The Science of People

Most Personality Quizzes are Junk Science, I found one that isn’t.

After reading this recent post from fivethirtyeight I had to share with you a conversation I had with SuccessFinder founder, Dr. Larry Cash. 

Q:  Larry, what do you think about this article?  Do you think the Big 5 (extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness, and agreeableness) can provide meaningful data? 

A:  No, not really.  Since when did human being’s personality become so simplistic?  While there are no doubt these big 5 personality tests are fun and informative when seeking self-awareness, they have been found to be of no practical or useful value for predicting on the job performance. Certainly no one ought to be relying on them for making high stakes hiring decisions that impact other people’s life. They simply are not psychometrically constructed to do this.

Why do I say this? Consider that in the 7th century the most sophisticated chemical science of the day was referred to as ALCHEMY. It relied on 5 basic core elements: AIR, WATER, EARTH, FIRE, and something akin to SPIRIT — That’s it, no more.  Now jump forward 1400 years later to Modern Chemistry in the 21st century, we find the periodic table with 96 natural elements identified.

My point?   While Modern Chemistry has moved beyond its ancient 1400-year-old roots of Alchemy and has advanced to a truly sophisticated complex scientific model of understanding the world around us, Big 5 psychometric measurement in the 21st century is still rooted in Behavioral Alchemy … just as 1400 years ago.  In my first year of psychology I was taught the Cardinal Rule of Psychology: “All behavior is caused, and the causes are multiple, complex and inter-related.” Exactly, where does the phenomenon of human complexity exist within such a simplistic psychological model of science akin to Alchemy?

Q:  So if the Big 5 doesn’t work, what does? 

A:  I’m glad you asked.  My life’s work, the SuccessFinder career assessment was founded on the premise that we as humans, and the dynamics of our everyday behavior, are certainly as complex as the modern scientific model of natural chemistry. Like the periodic table, the SuccessFinder model measures 85 statistically distinct human behaviors – not 5!


Think of it this way.  Would you like to be judged “innocent or guilty” in a court of law based on a thumb print from the crime scene matching only 5 of your own identification minutiae points – instead of the full range of minutiae points below?

Relying on the 5-trait personality psychometric model to make high stakes decisions that impact others lives is much like being convicted of a crime only on whether your blood type “O” (there are only four basic blood types: A, B, AB, O) matched the blood type “O” sample from the crime scene. Would you not feel better if an advanced DNA scientific method were being relied on for this kind of decision?
*Hint: 38 percent of the world has the same blood type as you!

Consider if a witness stated that they recognized you at the crime scene from a fuzzy video cam image with only 5 pixels vs. a full range of 85 facial pixels –

         5 Pixels        or          85 Pixels

We may not be using personality tests in the courtroom, but we’re certainly using them to find, hire, develop, and promote leaders.  Shouldn’t we be using 21ST CENTURY PSYCHOMETRIC SCIENCE?

by: Lisa Hartley

Larry Cash, Founder & Creator, SuccessFinder

Larry Cash

Founder & Creator
An innovator who co-developed the SuccessFinder tool and framework that has been used for over 35 years by companies globally. Featured in over 20 publications including WSJ, Canadian Business magazine and Financial Post. Larry holds an MS in Clinical Psychology, and PhD in Counselling Psychology at OISE where he taught as a graduate instructor for five years




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