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Truthfulness in personality tests

Social desireability:  this is when you answer questions (either in a personality test or interview (job)) the way you think a good citizen would answer.

Do you drink? Every other night. Socially.

Do you engage in casual sex? Sadly too often. Almost never.

Do you think all people are equal? Not really. Yes.

Episodic memory: memories of life experience, like how you learnt to ride a bike, what the sunset was like yesterday, or how you felt when you were ignored at the party.

Semantic memory: this contains facts and general knowledge, like one’s shoe size, the birthday of your favourite comedian, the capital of Angola, or how people generally feel when ignored at the party.


 

Due to many factors, among them vast experience of taking personality tests, the resulting boredom, my innate tendency to make boring things more varied, increasing ability/tendency to avoid desireable untruth in self-assessment, have led me to answer to personality questionnaires in a different way.

I now use episodic memory over semantic memory. That is, I don’t automatically and without questioning tick the box of “I agree” to socially desireable answers. I try to strike at the actual truth of it and consider if I truly agree, at all times and circumstances, or do I just like to think I agree. Conversely, I suspect (but am not sure) that when people employ semantic memory in answering personality tests, it might be much more prone to error. One doesn’t think then but just goes with things automatically based on one’s identity, which can be quite static and slow to adapt to change. Plus, even if something isn’t part of identity and one would need to employ episodic memory in answering, social desireability would still interfere.

This explanation is tiresome.

But having started to answer this way has led to the exact same consequences I’ve experienced in real life situations, where a truth-sayer is either pitied for having an unideal life or ostracized for negativism, even if all they do is look at life and themselves more truthfully than common or tolerated. Namely, truthfulness leads to peculiar discrepancies.

Returning to personality tests, I scored in the bottom 2% for conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model. I was quite stunned by being worse than 98% people in conscientiousness. It has also led to a noticeable drop in my agreeableness/sociability scores. This is such complete bollocks it does not deserve refutation.

It is very problematic for personality tests if a more truthful answering style makes the results much more untrue. It makes me think that I can’t really operate on this level of analysis when test-makers and answerers operate on a lower level. Or there should be a social desireability coefficient (that works!).

Alternatives to personality analysis are something I’d like to know more about one day. To date, I’ve not found one that convinced me and could replace the classic way of thinking (trait theory, I suppose it’s called?). It is too static, too governed by self-schema.

I don’t know much about personality psychology really, but I just wanted to record the anomaly I experienced as I shifted from traditional normal person answering style to very truthful episodic-memory-based answering style.

A negativity shift in testing?

The purpose of this test is to confirm that human beings have many bad traits, but are afraid to say so. If you are a good test subject, pay attention to your desire to answer like a good person and focus on how you are actually like. It’s a dare. Don’t be a coward. Every time you spot yourself at a socially desireable lie and correct it, indicate it.

Leading to….social undesireability bias?

 

 

These days

Me: listens to Hart Crane, one of the most gifted poets of all time, being read by Tennessee Williams, an excellent playwright.

Also me: watches top ten stupidest auditions on Britain’s Got Talent straight after.

 

 

Just something

  • I will henceforth begin to use the word deprivation in a broader context than that of material poverty. The parallels struck me this afternoon, and it seems, once again, obvious in hindsight that different forms of deprivation would have much in common, including and importantly, in the methods the afflicted use to escape their particular deprivation. It was a paradigm shift for me.
  • I also felt a little put off by how I continue to write with great confidence, later to feel embarrassed about my stupidity. It’s the kind of expressive style I have. I’m much more hesitant and doubtful in reality but when expressing something, it tends to require a focus and there one goes. I cannot quite help my passion and emotionality either.
  • I had a discussion with self about the people that have put me down in life or talked to me down or interacted with me as their inferior. And I don’t mean the randoms, them doing it is normal and happens to us all, but people that actually left a mark and knew me. First, I became aware of it. Then I got angry. Then I told myself that look here, it’s not like you haven’t done the same thing to others. It’s insecurity that motivated those particular people just as it does you. Pft, I said, and maintained my right to be angry. They have the same right to be angry in turn.
  • I have copious amounts of free time on my hands right now. It’s great for a change and reminds me of the old days of idleness.
  • Having small, manageable goals instead of big ones agrees with me much more. I wish I had realised it a little sooner.

 

Truth again

What point does truth have? It’s like a badge of courage I wear these days but ultimately alienating and fruitless. It serves no end, except allowing me to feel “I dare” and know the deal of myself and life.

I’ve come to the conclusion, after speculating on this before, that indeed most people are prone to greater delusion than myself. And when you stand amongst them, daring to speak the truth of yourself and your life, they pity you. They think your life is particularly bad because you speak of things as they are, fair and square. Even though the only difference is that you don’t spin yourself the yarn of “I never wanted those things anyway”, “These bad personality traits I got are quite great actually” or “Me and my partner are very happy” (when you feel like walking on a tightrope every day for fear of provoking an argument). I recently witnessed a fellow truth-speaker among a crowd of delusionists. I recognised the wisdom of this person’s words, but most people saw fit to pity and teach the person the error of having an unideal life. No doubt the majority of them having unideal lives themselves, but pretending they don’t not to lose in social status.  It takes courage to make yourself vulnerable, first to your own judgement and then to the loss in social status that comes with saying your life ain’t no joyride. My badge of courage says “I recognise the yarns I tell myself. I quench them with the truth” but what is the purpose of it all?

The other side of this is that when you look at things in their full depressing darks, it also diminishes hope and crushes the spirit. It becomes harder to get out and change things. I feel that sometimes one needs brazen hope and outright fantasy to make a change. It’s easier to summon the will power for chanage when you manage to fantasize the present into something more palatable.

As a teenager, I remember walking across a wet and slushy piece of land between the houses and fantasizing this was the Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings, while I was a brave adventurer. Wet and slushy became much more bearable.

So what point would truth have in enduring an unpleasant walk? Is it going to make it easier that I can truthfully list all its unpleasantnesses? No, the opposite. Is it likely to encourage a faster step? Yes, if you got the will power. No, if you don’t. And it certainly won’t uplift the mood.

In life context, I see no benefit in truthfulness.

And, to turn evolutionary psychologist for a second, if it has no use, it is going to be a rare quality among the population. That is also why I’ve found it an alienating experience to be truthful. Pulling the wool over one’s eyes is much more useful in helping to cope with life and manage to get on as well. It doesn’t diminish will power and hope the same way. So maybe I should use the medicine nature intended us to use and become, once again, the master of pulling wool.

This. This.

The psychological reason why some people are so hard on themselves isn’t necessarily a matter of low self-esteem. It’s more likely a product of the need for affect, which is the intensity at which people want to feel anything. Positive disintegration is often correlated with a higher degree of over-excitability, which is another way to say that people who develop themselves thoroughly often feel they are in a state of crisis, whereas other people would not perceive those circumstances to be as dire, or in need of a similar response.

(could relate to this)

I was pleased to discover

…that there is a term for my affliction:

Analysis paralysis is when the fear of potential error outweighs the realistic expectation or potential value of success, and this imbalance results in suppressed decision-making in an unconscious effort to preserve existing options.

Procrastination

Recently, there have been these theories going around about procrastination being linked to perfectionism and self-esteem. Allegedly, people who procrastinate are the types that tend to set too high standards for themselves so they are not even motivated to begin because the likelihood of falling short of perfect is high. And it’s generally demotivating to contemplate doing things under such pressure to perform perfectly. It is also linked to one’s sense of self-worth. Procrastinators, like defensive pessimists, use procrastination as a coping strategy to deal with failure. The defensive pessimist will imagine everything that can go wrong. When it doesn’t, they feel a sense of accomplishment. When it does, well, they expected this anyway. For procrastinators, the focus is slightly different, it’s on maintaining a positive sense of self-esteem. So, when putting off studying for an exam until the last minute, and then failing, the procrastinator failed not because of their lack of ability, but because they did not prepare properly. The latter is a lot easier to accept, no ego bruise will follow. You got the ability, you were just lazy. If, however, the exam turns out a success, more reason to be proud of oneself for making it even under such circumstances. Such ideas are summarized here, for example: Warning: extremely clickbait title.

So yes, these ideas seem to dominate the popular science psychology articles. I don’t know if they are equally dominant in the less popularly accessible segment of psychology. I hope they are not, because reading these explanations for procrastination was very eye-brow-raising for me.

First: don’t these people with such hypotheses consider putting off doing the dishes as a form of procrastination? If they do – and I would – then how can one possibly fit perfectionism and self-esteem into it? Perhaps an obsessive-compulsive person with a cleanliness fetish might be daunted by the thought of not getting the dishes absolutely spotless, but surely this is not the case for the average procrastinator. Maybe I miss something. These articles always talk of deadlines, essays, work-related procrastination etc., but what of cleaning the bathroom, weeding the flower beds, mowing the grass and other such activities. I would be very interested to know how does one fit “putting off going to the supermarket for milk” style of procrastination into the self-esteem and perfectionism explanation.

I do think I am missing some vital piece of information when reading such articles, because researchers cannot be so blind to ignore these forms of procrastination also happening.

Yes, I think perfectionism can be demotivating and make it hard to begin on something. But I don’t think it’s the universal key to unlock the mysteries of procrastination.

Some alternative hypotheses:

  1. Evolutionary psychology may not be my favourite branch as it is often too reductionist and dismissive of potential for change, but sometimes it can work for explaining things better than many other theories. It’s certainly very intuitive. So I’d intuitively hypothesise that evolutionally, human beings have not been accustomed to much consistent, regulated effort and the time management required of us now is very new to our brains. Rather, in humanity’s long infant stage, we did things in short intensive bursts, followed by periods of rest/doing nothing much. Most procrastinators are similar, are they not? They can get it done, they can work hard when required, but most of the time they spend in some sort of energy conservation mode. Such as: you go hunt that mammoth, then you eat it and stay put and don’t do a great deal. Maybe you pick your teeth with the bones. Even the division of the day into work and leisure time is a relatively new invention in the context of how long the human race has been around. So the short energy burst theory is one hypothesis.
  2. Second: similar difference as between extroverts and introverts when it comes to social energy. Procrastinators have less motivational energy, they prefer to conserve the little they do have and do things that are easy and undemanding most of the time and only to activate their motivational energy when it is unavoidable. I wonder if there is a concept of motivational energy in existence? I hope there is. That could also explain why people are super motivated on the first few days and lose it along the way. It just runs out. Most of us are not blessed with a lot of it so consistency in attaining one’s goals is hard for us.
  3. The negative impact of the must. Most people don’t like doing things they have to do. If phrased like that, this is demotivating. It seems almost hard-wired into a lot of people that whatever is a must is an unpleasant duty, even if it wouldn’t be in essence (like going for a run or gym). I’m definitely like this, perhaps to the extreme: make something a thing I MUST do instead of CAN do and I feel its oppressive weight descend on me and kill off all motivation.
  4. Points 2 and 3 stem from this evolutionary tendency and help to explain variation. Not everyone is a procrastinator, so the evolutionary theory cannot explain why some are classified as procrastinators and others not. Unless. One adds the component of other personality traits that can either neutralize (very high discipline and motivational energy, very high ability to accept authority) the general human tendency to do things in short intense efforts or cancel it out from manifesting.

It’s all rather vague and hardly more than a mind game, but it makes more intuitive sense to me than the perfectionism and self-esteem theories that strangely ignore aspects of procrastination where it is hard to imagine those forces being at play. I hope someone comes up with a more plausible theory.

Also, perhaps this perfectionism theory at least is yet another ‘saving of face’ strategy of the procrastinators themselves – being a perfectionist makes for a good, comfortable excuse. One can be proud of being a perfectionist. But admitting you procrastinate because you lack discipline and motivational energy is not so nice. I certainly procrastinate for those reasons.

Curiosity

Isn’t it a little bit wonderful, and curious, how people, what with all their self-centredness, take an interest in the world, and I don’t mean the world of other humans (like me with my interest in human nature), their ways, motivations and creations , but in things completely out of the humanosphere – like birds and mosses. What drives a person to want to understand the life of mosses? What is it to us how these mosses live in the forest? The possibility of learning something beneficial to us, such as discovering medicinal properties of plants or finding things in the behaviour of higher animals that could add to our understanding of human behaviour, yes. There is that. But, but.  It’s not always that.

Bog body

 

Beautiful hearts

I have some sort of interesting thing going on with beautiful souls.

Whenever I come upon one, either in real life or through TV or internet, it makes me want to cry. I’ve wondered about this sort of peculiar reaction a lot. I’m obviously touched that a person like this exists. But it doesn’t quite seem like a sufficient explanation. I rarely do actually cry, but I feel like their beauty pierces my heart somehow. That my own heart leaps up and wants to run to theirs. Or press their hand in sympathy and understanding. To express it somehow how much it means to me that people like this exist.

In addition to that mixture of joy and pain, I also experience an overwhelming desire to protect the said person from the world. Even if they are a grown man twice my age in no need of protection. But there is that feeling. Of a treasure. And a distrust of the world. That destroys its beauty.

But a grown man twice my age surely knows that….

An absurd feeling overall.