Psychtech ‘outsiders’ challenge research insiders to change

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There are much better tools and theories to understand people today than there were in the years when focus groups, shopper panels and use and attitude studies were first devised. Big data allows us to capture observational truths as opposed to claims. And psychology has moved on from psychoanalysis and behaviourism, to decision theory and behavioural economics. 

This shouldn’t be news to anyone in the research industry.  But it’s also true that despite what is discussed in the research journals and blogs, industry insiders definitively lag outsiders in the tech industry when it comes to putting new advances to work.  Why is this?

Some, like Dr Benny Cheung, a director at Decision Technology, suggest many don’t understand the limitations of the old approaches and so don’t see the advantages of these emerging techniques.

“As psychologists we know that two key pillars of existing approaches to market research – asking consumers to extrapolate decision making outside of its natural context/environment, and asking them to tell us why they acted in a certain way – are both flawed. Humans simply are very poor at doing these things.”

People can’t explain their behaviour, but there are tests that can accurately measure an individual’s personality in terms of the ‘big five’ traits, which in turn can predict their future behaviour. [Read more…]

How psychologists cope with cheating on personality tests

By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, PhD. 

Cheating a personality test

Are you cynical about personality tests? Do you worry that they may be a waste of time because the people filling them in are likely to fake their answers? Do you think that you might be able to skew the test results yourself? Does that make you think the results of all tests are therefore likely to be bogus?

Well, don’t worry. The chances are that if you’re given a well designed survey, all of those questions will have been factored in and effectively countered.

personality testPersonality tests have been used for clinical, educational, and employment assessment for more than 100 years – information I provide not only to show that they have a proven track record, but also because during that time the tests themselves have been submitted to rigorous assessment. These studies have produced three key findings and strategies for taking the faking out of the equation:

  1. Most people try to skew their results to the same degree. So, for instance, in high stakes tests such as those relating to job interviews, people tend to inflate the points they assume to be positive by around 10-20%. But because most people bend things in the same direction, it’s easy to see where meaningful differences remain.
  2. The best tests conceal their true intentions: people taking them don’t know what is really being assessed, or why certain questions are being asked. What’s more, plenty of tests can also assess how long people take to answer each question and alert assessors to any unusual response patterns or internal inconsistencies. The net result is that it’s generally better to answer honestly than try to game the system. [Read more…]