A Deeper Dive Into Psychometrics

Ability versus Personality Profiling

Cognitive ability – refers to what the individual can do. This is measured through ability tests such as verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning, tests which concentrated on the assessment of individual differences in abilities. These are referred to as Level A Ability tests.

Personality tests – focus more upon behaviour (and to some extent motivation). Whilst we have flexibility to behave in any way, these Level B tests assume that as individuals we have preferences in our behaviour and therefore when we “profile” we are making a hypothesis that there is a degree of consistency in how an individual might communicate with (and respond to) people and situations.

Typically personality tests measure your tendencies.  The “How” rather than the “Why”.   Coaching explores the deeper structures of intention behind these patterns to identify your most effective strategies.

Most personality instruments rely on self-report, or asking a person to describe themselves, in the belief that doing this will provide a true picture of the personality of the individual. However, this of course ignores the possibility that people have a false or partial picture of themselves and so this must always be considered when both offering and receiving psychometric feedback.

A professional profiler (Level A and B qualified) will be able to question to explore alignment between report and the individual to extract useful insights, regardless of whether the individual feels the report is reflective of their tendencies.

Personality could be defined as – “the characteristic patterns of behaviour and modes of thinking that determine a person’s unique way of adjusting to the environment”.

Personality (or temperament), is often perceived as intrinsic to the individual. A distinction is often made between personality (temperament) – “what someone is like” and motivation “what someone wants”.  Latest research into neuroscience (particularly neuroplasticity) suggests that we can explore temperament as being something that is less fixed than perhaps we previously thought (so it can be helpful to explore what is a person like at this point within their life) and whilst deeper preferences may well be to an extent “hard-wired” we seek with the use of psychometrics to remove rather than create limitations for flexible behaviour.  It therefore never appropriate for an individual to use their psychometric profile as an excuse for their behaviour!

Motivation can be seen as directional; helping a person choose between alternatives at different stages of their lives, by answering questions as to what they want to achieve, what they need, what interests them and what they hope for. Needs, interests and aspirations all affect motivation, and are usually separately assessed.

The 4 major approaches to personality are:

1. Psychoanalytic (Freud)

2. Psychometric or Type/Trait (Jung/Eysenck Cattell)

3. Social learning (Bandura)

4. Humanistic (Carl Rogers)

Psychometric theorists attempt to predict the performance of an individual from his or her personality attributes, on the assumption that these can be measured and conclusions drawn from them.

Measuring Type versus Trait

Trait Instruments

The theories underlying the use of self report personality questionnaires are “trait” or “type” theories. Trait approaches assume that people share a number of basic human personality attributes. Traits are characteristics and vary from one individual to another. They may be physical (eye colour, weight) or psychological (e.g. aggressiveness, sociability, intelligence). They are conceived as to some extent stable and enduring, distinguishing them from moods or states, which are temporary. Of course… being anxious before an interview for example does not necessarily mean that you are a naturally anxious person.

A trait is usually described as a continuum, so that people may find themselves on any point of the continuum, having a lot of a particular trait or very little of it (She is very easy going; he is quite aggressive).

How many traits are there? There are about 4500 adjectives describing traits in the English language, but most of them overlap, so traits can be reduced to a relatively small number usually between ten and thirty. Trait instruments such as 15FQ+ and Work Style Analyser (WSA) offer a larger number of dimensions, but can often be reduced to four or five broad dimensions of personality.

The Big Five

Since the late 1950s there has been a greater drive to reduce the number of factors on which personality is based. Many researchers have come up with five underlying factors – known as the Big Five – which seem to be the major planks of personality.

• Extroversion

• Neuroticism/ Anxiety

• Openness to Experience/ Conformity

• Agreeableness/ Tenderness vs. Tough-mindedness

• Conscientiousness

Type Instruments

Well known “type” questionnaires include the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), TDI, DISC based on Jung’s theory of types… there are market variations such as Insights, Colourworks etc.. but essentially they are measuring the same thing!

These have 4 parameters: introversion/extroversion; sensing/intuition; thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving. Type profiling will generally require an individual to make a “forced choice”. So instead of identifying a scale of extent of preference (as you would with a Trait tool), a choice is made “do you tend to behave like this or that.

4 dimensions each with 2 dichotomies creates a potential of 16 Types.  Individuals will be given a type code consisting potentially of 4 letters (e.g. ESTJ or a label such as Harmoniser), and some instruments will further generalise the group of 16 Types into and simple 4 Groups quadrants providing perhaps 1 of 4 colour types or labels.  DISC blends these approaches describing four key parameters, but also providing subtle nuances and distinctions relating to extent of these preferences – a Trait like approach within a Type tool.

It is so important to note that whilst an individual might report a preference it is possible for them to adapt their behaviour and these tools are aimed at exploring potential for flexibility rather than “boxing in”.

Assessing Motivation

A well know element of NLP refers for meta-programmes. These relate to motivation linked to values. IWAAM is a profiling tool which assesses the individual’s meta-programmes exploring elements such as convincer patterns and people versus task focus.  There are numerous additional motivation profiling tools available and these seek to elicit an individual’s key drivers, something which is also highly achievable through coaching.

A Blended Approach

A qualified and experienced profiler will have familiarity with (and a deep understand of) the tools they are administering, meaning that they can extract how underlying Traits and Type interrelate with one another… and how these can influence energy and motivation… the printed and online reports are simply a starting point.

I hope this gives some background to psychometrics… now lets talk to explore how we can help you to find out which might be useful for you.