Department of Design

Curated by Timoni West.

Primarily focused on product design, technology, cognitive psychology, and the brain. Also—pretty pictures, sometimes moving.

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Posts about tests
October 30th, 2012

I was just reading “True or False: These Tests Can Tell if You Are Right for This Job”, in the Wall Street Journal. They gave a sample question from a personality test:

1. On television, I usually prefer watching an action movie than a program about art.
A) Often
B) ?
C) Rarely

This question, from 16PF, the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, addresses an applicant’s preference for logic versus feelings and intuition, says Ralph A. Mortensen, chief psychologist of the test’s publisher, the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing.

Interesting, I thought. Obviously the action movie fan prefers feelings—the adrenaline rush, no brain power needed to be happy watching action movies—and the art program fan is interested in facts, shows about real things, and educational programs.

Then I kept reading:

Someone opting for an action flick may be more fact-focused, an important trait for analytical jobs. Those who answer “rarely” may have more creative personalities. If they choose the question mark on B, it doesn’t tell you much: Perhaps they do both an equal amount or perhaps they simply aren’t sure.

I can think of literally no reason to assume someone who likes action movies would be more fact-focused—and especially more analytical—than someone who prefers programs about art.

Okay, that’s not true. I can think of one reason, but it has nothing to do with action movies or programs on art, just basic gender stereotypes. But I’m sure the writers of that questionnaire have thought about this much more than I have, and so have much better reasons for assuming that action film fans are more analytical. In other words, I’m guessing it’s not just casual sexism. Before I sink into cynicism, dear readers, please tell me what I missed.

—Timoni