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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #32 of 52: The Purpose of Psychotherapy, Secular and Spiritual | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #34 of 52: Political Psychology »

April 03, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #33 of 52: Psychological Assessment

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- One of the key functions of psychologists is performing tests and measurements, administering tests and ascertaining folk’s mental status.

Psychiatrists generally do not administer formal tests, they talk to folks and ask a series of questions and based on folks verbal responses diagnose them, that is, decide whether they meet any of the nosological categories listed in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM.

Psychologists give actual paper and pencil tests and from how folks perform on them make clinical judgments about them. Most clinicians also do what we call intake interviews. They ask questions and based on folks responses determine their mental status. The intake interview determines the treatment plan the clinician undertakes for helping the client.

The clinician, of course, revises his initial assessment and, at any rate, is required to do so every ninety days (quality review, utilization review) to make sure that the problem(s) is still the same and or changed, in which case he comes up with different treatment plans. He is required to keep thorough progress notes so that any observer could tell what he is doing for the client.

There are several types of tests, including personality testing, aptitude testing, interests testing, and intelligence testing. I will give an overview of these tests without getting into their specifics.

Each human being has a personality. That personality is, more or less, set by an early age. This means that he has a specific and habitual pattern of relating to his world. Therefore, we can ascertain the pattern the individual has of relating to his world.

Personality testing attempts to figure out the individual’s pattern of relating to other people and to his world.

Why do so? It is because some patterns of relating to the world are clearly problematic and if they can be understood and changed the better for all persons. This knowledge is particularly useful in employment situations. If we can ascertain that when stress builds up that an individual is likely to loose it and become angry and attack other people we can point this out to him and ask him to do something about it.

There are many personality test batteries aimed at determining the individual’s personality. The most used ones are Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and California Personality Inventory (CPI). These consist of a list of questions that the individual is given and told to answer yes and no. From his responses we can actually decide whether he has mental problems.

I will not give away the barnyard but consider the following questions. Do you feel that other people make fun of you? Do you feel that other people are watching you? Do you feel self conscious in the public? Do you guard yourself lest other people harm you? Do you feel that other people are not trustworthy? Are you always trying to figure out what other people’s real motives are in doing what they do? From such questions we can pretty much decide whether an individual is paranoid or not.

Are you always happy? Do you feel excited for no good reason? Do you sometimes go for days without sleeping? Do you engage in projects aimed at saving the world? Do you feel on top of the world, euphoric most of the time? From these questions we can pretty much determine whether an individual is manic or not.

Personality testing is actually a science and can pretty much tell to a T an individual’s personality type. Folks, particularly Africans tend to think that they are not known to other people. All it takes a seasoned psychologist is a few hours of observing an individual and he can pretty much ascertain the individual’s personality type.

Personality is reached in childhood, before age twelve. Each personality type is neither good nor bad; we simply have to understand them. Actually, certain types of personality are a plus in certain professions. Folks with certain personality types tend to do well in certain professions. A schizoid person is probably likely to do well in engineering and computer science. A mildly suspicious paranoid person is probably going to do well in professions where suspiciousness is a plus, such as police, prison guard, judge, custom and immigration officer etc.

On the individual level, it is beneficial if the individual performed personality testing and get to know his personality type. That way he can learn to optimize its strengths and minimize its weaknesses. Each personality type has strength and weaknesses, even the most disordered ones have some social advantages.

As an undergraduate, I undertook comprehensive psychological assessment. I was told what I already knew about myself, just given fancy names for them. I was found to have avoidant personality type (fancy name for shyness). I learned what it is all about and set out changing it. It is rooted in a sense of inferiority and a belief that one is not good enough and fears that if other people came close to one that they would see one as not good and reject one, hence one fears rejection.

The shy child avoids other people to avoid their rejection. But what happens if other people, in fact, reject one? Nothing. The world would not come to an end if other people rejected one.

Perhaps rejection harms children, since they rely on adults to care for them materially, hence need adults’ acceptance. As Albert Ellis pointed out in his Rational Emotional Therapy, adults can survive with or without other people’s acceptance.

Now knowing that what matters is me accepting me and not whether other people accept or reject me, how do you think I would behave? I would be assertive, that is, say what is in my mind, and not be deterred whether other people liked me or not. In the past, I would be preoccupied with seeking social approval.

As long as one is afraid of social rejection, one would conform to the group and the group’s leaders, usually sociopath would control one. See, certain Igbo sociopath persons on naijapolitics give group approval to certain confused Igbo folks seeking approval from their group and in so doing control them.

I got out of the dance of aggression and passive aggression and dependency and live an independent live. That is what psychological testing does to folks; it enables them to know themselves and correct their problems, so that they now live independent, fulfilling lives.

Intelligence testing is usually part of the entire psychological test batteries. Psychologists attempt to figure out what the individual’s intelligence level is.

Each of us, by age six, at least, has a set intelligence level. This is a fact, not conjecture. If you are smart you have been smart all your life and if you are dumb you have been dumb all your life. Good teaching can help the dumb a bit but will not make them Albert Einstein.

This subject is a very prickly one for Africans and African Americans and one must be very careful here. Yet one must state the known facts.

There are many IQ test instruments but the major ones used in America are WAIS for adults and WISC, and Stanford Binnet for children. I will not go into detail about these tests.

Folks are given these tests and are timed as they do them. They are then scored. The total score is around 139 or round it up to 140.

Everywhere in North America the score on these tests are as follows: 2% of the people tend to score 132 and above; 2% of the people tend to score less than 70; six percent tend to score in the above average range of 115-130 and the rest of the people tend to score in the average range, 85-115.

There are racial differences in how folks perform. Asians tend to score the highest (average 115), followed by Jews (110), then whites (100) and at the bottom blacks (85). Hence the IQ controversy, the so-called 15 points difference between whites and blacks…a situation that tends to make white racists see blacks as inferior to them. (If so, could we then extrapolate and say that since Oriental persons tend to have fifteen points more than whites that Orientals are superior to whites? You figure that one out.)

The scores on IQ tests tend to be reflected on scores on Scholastic Aptitude Tests. The typical SAT has 1600 points, overall. Generally, Asians score the highest, average around 1250 and blacks score the least, average around 850.

Given this data, you can see that top universalities are more likely to admit Asians if merit is their criteria for admission. This is a bummer.

Again, I will not allow myself to get drawn into the IQ controversy. In the past, I speculated on why blacks score lower than other people. Folks have had a field day engaged in this augment. The honest truth is that I do not know why, on the average, blacks score very low on tests that to me seem ridiculously easy. I took them and had just about perfect score. I took the various college entrance examinations and the best universities were literally begging me to attend them.

There are some black persons who score high on these tests, but generally they tend to be very few in number.

Psychologists test for people’s aptitudes, what individuals have special capabilities in. Some persons have high aptitude in certain areas than others. Some are gifted in mathematics, some in the physical science, and some in the social sciences. Some have mechanical aptitudes and others do not. Some have managerial and leadership aptitudes and others are followers.

There are tests that can pretty much tell us what the individual is likely going to do well at. (The Briggs Mayer test is often used by employers to screen for those likely to do well in their industry.)

There are Interests Inventory Tests that attempt to test for what fields individuals are interested in.

We know that if an individual does what he has an aptitude in and is interested in doing that he tends to do well at it.

Figure out what line of work you are interested in and that you have mental and or physical aptitude in and go train for it and the chances are that you would succeed in it. (Strong Campbell is a useful interest test.)

My goal here is not to give folks specific and detailed information on testing. My goal is to draw folk’s attention to the fact that there are tests out there that pretty much can help them come to know themselves a little better.

If I were you, I would go to a clinical psychologist and have myself and my children tested, given the whole test battery, as listed above. You certainly ought to know your personality type, know how smart you are and what aptitude and interests you and your children have. It is good to know these things. At any rate, there are people who make it their business to know them and they will try to understand you whether you like it or not.

In another essay, I talked about a Nigerian who masquerades as a professor…he had taught at a community college before they let him go. I decided to estimate his intelligence and personality. By asking him certain questions, which he did not know were test questions, I estimate his raw IQ at around 110, that is, high average. You may go to the end of this world and test him all you want the fact is that he is what I estimate him to be. When I worked full time as a psychotherapist, it usually took me less than an hour to figure out the diagnosis of the client before me and even estimate his intelligence etc.

The point is that there are people out there who have studied how to assess people and whether you know it or not can and will assess you. If so, you might as well learn something about your own assessment and stop fooling yourself. If you go about presenting yourself as healthy when folks can tell that you have a personality disorder, who do you deceive but yourself? If you pretend to be smart when trained folks can tell that you are dumb, who are you deceiving but yourself? You deceive yourself, not other people.

It is important that you have your children tested and if they are very smart try to get them into schools for gifted children. Regular public schools are designed for average students and are taught by average teachers. Exceptionally smart kids are generally not challenged at regular schools and need to be around smart kids to be challenged. Not long ago, I had a ten year old boy teaching me higher mathematics and physics. How do you expect such a child to do in regular public schools? He would be bored by the ho-hum taught at such schools.

Test your kids and if they are part of average humanity, leave them at public schools but if they fall into the 2% gifted humanity, get them into schools where their exceptional talents may be challenged. Do not ague with facts, for facts are facts.
Your child is not going to be an Einstein if he is not born smart. But with good training you can improve his chances of succeeding in life.

High intelligence does not predict for success in social life. All that it predicts is ability to learn complex subjects and to do well at school. To succeed in social living such skills as ability to get along with other people come into play. Improving ones interpersonal skills is probably more important in making it in life than having high IQ.

Because Africans and African Americans generally do not do well in organized testing in the Western world they tend to avoid those tests. As it were, they operate on the assumption that what they do not know would not hurt them. This is like the proverbial behavior of Ostrich that hide their head in sand. Reality does not go away just because we do not like it.

Honestly, I do not know why African peoples tend to do poorly on Western designed IQ tests. I have speculated on why but I know that conjectures are exactly that, not facts. The facts are that if I go to any public school in North America and test the kids the average black kid will test out low. (There is such a thing as teacher expectation contributing to test results, so one is very careful not to expect low performance from any student.)

I know that the average black kid would probably score low on the SAT and thus may not qualify to attend good universities, if admission is based strictly on merit.

I really do not understand this situation. And, I will not bother my little head with trying to figure out this perplexing problem.

In this essay, my goal is very simple, to point out that there are tests and measurement and that folks should avail themselves of them and get to know themselves a bit more than they ordinarily do. I will leave folks to engage in the interesting intellectual discourse as to whether tests designed by white folks can, in fact, test African folks? Aren’t these tests colonial instrument for imposing European cultural imperialism on African people?

If so, shouldn’t African psychologist design their own tests and demonstrate their validity and reliability and use them to test their own people? Would test instruments that test Africans well also test non-Africans well?

Is there such a thing as science with universalistic principles that apply to all people, not just to this or that particular people?

Why do Asians do well at tests designed by whites; indeed, do better than the very whites who designed them.

Are all these a conundrum? You figure some of these things out. After all, you ought to have something to contribute to intellectual discourse. You should not just be a consumer of Western knowledge; you ought to participate in the production of knowledge.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at April 3, 2006 11:56 PM

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