The Psychiatry Of Psychometrics

Friday, May 08, 2009

W (that’s his name – trust me), my friend, sent me a 10 scenario, multiple-response, determine your ‘Sanity Quotient’ on a 0-100 score-scale, kind of a questionnaire earlier this week. This is called the Dr. Phil test.

W, my friend, is the first W to have happened to the English alphabet. The other 4 W’s (who, where, when and why) came much later. While the psychiatry behind W and who, where, when and why he is called W will unfold in the 106th episode of “Fursat Friday”, my Sanity Quotient, which I duly determined after I ticked on those responses to the 10 scenarios in the Questionnaire, unduly gave me what most Psychometric instruments duly give you – a severe headache, pain in an already feeble heart connected to my posterior through an array of nerves, bones and blood, shooting my already high blood pressure higher, stressing me out to no end and sinking me deeper into the great depression, caused for a year now by the western disturbances.

I scored 21, which is the lowest that anyone sane could score. And that meant that my ‘friends’ see me as ‘painstaking and fussy’; as ‘very cautious’ and ‘extremely careful’; a ‘slow and steady plodder’. It would really surprise them if I ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment; and they would expect me to ‘examine’ everything carefully from every angle and then usually decide against it.

And because 21 is a borderline score, Dr. Phil advised me to look at the other side of 21 too – which read no less than a ghastly ghost story that would demean the most sane in the northern hemisphere. It read – ‘people’ think I am shy, nervous, and indecisive; someone who needs looking after (assylum – here I come), who always wants someone else to make the decisions and who doesn’t want to get involved with anyone or anything! They see me as a worrier who always sees problems that don’t exist (hallucination – schizophrenia). Some people (am I glad it’s not all?) think I am boring. Only those who know me well know that I am not (thank Phil for small mercies)!

Phew… Phil – you got me there!

My first brush with psychometrics was when my first girlfriend asked me to take a ‘compatibility test’ a few moons ago to determine if we could live happily ever after. Both of us passed the ‘test’ with flying colors – so much so that the passion of the colors – flying or otherwise – would put the brochures of Asian Paints and other color and paint companies to some definitive terminal shame. Both of us scored extremely high and the results of this ‘test’ were touted open in the college campus as the next best thing to happen to the world of psychometrics, in which the most conclusive relationships were formed and endured till eternity, by the power of a 50 question ‘compatibility test’.

My girlfriend and I parted ways 4 months and 14 days later. We are living happily ever after in our own, respective, current relationships, based on the psychometric power of a DET (Daily Endurance Test)!

W and a few of my other friends – largely in the Venus dominion – are psychometric freaks. Fraught with an obsession to prove you are God’s gift to humankind – or just exactly the opposite – as the mood may be, they would frequently subject you to a variety of ‘tests’. There are occasions when I dread these tests more than my math exams when I was in school. Once the results are pompously published, my relationships take a new turn with them – swinging anywhere between bosom friendship to buxom hatred. Till the next ‘test’ brings us together on the plane of sanity.

And the range of these psychometric tests is amazing. Personality tests top the charts. Aptitude tests are a close second. If you are in your teens, as I was when I was in college, and if you are serious with your life, you take career aptitude tests. If you are really serious with your life at that stage, you take ‘compatibility tests’ – as I did. And they come with all kinds of nomenclature – ‘Romantic Chemistry’, ‘Passion Quotient’, ‘Live your Libido’ etc. If you are in organisations – like I am, the HR folks – like me, have a plethora of ‘validated’ and ‘well-researched’ ‘tools’, ‘instruments’, ‘inventories’ (‘tests’ is politically incorrect in organisations) that are lined up to psyche you every now and then – depending largely on how you and the business interact with each other. There are the ‘ease you in’ and ‘ease you out’ psychometrics (read hiring and firing); there are ‘development drill and drain’ psychometrics (read emotional intelligence); ‘are you worth your job’ psychometrics (read role evaluation); and when all else fails, you have ‘customer asked me to sack you’ psychometrics (read Customer Satisfaction surveys and IVR feedback).

The most interesting part in the questionnaires is the questions themselves. Take Dr. Phil for instance. One of the 10 questions asks you : When you are in bed at night, in those last few moments before going to sleep, you lie…

a) stretched out on your back

b) stretched out face down on your stomach

c) on your side, slightly curled

d) with your head on one arm

e) with your head under the covers…

Trust me, in the last 12 years that I have been married, it has been none of the above. That’s purely because when I was born, I did not have my wife sleeping next to me – because of which, I had developed this funny habit of twisting myself up in the air and putting both my feet in my mouth – which had unfortunately stuck on for a long time till I got married. Then my wife brought me down to earth… er… literally!

Getting into the psychiatry of psychometrics can get quite psychic – especially if you know how to con these instruments. Yes you can con – if you are like me – with a few certifications in your bag to administer and run these instruments on others and have fun.

Till I take the next Dr. Phil ‘test’…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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