Sunday, August 02, 2009

Testing For Flaws

The first time I encountered a Personalysis type test was in high school. We had a career counselor come in to advise on career options that were best aligned to our intellectual abilities (measured by an IQ test) and our personality. The IQ test was one thing but the other battery designed to reveal the real me really got my goat. The woman who administered the test had this smug look about her that suggested that she'd tease out every last secret from our souls because she was a psychologist and had the tools to be able to do so. When you are in your teens and believe that you have it all figured out, for an adult to come across with that kind of attitude is a open invitation to fight.

So I answered the test that was supposed to reveal the "real" person behind my facade as misleadingly as I could. For every honest answer, there were ten others that were not. In hopes of making things more confusing for her, I did my best to randomize the pattern of my inaccurate responses. After the test was done, when I compared notes with my compadres, I was delighted to find that almost everyone else had taken the test the way I had. We gloated over our cleverness and our ability to game the very system designed to "help" us.

When the results came out, we were surprised that the findings were not as far off the mark as we would have wanted them to be. It was a mirror (even if considerably grimy) held up to our true selves. I briefly wondered what might have been revealed if I had taken the test the way it was meant to be - if the findings could have actually been helpful.

This article about an online test that would predict an individual's probability of suffering depression piqued my interest. Looking at the questions reminded me of what I had found annoying about that personality test from years ago. There is very little imagination is what is asked and how it is asked. Anyone can tell the difference between a "good" and "bad" answer. No one wants to viewed or be identified negatively - acceptance of problem is half the battle won.

There would be no need for a test if people were so willing to come out and ask for help when they needed it. A good test in my mind should be designed with a lot more finesse. The questions should offer no clues whatsoever into their intent and similarly the answers should not be recognized as good or bad. A test is worthless when the subject of the test is so readily able to manipulate it.

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