Saturday, 29 August 2009

Behaviour and characteristics

I'm a bit suspicious about so-called character tests, you know, the sort where you are asked a variety of questions that assess whether you are a born leader or a considerate lover or a compulsive obsessive.

Towards the end of my now defunct career in a Certain Government Department I was second-in-command in one of the Department's local offices, and was sent off to attend a number of managerial courses to bring me up to speed in that area. On the whole these were fun, but never very useful in real life. For instance, the course on Decision Taking, where our task was Buying A Car. As if you needed a rigorous method for that. If strapped for cash, surely you just go for the best used car you can afford. A quick skim through What Car? magazine, a check of the bank balance, a glance at the local dealers' forecourts or the ads in the paper, and Bob's your uncle. I suppose that if you have loadsamoney then the choice is more interesting and potentially more complex, although really there are only a few doors you'd knock on if that well heeled and reasonably sensible - Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, Lexus. Not much else. I'll probably have another Honda next time, the current version of the one I've got now. A car is a car. Four wheels, seats, space for your bags and shopping, nice colour if possible. It isn't rocket science.

Or did I miss some wider lesson there? Probably yes - I'm good at missing the point. Good at missing the obvious, come to that. I usually missed the train on the way to work. (But I'm much better, now that I'm retired. I never miss any early morning trains at all. Clearly I've made a huge advance)

I've digressed. Yes, management courses. Well, the ones that were most fun were those that involved some Personality Test. I always had a gratifying result, whatever outrageous nonsense I said about myself. I didn't tell lies, but I exaggerated the truth. Whatever the question asked, I'd give an extreme answer. The tests always seemed to reward off-the-scale answers most, so that when the points were added up, or your position plotted on some pyramid, your character came out as amazingly positive and powerful, despite a few strange contradictions. Classmates and tutors would then look at you with speculative eyes. It was strange that this easy-going, inoffensive nice guy was actually like Attilla the Hun. But there you are, the Test said it was so. It had been dreamed up by Top Psychologists in America. And they knew their stuff.

All right, I am being a little light-hearted about these questionnaires and the seriousness with which they could be taken. I think my underlying point is that they proved very little. It all depended on what was asked, the choice of answers allowed, and the interpretation placed on the answers. Usually you ended up with a score, and were then fitted into some range described as 'Proactive Personality - You Make Things Happen' or somesuch. Even if you only just made it into that range. Still, I suppose it was better than being labelled as a supine wimp. Oddly none of this ever revealed that I might have a gender problem. How strange! The tests would have picked it up, surely? Unless they contained some flaw, or were so narrow in their application that they missed some rather important things about people. Who's to say.

I'm wondering how I would do in a test called 'Are You Female?'. Probably not well. I wouldn't fit the stereotype. But then, nor would you.


  1. I guess they are just a bit of fun, Lucy!

    It's easy to suss how to "score" on them.

    I enjoy the ones on Facebook because they are mostly so obvious, although now and again there's a clever one in there where one thinks... "How does THAT question fit in?"


  2. I'm always been suspicious of personality tests as well. Although I've know I was transgendered since I was four years old, and totally convinced that I was transsexual since my late twenties, and subsequently diagnosed as transsexual by a psychiatrist in my mid thirties, I took an online gender test, linked to one of the blogs here, just to see how I scored.

    I scored: "high probability" of being transsexual, but possessing some "strong masculine characteristics", possibly a "late onset transsexual".

    Well, duh! I wonder how many transsexuals who have been forced by circumstances to live as males for 60 years, don't have at least a few strong masculine characteristics?

    I don't think anyone, including genetic women, can tell you definitively, what it means to be female. Everyone's perception of gender, is so subjective. What really matters, is not the opinion of others, including professional psychologists, or therapists, but what you yourself think.

    Melissa XX

  3. Hello Lucy, I followed your comment on Debbie's blog, just to see who the Delightful Lucy could be.

    My husband works in the French administration and it sounds that the time and money wasting is true to most countries.

    Melissa is right, "I don't think anyone, including genetic women, can tell you definitively, what it means to be female." I certainly can't tell you, but since meeting Debbie, Jo, Drew, Nicky and others through their blogs I don't take 'being a woman' for granted.


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