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More On Psychology:

Via Arts & Letters Daily, there is this article on the dubious nature of personality tests. It highlights some of the ethical issues Jean and I are discussing below:

DO YOU PREFER a bath to a shower? Are you fascinated by fire? At parties, do you sometimes get bored, or always have fun? Do you sometimes feel like smashing things? Do you think Lincoln was greater than Washington? Do you feel uneasy indoors? Do you think questions like these tell us anything meaningful about ourselves, or do you think they're nothing more than parlor game fodder?

Regardless of how you answer that last one, the fact is that personality tests featuring questions like those are everywhere these days. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI, is taken by as many as 15 million people a year and used to screen applicants for jobs from police officer to nuclear technician to priest. Eighty-nine companies in the Fortune 100 use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to determine how and with whom their employees work best. The Rorschach test, the granddaddy of them all, is used diagnostically by eight out of 10 psychologists and routinely submitted as evidence in child custody cases, criminal sentencing, and emotional damage lawsuits.
I've actually taken all of these tests for various employers and potential employers (as well as IQ tests, given by certain kinds of employers in spite of the loud arguments against them). I made a point of asking about the "bath or shower?" question, and was told simply that it didn't mean anything by itself, but was factored into a matrix of dozens of questions to see if a pattern emerged.

"What pattern?" you might be inclined to ask. "Seriously, what other activity in my life forms a pattern with that? If I like baths and swimming, I'm not afraid of water; but if I prefer showers and hiking, I am? And so what? Why should any aspect of my future career be predicated on this kind of question?"

The article is far kinder than I would be in its conclusions, but those of you interested in background are welcome to read it. It's not the first time Arts & Letters Daily has been interested in the question: you can also read this article, or this one, which shows how the inkblot test functions in roughly the same way as palm reading.

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