Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Personality Testing

I took a personality test a long time ago where you could be one of two types. I came out to be both types because I literally had all the "strengths" of one type and all the "weaknesses" of the other type. I've been thinking recently about how often we assume that people want to change without asking them. Like when someone says how much they love ice cream and you suggest that they switch to frozen yogurt. Or when I tell people how late I stay up and sleep in and they start telling me how to get on a more normal schedule. Personality tests have this same issue in that they often assume that we want to be what we're not. Here's an example:

Say you have to rate yourself from 1 to 5 on how true each statement is about you, 5 being "strongly agree" and 1 being "strongly disagree." 

If the statement said "I am a good writer," I would pick 5. 
If the statement said "I want to be a better writer," I would also pick 5. 
The test isn't accounting for that. The test is assuming that "I want to be a better writer" is synonymous with "I am not a good writer," which it's not. 

Now let's try the reverse:
If the statement said "I am a fast runner," my answer would be 1. 
If the statement said "I wish I were a faster runner," my answer would also be 1. If I wanted to be a faster runner, I would practice running. While I wouldn't necessarily rate myself a 5, I wouldn't say I was a 1 if I actually ran at all. (Of course it would be different if I were filling out this quiz to join a track team or something, but when you assume that everyone is taking the quiz, I figure that 1 is for people who don't run at all. Although different interpretations could cause problems with the quiz as well).

When I rate myself on personality traits, the same is pretty much true. The fact that I'm not outgoing does not mean that I wish I were more outgoing. I'm really not sure why people and tests assume that. The traits I wish I had more of are traits I already have some of. It's always awkward at job interviews when they ask what I'm doing to change something. If I had any interest in changing something I'd already be working on it and therefore wouldn't rank myself as having none of that quality at all.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Two Truths and One Lie

I recently came across this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/2Truths1Lie where Colby students share two truths and one lie about themselves, and other people could try to guess which ones were which. I've played this game before at parties and as an icebreaker, but this is the first time I've seen it used to actually share things that people don't normally feel comfortable sharing. They did this after I left Colby, but reading through all of them makes me wonder what I would have said.

The truths are easy - the hard part would be picking only two to share. But the lie is a little more challenging. I was very open about how I felt at Colby; I don't think anyone who knew me would believe something like "I can be myself at Colby" or "I never thought about transferring."

But then, even people who had never met me before wouldn't believe it. This exercise was an opportunity for people to share things that aren't socially acceptable to discuss. So if I had said two true things that I really felt about Colby with one positive thing about Colby, it would be obvious which one was the lie. It's a common mistake I've made playing "Two Truths and a Lie" in other circumstances. I'd pick two really unusual things for the truths, and the lie would be something like "I have a dog." To really catch people, you have to come up with a lie that's just as weird/unlikely as the truths. One time when I played with people I didn't know at all, I said:
1. I'm writing a novel
2. I have nine siblings.
3. I have synesthesia.
No one correctly guessed which one was the lie :-)

So for my lie in the Colby version, I would need to say something that sounds like a confession, when it's really not. The first lie I thought of was: "I was depressed before I came to Colby." Most people who've seen me at Colby (including counselors) assume I must have a history of depression - no one believed me when I said that everything was fine before Colby.  The problem is that this would only work well if I could explain why I chose it as a lie. Only people who knew me would understand what I meant by telling this lie, while others would wonder why I lied about being depressed.

So the next lie I thought of was, "I wish I were more outgoing." It sounds like an insecurity, so people would assume it's a truth. The assumption covers a wider range of people - only people who knew how unhappy I was at Colby assumed that I was depressed before, but just about anyone would assume that I wanted to be more outgoing. Even if we had never met before, that's just a common assumption. But most importantly, it's self-explanatory. Honestly, I could trick some of my closest friends with this one. Definitely a keeper.

The only way for this lie to work is to pick the right truths to go with it. While I would love to reveal two things that I hate about Colby culture, that would make it too obvious that the other statement is the lie. I think I'd give myself one free pass, one truth that's okay if it's kind of obvious that it's true, and have the other truth be something that sounds like a lie. I thought about saying something positive about life before Colby, like that I thrived in high school, but that's similar to the "I was depressed before Colby" lie - it challenges the assumption that someone like me couldn't possibly have thrived in another environment. But it also would only work on people who knew me. I think the best truth would probably be: "Colby was my first choice." Yeah, that's perfect. That's the truth that sounds like a lie, because it makes sense that someone who hates Colby the way I do might have wanted to go somewhere else and got "stuck" at Colby. So, let's try it:
1. I'm just as homesick now as I was freshman year.
2. I wish I were more outgoing.
3. Colby was my first choice.

Yes, that's perfect! The first one is the obvious true confession, the second sounds like a confession, and the third choice doesn't belong because it's positive, so everyone will pick that as the lie!

The only problem is that I have an infinite number of things I could fill into the first choice. I could reveal something like, "I want to sue Colby for emotional damages" or something as simple as "I hated COOT." I think I would want to tear down assumptions, which was the purpose of this exercise. I chose what I chose for this example because it challenges the assumption that if you just stick it out, everything will be okay.

I would be interested to do "Two Truths and a Lie" in a serious way like this, challenging assumptions. I should find a way to arrange that.