Sunday, 1 July 2007

Priceless quotes by management guru on the true "value" of psychometric testing

If people sometimes get the sneaking suspicion that our risk culture is spiralling out of control, it appears that there is some justification for their unease. The ascendant tendency, as Derrida's writings on the need for hospitality to the stranger can be construed as warning us against, is the systems theory approach. A system will approach its environment as an unknown quantity that therefore (must!) constitute a potential risk [sic]. Its task therefore becomes that of indemnifying itself against future losses by colonising the other and thereby using it as a host body to reproduce itself ("language is a virus", W.S. Burroughs). The pervasive nature of these unfortunate tendencies goes some way towards explaining why going on a date these days can be, more than ever before, like attending a job interview. It also seems to explain why attending a job interview has become more like the conducting of a profiling session by a psychiatrist to determine whether you're potentially a criminal "psychopath". Psychometric testing is becoming de riguer for job agencies seeking to sell their services to their clients, i.e. employers who want their applicants risk screened. I wonder how long before biometric testing becomes widely accepted as complementary to psychometric testing? Psychology is increasingly devolving into a branch of administrative research, as Adorno might have said. If there is any cause for optimism, it lies in part with researchers in business management willing to swim against the tide. A refreshing example of this possibility appeared in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald, where Professor Robert Spillane from Macquarie University's Graduate School of Management comments:

"Psychometric tests for management or for job selection are simply invalid...There are personality test results and there is work performance and they have nothing to do with each other and that's been widely known amongst researchers now for more than 50 years. The big problem with the whole notion of personality is that these tests are used on the assumption that they're measuring something within you, some sort of force, power or predisposition that actually makes you act the way that you do. I would take the position that nothing makes you act the way that you do and that would include choosing to answer these questions in a particular fashion. So it's quite easy to fake these tests."

Beautiful! I guess this makes sense of why one adult education course I attended featured a rising young "star" of a local university's psychology department, who's lectures on serial killers largely consisted of reading from [unacknowledged] print outs of screen grabs taken from the "Mind of a Killer" cd-rom. He later moved on to a private consulting business, specialising in a series of corporate briefings on how to utilise the competitive nature of the "psychopath" in a productive fashion so that the person makes a lot of $$$ for the company. Book launches co-hosted by the risible ex-model and crime fiction writer Tara Moss, for unscholarly research ghostwritten by a Sydney journalist quickly followed. Really, if I'm right, and I think in this case at least there are some reasons for believing so, isn't this just like the barker flogging his snakeoil to naive punters? I didn't fully understand it till I looked at the personal website and saw reference to charging the "standard fee" for psychological services- which was very high. Aha! Then I began to understand....follow the money!!!

No comments: