Wednesday, April 24

To Measure Is To See

In recent years, friends have asked me about "Personality Tests" and what I have found myself to be. For these curious minds, I ended up emailing a test that my psychometric professor has asked us to do in lab: This test is based on the Big Five (Five Factor) Model. It's fairly short for the amount of information collected. The MMPI is a much more robust test with high validity but is well-guarded by the field (you can't just find random copies of the real MMPI on the internet).

What is most important to know about any "Personality Test" is to understand that these are based on self-report and are limited to measuring only and exactly what each item and self-reported answer measures. Nearly all "personality tests" attempt to triangulate who you are based on who you feel you are at the moment (when you are selecting your responses). The widely accepted academic understanding of personality, however, is the combination of constant traits. The key word, then, is constant, and this is a word that invites the factor of time.

After my first time taking the test, I had saved my results on my hard drive  Since then, I have taken the same test about every year or two and tracked the results. We all are vulnerable to phases and environmental influences (e.g., revolving door of friends, being a student/full-time professional, parenthood, etc.) that can affect how we respond on these tests. With the data I can chart now, it's not very hard for me to believe some of the constants I've somehow held on to, consciously or unconsciously; even more interesting is observing changes in traits/subtraits that I can say I have been working on or had at some point deemed of little value. In the data, I see my past and present behaviors, and perhaps get a peek at who I am on the path to becoming.

But what meaning do we find in taking these tests? In looking for ourselves? In asking inanimate measures to tell us what we may feel we already knew?

I guess it's really no different than taking photographs--trying to capture glimpses of who we are, hoping to create some notion of coherence for when we look back through the past. This is who I was. I used to be...I have become...


On rainy nights like tonight, the way a person quietly flips through old photo albums, I look at the darkness of my room and see the memories I've boxed away, labeled, "Do Not Open." Some call it compartmentalizing; some call it adaptive. Regardless, most of us have thoughts we learn to push away. Memories of places we abandoned, people we abandoned, skipped heartbeats we choose to believe were only in our imaginations because what does it matter now? Like Pavlov's dogs, we try to condition ourselves to forget pieces of our past because we cannot find places for them in our current understandings. Remembering is far too inconvenient for human beings searching for meaning. So we "forget." 

Even as all of the pieces quietly surround us, watching, in the darkness. 

How silly it was to be a child afraid of the monsters in closets or under the bed; how wonderful it would be for those monsters to replace what is now so patient.


Trees Planet said...

This is really great thinking. Thank you for sharing such a nice post. Trees Planet

Abdul Hannan said...

great thinking
Rahul Bosh