Psychometric Tests: Logical or Astrological?
You must have seen Facebook personality quizzes which, through short questionnaires, tell you which type of garlic bread you are or which movie character you would be if you were one. If you have taken one of these quizzes, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that you enjoyed them and most often than not, show them off on your timeline. It’s quite normal. Merely entertainment. But when it comes to the label “Psychometric Test”, people tend to throw all doubts out the window and take the results sincerely and seriously.
There is a thin line between entertainment and belief. Before you do cross that line and start believing in these tests and their results, wouldn’t you want to check into its reliability and accuracy beforehand?
Psychometrics is a field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement. While we are not going to get into Psychology itself, we are going to look into the process of psychometrics and the reliability of its empirical measurements of psychology and the human mind.
The map is not the land.
A map of an area or place isn’t the land it is depicting. Many psychometric tests are instruments and procedures designed to measure intelligence, traits, behaviour and personality. One popular such test is the Myer Briggs test. Now what one needs to keep in mind is that what the test is, does not equal to what the theory is. When in fact the theory of personality is more important than the actual tests to measure it. Our understanding of personality is a conceptual or theoretical one. It is a qualitative understanding and thereby it does not rely on the empirical evidence of a test being able to measure it. In short, the test is not the theory. However modern psychometric tests consist of varied subtests that tap diverse aspects of the loosely defined intelligence construct.
Any test requires it to be reliable and valid.
The test takers can easily sway the result in the desired direction as the answer options are quite suggestive of how they would affect the result. And so it relies on your honesty in answering the test as well as your mood at the time of taking the test.
All theories are wrong but some are more useful than others.
In science, if results are positive the theory is supported and the measure is validated. On the other hand, a negative result may mean that the theory is wrong, the measure is poor, or both. Such a dichotomous decision is part of the bedrock of science. However generally in science, just about any question can be associated with confirmations and falsifications as there are mountains of oversimplifications that are assumed with regard to any theory. Rarely does a single experiment lead to rejection of a theory; instead the process of theory development is much more gradual and social. This fact validates the Jungian cognitive functions based tests as they have been around for a while. But psychometrics cannot be proved false or positive.
The Belief Psychology
Blind faith is dangerous. It affects one, alters her/him and eventually, controls her/him. For example, if a businessman believes in astrology and his astrologer tells him to not make big investments and wait for the position of a certain planet to incline with the moon, he would deliberately not entertain even the opportunities that he knows could reap out huge profits. In a similar scenario, a student might stop considering a field that requires him to talk if one of the tests tell him that he’s an introvert and should consider jobs requiring less interaction. But humans don’t work that way. We are too complex to be consistent in different situations at different points of time.
Even though we are all supposed to be unique and complex creatures, each capable of doing different things to different degrees, we all find some amount of truth in the results of not just psychometric tests but also, astrology, fortune telling (think cookies!), and aura reading.
There is a plausible explanation to why this happens: the Forer Effect (a.k.a. the Barnum effect). The Forer effect in psychology refers to the gullibility of people while reading descriptions of themselves.
For example, when psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave out a psychology test to his students, he told them that each would get a personality sketch based on their results. But instead, he gave them all the same sketch with points like “You have a tendency to be critical of yourself” and “You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.” These statements are applicable to most people if not all of them. Hence it isn’t surprising that his students rated the accuracy of the test as 4.26 on a scale of 0(very poor) to 5(excellent).
What are your views on psychometric tests? Are they astrological predictions? Or scientific hypothesis? Comment and share with us.