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Pearman – Not your Common-or-Garden Personality Test

Pearman

This is not your Common-or-Garden Personality Test.

Today I’d like to delve into a more advanced psychometric test – one that promises to be the end of personality ‘stereo’ types.

If you’d like more of an intro into psychometrics before getting into this article, check out my first post here:

“Why bother with psychometrics?”

I think we’re in an exciting time for psychometrics (but of course I would say that!). There are quite a few new developments that seek to resolve some of the ‘traditional’ problems with personality testing – and have no doubt, proper personality testing is a science and must evolve as it is faced with new information. As the late, great professor Hawking once said, “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”.

I’ll talk about some of these new evolutions today in the context of the new-and-tasty psychometric test, the Pearman Personality Integrator.

 

About the Pearman

The Pearman Personality Integrator was developed by Dr. Roger (wait for it) Pearman, a professional coach and long-time user and researcher of personality type.Pearman

I don’t doubt that in his many years of coaching, Dr. Pearman got to know personality type intimately – and so he’s perhaps one of the best placed people to develop ‘type’ further based on his coaching practice. With that said, the Pearman is not strictly about personality, as its full name gives away. It is a personality integrator – within the same test, it begins with personality and integrates it with our behaviour and our genuine actions at work. As such, I think it has something in common with both the Belbin and MBTI which I’ve covered earlier.

 

Why develop a new personality test, and what makes it different?

A lot of personality tests ask you questions ‘in a vacuum’ – to consider yourself ‘in general’ or in one generic context such as ‘at work’, but this presents a bit of a conundrum. Do you always behave in the way you indicate on the answer sheet? For instance, if you were asked, “How often do you take charge of a group?”, you might be thinking any of the following:

  1. “I like taking charge, and I get to do it a lot of the time”.
  2. “I’m sometimes okay with taking charge, but I’m not a particular fan of it”.
  3. “I do like taking charge, but I only get to do it in very specific situations”.

If you were to think option 1, great! However, if you were to think of options 2 or 3, you have very different ideas, but either way, your answer to the question might be “sometimes”. Hopefully you can see why this could be an issue.

The Pearman’s solution to this is to add an extra dimension to the question. How natural is the behaviour for you, versus how often do you actually behave in that way?. Here’s an example:

Pearman Sample

Now the distinction can be made clear. Option 2 above would be ‘Neutral’ and only ‘Sometimes’, whilst Option 3 might be ‘Natural’ but still only ‘Sometimes’. In one sense then, the Pearman is accounting for both your underlying personality and your external behaviour – both parts of ‘the egg’.

Much like the MBTI, these questions coalesce to give you a type. Rather than a strict code like ‘ENFJ’, though, they are presented as traits: both for your natural style and your demonstrated behaviour. For instance, while I get an ‘ENFJ’ result on the MBTI, on the Pearman I am 89 E, 93 N and 72 F – meanwhile my demonstrated style is 63 I, 69 N and 63 T. If you like the simplicity of the MBTI types, you could say I’m naturally ENF but I often work as INT.

The astute among you might have noticed the fourth letter has mysteriously vanished – rather than treat this as a separate axis, instead the ‘Sensing’/’Intuiting’ axis is considered the ‘perceiving’ function and the ‘Thinking’/’Feeling’ axis is the ‘judging’ function.

What does this all mean in practice? Well, my natural inclination is to focus on the outside world and to initiate discussions with groups of others, but in my work one-to-one discussions are more common and there’s more of a need for careful formulation of ideas. I also favour values and empathy naturally, but my work often encourages me to be more analytical and make decisions based on logic. This naturally leads on to the next piece of the puzzle.

Pearman Integration

How do I know whether this difference is ‘safe’?

We have gone one step beyond the MBTI in that we can see how someone’s natural style and behaviour style differ. But when those styles are different, how much pressure is the person put under? Is, say, an ENT thinker comfortable working in an INF way or does that cause them stress?

The Pearman also includes a section called the FlexIndex: Rather than assess personality, the FlexIndex looks at the different skills and preferences you have that enable you to work in a flexible way, on five different scales. Here’s a handy diagram to give you an introduction:

Pearman FlexIndex

This is a very important piece, since it can reveal not just how good you are at coping with different styles, but where exactly the strain comes from, and what you might do in order to make working in different styles easier to accomodate and less stressful – since we will undoubtedly all need to do that from time to time.

 

So what’s the next step?

As usual, when you take the Pearman it’s important to go beyond the psychometric test, and think about how to use the results of the test to develop yourself in your life and work.

The Belbin and MBTI which I’ve covered already are more suited to team discussions and open workshops, but the Pearman on the other hand is much more appropriate for rich personal development, which makes sense since it was designed by a professional coach. As it’s a highly detailed and somewhat technical tool, you get a comprehensive personal report which would take time to reflect upon in its entirety.

As a byproduct, the average benchmarks for natural and behavioural styles (the ‘norm groups’) are quite revealing. For instance, it’s totally normal and quite common for someone to be more extroverted (E) and feeling (F) but for their behaviour to be more introverted (I) and thinking (N) based on what’s expected of them in their lives and works.

I wonder if you fall into this category too? Perhaps this reveals something about us as a society, but that’s probably beyond the scope of this article!

 

Wrapping Up

As ever, I hope this dive into the Pearman has been interesting and not too technical to dissuade you from looking into it further.

If you or your team are interested in taking the Pearman personality integrator for an in-depth development report and conversation, give us a call on 015395 67878, e-mail us at enquiries@psyence.co, or visit our website at www.psyence.co. We are also planning to run accredited training courses on delivering the Pearman, so please also let us know if you’re interested in learning to use this tool and we can give you more information.

And if you have any questions or comments about this week’s article, please do get in touch on Linked In or Twitter, Tweet at @dovenestjacob, or e-mail me at Jacob.minihan@dovenest.co.uk.

Next time, I’ll talk about another tool under the badge of MHS, the EQ-I 2.0, looking in depth at emotional intelligence: a workable, developable way of using your personality in the workplace. If you’re a current user of EQ-i, you might also like to know there is a crossover module in Pearman, to link the personality results to the EQ-i for additional insights.

 

Jacob Minihan

Psychologist

Psyence & Dove Nest Group

 

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Belbin for Breakfast

Belbin Team Roles

Belbin for Breakfast

Good morning and I hope you’ve had a great breakfast today. But what do the Belbin Team Roles have to do with a fried egg?

If you’d like more of an intro into psychometrics before getting into this article, check out my first Monday Morning Metrics article here:

“Why bother with psychometrics?”

As I mentioned in my MBTI article, looking at our personalities at work is interesting and useful – but personality tends to change very slowly. So, while personality testing can still be a revealing exercise, when it comes to developing yourself, we often need to look further: Not just at our personalities, but the ways we use our personalities in the workplace.

Belbin Team Roles

This is one of the goals of the Belbin Team Profiles, developed by Dr. Meredith Belbin who still works at the company today. While it looks similar to a personality tool, but the Belbin instead measures behaviour: or rather, your preferred ways of behaving at work.

These preferences are influenced by your personality, of course, but vary depending on lots of other things, like your work culture, your status, and what you had for breakfast. So, whilst it’s usually a negative for a personality test to vary on the situational context, instead the Belbin embraces this variation. Obviously this means your Belbin results might vary massively when you do them at different stages of your life and work – but since the real goal here is to is to look at how we actually go about working with each other to get results, the situational stuff is perhaps just as important as what goes on underneath.

 

This is where the egg comes in.

Think of the yolk of the egg as your personality. It is relatively fixed in its shape and tends to sit at the centre. Around this, though, the egg whites, your behaviour and communication, tend to run and flow and fit whatever shape they are required to – but of course some shapes are more natural for them to fit than others.

Also unlike the MBTI, the Belbin tests traits rather than typeswhich is usually regarded as the preferred way of doing things nowadays. For instance, rather than being either a ‘Coordinator’ or not a ‘Coordinator’, you receive a score from 0 up to 100 on how natural that behaviour is for you. For example, if you score only a 10, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad at Coordinating – but rather that it’s not a natural behaviour for you and might require more effort from you if you have to work in that style.

 

So, what are the nine Belbin Team Roles?

Belbin Team Role Circles

Rather than repeat what’s already written, I’d like to link you to this nice summary page from the Belbin website which introduces you to each of the nine team roles. While reading these, have a think about which roles you tend to gravitate to the most in your work, and which ones you prefer avoiding:

The 9 Belbin Team Roles

I’ve plotted my own Belbin profile on this handy egg diagram below.

The styles very close to the yolk – my personality – like Resource Investigator and Coordinator are the ones I score highly on, and working in these ways are natural and easy for me. In fact, I’m investigating resources for you right now as you’re reading my blog.

Belbin Team Roles Egg Diagram

The styles further away, like Completer-Finisher and Monitor Evaluator are those that I’m probably still able to do, but which would require substantially more effort from me and might cause me more stress if I had to carry on working in these ways long-term. Roles like Plant and Shaper are not really suitable for me (hence not part of my egg at all) – and are working styles I should avoid if possible!

 

Three uses for the Belbin Team Roles

Now that I have my Belbin results, what happens next? As with any psychometric, looking at the results individually can be useful and interesting, but the Belbin results come to life in team sessions where you can learn and make changes on how everyone works together.

When running Belbin across the a team, for instance, you might encounter any of these three scenarios:

  • Maybe no one in your team is a natural Coordinator, so somebody is already (unconsciously) picking up that role. You can explore how it feels for someone to be put into that role, and what extra support they might need.
  • Maybe you are all Resource Investigators! You might discuss the risks of always gravitating to that style even when it might not be effective, and what other strengths each of you bring to the team.
  • Maybe you are looking at hiring someone. You notice that your team doesn’t have a strong Implementer – so you might consider looking for a candidate with a preference for that role. They are likely to integrate well and bring something new.

As I’ve mentioned before though, don’t ever put your entire recruitment or development drive behind the psychometric – but when you use it as part of a balanced assessment or a development workshop, it can be invaluable.

 

Wrapping Up

I hope that overview of the Belbin was useful and interesting. What are your views on the Belbin? Does embracing the situational context like this work, or is it inaccurate? If you have questions or comments, please do get in touch on Linked In or Twitter, Tweet at @dovenestjacob, or e-mail me at Jacob.minihan@dovenest.co.uk.

Next time, I plan to go back into the world of personality testing and look at the Pearman Personality Integrator – another test based on Jung’s theories, like the MBTI, but taking a novel and interesting approach!

If you or your team are interested in taking the Belbin Team Roles, give us a call on 015395 67878, e-mail us at enquiries@psyence.co, or visit our website at www.psyence.co.

 

Jacob Minihan

Psychologist

Psyence & Dove Nest Group

 

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2018 DOP Conference Occupational Psychologists are Human Too

2018 DOP Annual Conference: Occupational Psychologists are human too

When I was asked to present a paper at the 2018 DOP Conference (Division of Occupational Psychologist), I was more nervous than excited. Although I provide professional support and advice to clients, it doesn’t make me immune to the normal range of emotions. Occupational Psychologists are human to. It went well, better than I had worked myself up for and everyone around me. I left with a feeling of achievement and excitement. When’s the next one?

Hurray!

Start at the Beginning

The DOP Conference is the UK conference choice for Occupational Psychologists. Under the banner of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the three-day event brought together members of the division and other relevant professionals to engage in personal and professional development by gaining insight into current ideas and research through presentations, workshops and other learning approaches. Not to forget, celebrating the value that we offer as occ psychs through social dinners with a dance and drink or two.

Evolution or Revolution

This year’s theme was ‘Evolution +/or Revolution’, this fitted nicely with my own research of ‘the development of a competency framework for the role of an occupational psychologist’. I felt both proud and honoured to be able to get the chance to share my work with my peers, along with the wide range of academics and professionals from across the world of occupational psychology. However, this account is reflective of my feelings after the presentation, leading up to the presentation, I was no more than a complete nervous wreck.

Having to present information to some form of audience is nothing new to me, however, presenting my own research to an audience of very knowledgeable and experienced professionals within the Occ Psych world was. On the day of my presentation I had a long wait as my spot was the last of the day. My worries throughout the day were ‘my research isn’t good enough’, ‘what if others don’t that see the value in my work’ and ‘I just want to get this over with’. For those who I expressed this worry too endlessly, I apologise, I now see you were completely right in saying ‘it will be fine’, ‘you will do great’, ‘don’t worry about it’. All things that before the presentation I didn’t believe. To you guys, my supporters, colleagues and friends I owe you a big thank you.

The Final Presentation

Let’s move on to a happier time. When I finished my presentation and the audience applauded I felt all the things everyone had been telling me all day. ‘What on earth was I worrying about?’, ‘that was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be’ and ‘when does the gala dinner start?’. My presentation even opened new doors for my research with a possible collaboration, bonus!

With all that stress, let’s not forget the perks… What better way is there to celebrate the achievements of our profession other than a three-course gala dinner, an award ceremony, wine and live music. A wonderful conference and great people to share the experience with.

Jessica Bird

Trainee Occupational Psychologist

Psyence – part of the Dove Nest Group

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The MBTI – Love it or Hate it

The MBTI - Love it or Hate it

The MBTI – Love it or Hate it

This week, I’ll delve into one of the most popular (and sometimes controversial) personality tests in the management and business world: The MBTI. If you’d like more of an intro into psychometrics before getting into this article, check out my first Monday Morning Metrics article here:

“Why bother with psychometrics?”

 

What is the MBTI?

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases”.
– Carl Gustav Jung, the ‘Father of Personality testing’.

Carl Jung MBTI
Carl Gustav Jung

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator draws its original roots from Jung: The incredibly-quotable founder of analytical Psychology. His work has been instrumental, not just in psychology but also in literature, philosophy and religious studies. Most importantly for us though, he was the pioneer of psychological type: The idea that we are not all created alike. Every one of us has unique and measurable differences in the way we think and interact with the world around us.

Jung’s ideas were developed into an actual personality test by the also-highly-quotable Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother Katherine Briggs (hence the name Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), in order to make Jung’s theories useful for everyday life.

This article is split into two parts. First of all, I’ll explain what the MBTI is and how it works. Second, I’ll talk about some of the reasons why the MBTI is so hotly criticised – and how the users of the MBTI have reacted to the criticism and evolved the test to make up for its shortfalls. If you’re an experienced psychometrician it would be great to hear your contributions to the debate and any other key issues too.

 

Part 1: What does the MBTI do?

MBTIThe MBTI is one of the biggest tests of personality type, and it looks at how you prefer to think and interact with the world.

The word ‘type’ here is very important, as the answers you give will place you into one category or another. Traditionally there is no middle ground – for example, you are either an Extravert or an Introvert and nowhere in between (more on this later). There are four dimensions in all, resulting in a four letter type code, such as ENFJ or ISTP.

Here’s the skinny on each of these four dimensions.

While reading through these types, you might like to think about which end you tend towards, and thus a potential type you might get if you were to do the MBTI. There are several free tests you can find on google to get a ‘Myers-Briggs’ type if you like, but do note that these are not the ‘true’ MBTI test and will just provide you with an approximation which may or may not be correct (but which will probably still be interesting).

MBTI types

Extraversion | Introversion : Where do you draw your energy from?

Extraversion/Introversion is not necessarily about how sociable you are, but about how you interact with the outside world and your internal world. Extraverts draw and gain energy from people, activities and external things, whilst internal ideas and introspection require more effort from them. Introverts are the opposite, needing to spend energy on external activities and socialising whilst recovering energy from their own ruminations, emotions and impressions.

“If you don’t know what an extravert thinks, you haven’t been listening. If you don’t know what an introvert thinks, you haven’t asked them!” – Isabel Briggs Myers

Sensing | Intuition : How do you treat information you receive?

‘Sensing’ people pay more attention to physical reality, their five senses, and what is actual, present, current and real – thus they tend to focus more on facts and specific details. In contrast ‘Intuition’ people pay more attention to impressions, meaning and patterns they see in information they receive rather than focusing on specifics. At work you might expect a Sensing person to ask, “how does this impact the bottom line?” and an Intuition person to ask, “how does this relate to the bigger picture?”. You might have noticed intuition uses ‘N’ rather than ‘I’, simply because Introversion has greedily claimed that letter already.

Thinking | Feeling : How do you like to make decisions?

This pair is perhaps the most self-explanatory. Everyone uses thinking and feeling to an extent when making decisions, but the dimension is specifically about which style you prefer applying. A thinking person prefers technical and logical solutions, notices inconsistencies, but may sometimes be too task-oriented or indifferent; whereas a feeling person is concerned with harmony, compassion and mutual understanding, while sometimes coming across as idealistic or indirect.

Judging | Perceiving : How do you interact with the world?

Even if you are a staunch introvert you interact with the outside world regularly, and this pair describes how you prefer to interact. Judging individuals prefer structure and order, and are most comfortable when things are decisive and planned. Perceiving individuals, in contrast, prefer a flexible and spontaneous way of life, focusing on understanding the world rather than organising it. Don’t confuse this dimension with ‘judgement’ or ‘being perceptive’ – this is all about the level and style of organisation you are happy with.

 

To give you an example, I’m an E – N – F – P, which indicates that I gain energy from my interactions with the world around me rather than my own impressions and ideas, I pay more attention to overall patterns and the ‘big picture’ than the details, I’m concerned with harmony and mutual understanding, and I’m most comfortable working in a flexible and spontaneous environment.

According to this article, that means my personal definition of hell at work would be this:

“Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks”.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that would drive me absolutely bonkers.

Psyence are accredited practitioners of MBTI assessment and feedback, so if you or your team are interested in taking the MBTI, call us on 015395 67878, e-mail us at enquiries@psyence.co, or visit our website at www.psyence.co.

 

Part 2: Why do some people love it or hate it?

Despite its ubiquity in the management and business worlds, the MBTI is criticised by some – particularly for some ‘academic’ shortfalls (although nowadays these have been responded to pretty well).

If you read my previous article you will probably have already thought of the two criteria, reliability and validity. Well, there are no shortage of studies that support the reliability and validity of the MBTI (such as those in this PDF article), but there are quite a few studies denouncing it as well. A common criticism is that the test-retest reliability is not great: Many people who take the MBTI a second time find that their results are quite different from those they received the first time.

When this happens, it is often because someone is very close to middle-ground on one of the attributes. For instance, a person might see themselves as an Extrovert in some situations and an Introvert in others – so their type potentially fluctuates between the two. Isabel’s view on this is that “It is up to each person to recognise his or her true preferences” – in other words, it’s up to you to identify the areas with your profile that you agree with, internalise them and decide how to act upon them. The ones you disagree with are also useful, particularly if you can identify exactly why it is you disagree with them. These are perhaps also the ones more likely to fluctuate if you take the test again.

One other problem, though, is not about the MBTI itself but rather about psychological type in general: It assumes that you are one type or another instead of placing you somewhere on a scale. You are not ‘40% extravert’ or ‘72% judging’ but you are ENTJ or ISFP. In some ways this is useful, because it allows you to instantly identify as one type or another and quickly act upon the result – clearly a useful characteristic in the modern workplace. But in reality, not all ENTJs are alike… and if they were, then the human race would simply be a catalogue with 16 different models readily available for purchase.

So, how do the users of MBTI react to this?

For those reasons, the modern MBTI reports produced by Myers-Briggs company CCP, such as those used here at Dove Nest, delve into the results a little further.

In the latest versions you get a clarity score to show how strongly you identify as one type or another (for instance, a score of 40 T indicates a clear preference for ‘T’ over ‘F’ – while a score of under 10 indicates you are fairly balanced between the two), and the dimensions are also ranked according to which ones are more dominant for you.

The most dominant scores are likely to be your preferred way of interacting and solving problems at work. For example, if you are highest on ‘Sensing’ out of all, you probably start by verifying the situation and facts; what has already done by whom; what is already working. If you are highest on ‘Feeling’, your approach may be to first look at the underlying values involved; how others will react to the options; what your personal likes/dislikes about the options are.

There are also some exciting new evolutions of the MBTI – such as the Pearman Personality Integrator developed by (you guessed it) Dr. Pearman – which we are also accredited practitioners of. I’ll cover Pearman in more detail in a future article… But for now I will just say that it takes Jung’s type theories to the next level.

“Now that I’ve done the MBTI”, I hear you ask, “What needs to happen next to make the most of it?”

Three steps to get the most out of the MBTI:

  1. Complete the questionnaire, digest and understand your MBTI type.
  2. Discuss your type and its implications in a coaching session or a workshop.
  3. From the discussion, decide what changes to make in your working style and set up an action plan.

As I explained last time, the psychometric is only step 1 of the story. The results need to be digested and explored to get maximum value, and Step 2 and Step 3 is where Dove Nest come in. Looking at your dominant styles in a coaching session allows you to go into great detail on your own type and how it affects your interactions with others, in order to help you make those interactions more effective. When applied across your whole team in a workshop, it makes the differences in the way each of you thinks very clear, and poses some interesting challenges to your team about how they incorporate each other’s styles in order to make better decisions.

 

Wrapping up

I hope this whistle-stop tour of the MBTI has been interesting and useful for you! Next time I’ll be looking at the Belbin Team Roles, which measures your types of behaviour when you interact with other people at work.

If you or your team would be interested in taking the MBTI along with some coaching or a team workshop, you can post an enquiry on our website or get in touch with us at enquiries@dovenest.co.uk.

And if you have any questions or comments about this week’s article, please do get in touch on Linked In or Twitter, Tweet at @dovenestjacob, or e-mail me at Jacob.minihan@dovenest.co.uk.

 

Jacob Minihan

Psychologist

Psyence & Dove Nest Group

Credit for opening image: Name your marmite, https://social.marmite.co.uk/

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Personality Tests: Science or Witchcraft?

Morning Metrics

Personality tests: Are they science or witchcraft?

The mystical Sorting Hat of Hogwarts is an amazing tool: It instantly sees the student’s inner personality, and allows them to be placed straightaway in the house that suits them best. Wouldn’t it be great if we somehow had the same tool in our business?

I’m Jacob, a psychology postgrad, and I’ll soon be embarking on the road to becoming a chartered occupational psychologist. I’m no master of psychometrics, but I’ve spent the last year really getting to know them, and I’m writing a series to bridge a knowledge gap. Whether you are totally new to psychometric testing, or somewhat familiar and would like to learn more, I hope this will be the place for you – whether it’s just for personal interest, for your studies, or your career.

And on the other hand, if you are a psychometric expert I would love to hear from you as well. All comments and discussion are welcome, especially if they challenge my way of thinking and/or contribute to the wider community’s understanding.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be delving into particular tools in the psychometric toolkit, like the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), EQi 2.0 (Emotional intelligence Quotient), Belbin team roles: Where they came from, what their unique and nifty features are, and how they might be useful to you and your business specifically. But for this first instalment, I thought it might be good to look at psychometrics in general: What they are, why you should be using them, and how to tell if they are worth using.

Click here to read the first post – Why bother with Psychometrics?

If you’re already clued up on psychometrics and want to read more about the different tests, please do check back later as I begin to cover the most popular psychometrics used in business today through to the more obscure ones. I will start with the MBTI, one of the most widely used personality tools (and also one of the most controversial!).

If you have any burning questions at the outset, drop me a line on LinkedIn, Tweet at @dovenestjacob, or e-mail me at Jacob.minihan@dovenest.co.uk.

If you’d like to be notified when a new Monday Morning Metrics is out, please follow the Psyence linked in or twitter feeds.

You can also follow the link to opt into the ongoing Dove Nest newsletter:

Jacob Minihan

Psychologist

Psyence & Dove Nest Group

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Why bother with Psychometrics?

Why bother with psychometrics

Why bother with Psychometrics?

What is a Psychometric test?

Since the dawn of time, mankind has sought to measure things, since measuring things is useful. But we’re not always very good at it. The job of measuring physical characteristics like height, weight and so on is very easy, because there is a clearly correct answer. If we somehow get the answer wrong, we can quickly figure out why. Things like weight are obviously useful to measure, since they let us track our development when we’re growing up, and when we want to change.

But these days, great amounts of effort are put into measuring things that are much harder to measure: the time it will take to finish copying that file, the predictions of which candidate is going to win the election, and even our own psychologies: Hence the term ‘psycho’ – ‘metric’, or psychological measurement.

These things are also clearly useful to measure, just as it’s useful to measure weight, but we need more specialised tools and methods to do so. Even then we might not be able to get the answer entirely right. However, what we absolutely can do is come to an answer close enough to be useful.

This is what a psychometric test is trying to do: It’s a way of measuring the characteristics that make up ‘you’ as a person, and being accurate enough to help people decide what to do next. Very often a psychometric test is an online-or-paper exercise or questionnaire, but there are some more unusual ones out there – and the key is that they are a measurement of a psychological concept: personality, intelligence, memory, emotion, resilience, and so on.

Why should we bother with them?

There’s no doubt that psychometrics split opinions. One of the most common criticisms is that they are trying to simplify things that are actually very complex: “How can we reduce a whole person with all their thoughts, to a simple set of numbers?”. Well, guilty as charged – this criticism highlights one of the biggest limitations of a psychometric. On its own, the test can only ever give us an indication about a person. It needs to be understood, contextualised, tempered with the rest of the story.

The key element that separates a psychometric from witchcraft is a grounding in empirical science, and there are hundreds of articles and journals you can delve into to find evidence for and against each one. For instance, a cursory google search shows three great articles: Showing the misuse of psychometrics can be troublesome, but myths denouncing their use are busted, and that they contribute to making better decisions as long as the tests are backed up by good follow-ups and by people properly trained in their use.

Simply put by Voltaire, or perhaps Spiderman depending on your generation, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. If psychometrics are used like a blunt instrument, they will distort the truth. If they are used carefully and precisely, they can be invaluable.

Here is another way to look at it: Psychometrics are a set of hypotheses about you as a person. Ones you agree with are useful, as you now have the proof-in-the-pudding that you behave in that way and can take some actions as a result. Ones you disagree with are also useful because the conflict highlights a difference in the way you actively see yourself, and how you implicitly answered to the questions relating to that hypothesis. Of course, these situations can’t be explained by the data itself, and really need to be followed up on to be of any value. Thus, you will almost always see proper personality tests used in conjunction with coaching conversations, ability tests in combination with interviews, and so on.

How do we know if they are ‘good’ or not?

So, we have the justification for using a psychometric test. How do we know whether, say, the EQi 2.0 is more valuable than “which Hogwarts house are you in”?

(Ravenclaw, by the way.)

The two key words to look out for are reliability, and validity. A good psychometric will be able to support itself with reliability and validity studies when asked for. There are many different ways these two characteristics can be measured, but by & large, they refer to:

Reliability – Is it consistent? Can I take the same test several times, and expect the same results?

ValidityDoes it do what it says on the tin? If the test says I am untidy, is it true in reality?

It’s important to know that these two things are independent of each other. For instance, imagine you have a set of scales that always measures 10 pounds heavier than it should. It’s certainly reliable – every time you measure yourself on it you get consistent results, because any change is a real change and not due to the problem with the scales. But it’s certainly NOT valid – because your actual weight is 10 pounds lighter than the scales are telling you!

Wrapping up

There it is then: a short introduction into the world of psychometrics. If anything in this article inspired you to ask a question, please do comment on Linked In or Twitter, Tweet at @dovenestjacob, or e-mail me at Jacob.minihan@dovenest.co.uk.

Next time, I’ll be looking at the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI), one of the most widely used personality tools – and often considered to be one of the most controversial!

Jacob Minihan

Psychologist

Psyence & Dove Nest Group