markets at least, a new normalised set of respondents must be taken through the test to produce the base lines.

How boring is Mr Average? The Problem with Self Projection

Well in fact Mr Average is quite a nice guy : according to him or miss average's self image.

There in lies the whole problem when you apply these tests to the whole population in a job seeking or even laborotory condition. The rose tinted mirror, the ideal self starts to poke out.

People lie. they fib about how nice or assertive or clever they are by choosing adjectives or interval-scale answers which they know will paint them in the light they would like to be seen in.

Two retorts I hear

1) >There are lie detectors in these tests
2) > The averaging out by sheer volume will mean the outliers are still easy to spot

To answer to one; yes, there are both lie detectors and measures for inconsistency leading to void profiles, but in general you will not activate these by just answering a little bitty rose tinted.

Averaging out by volume:

So if you are in a kind of laid back state of mind, beware: you may start to lie far enough away from Mr Average you may end up being on the verge of a neurotic unemployable: or worse, a reclusive psychopath.

People who read these are trained to look for deviation from mean and the pattern.

WHat is interesting to me is how the different patterns plot across the averages. This is a very shakey area of statistics because you cannot take an average of averages. You can though look at the conjoint analysis or adherence between different personality types and how categories of profiles behave around the different individual point averages.

My point to summarise is that it is easy to deviate from Mr Nice with his rose tinted windows, and your own truthful response will start to be an outlyer, beyond the usual response mean.

Hey! Be nice out there.

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