What was the goal of this psych test I once took?

20+ years ago I was up for a special assignment at the law enforcement agency I worked for at the time. Because of the nature of the assignment candidates had to go for psychological evaluations. It was a 3 day process.

I’d taken psych test before but never any that covered that long of time span.

One part of the evaluation was a test consisting of 100 “questions”. It was about 15 pages double sided long as each side only held 3 questions.

Each question was a rectangular box. Inside each box were 6 circles about the size of a quarter. Every circle was a different color. Every circle also had 4 arrows. Some of the circles had arrows inside the circle pointing in, and some circles had arrows inside of them pointing out. Some circles had the arrows on the outside rim of the circle with the arrows pointing out, and some had the arrows on the outside rim pointing inward.

For each question you had to write down which one circle you liked the best, and which one circle you liked the least.

You had 3 hours just for that one part of the evaluation.

I assumed part of that test was to detect dishonesty. They would make some of the questions subtly similar to see if you picked the same kind of circle.

But I’ve always wondered if there was more to it than that. Were the colors and arrows supposed to detect aggression, passiveness, extrovertedness, introvertedness?

I had never before nor since taken a psych test that was even remotely similar to that.

Anyone have any clue as to the point of it?

No idea, but part of a psych test I took years ago had a section where the examiner showed you a “line up” of six or eight photos. Each was a portrait of someone. The pictures were in black and white and had the appearance of being from the late 1800s. None were very attractive but IIRC some looked "meaner than others. You then had to choose who you like most and least out of each group. I can see how that test might indicate something but circles and arrows?

P.S. - Also for a law enforcement job.

I did a quick Google to see if I could find what you described. Apparently there are a number of personality and psych tests that use various geometric patterns. Like if you pick the triangle inside the circle you are more “protective” while a different configuration would indicate more “ambition”. I’m not sure how legit they are. It sounds a bit suspect to me. Even actual personality tests like Meyers Briggs or the DISC (DISK?) method aren’t particularly good at determining whether you are a good fit for a job.

I have an MSc in Psychology but haven’t heard of this instrument. As it sounds rather tedious, I wonder whether, rather than honesty, it was designed to look at focus or attention to detail. I’ll see if I can find anything.

I have taught graduate assessment classes. Haven’t heard of this and suspect it’s not particularly valid.

Most of the employee psych tests I’ve taken over the years seemed dubious and based on just some consulting firms unproven theories.

The special assignment was a dignitary detail. It was an interdepartmental co-op involving several police departments, Sheriffs Offices, the State Capitol Police, The U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Secret Service. So I’m assuming these agencies had certain standards that lead to that particular test being included.

I got on the team (it was an “as needed” detail) and was on it until I retired from that agency in 2007. The team ended in, I believe, 2008 or 2009. So I assume I passed the test. We had an additional 200 hours of training after we got on.

I think it may be a test of focus and/or attention to detail.

My son, who has attention deficit disorder related to his autism, takes similar tests occasionally to test his progress. They are intentionally extremely boring. The ones now are on computer, so the system will note how long you are taking to answer questions and if your focus is fading. You can imagine that the first time you see the circles you answer fairly quickly, but by 90 minutes into it that you might be thinking about lunch. My son is probably thinking about his favorite anime by the second question, and the OP likely scored better than most people.

A guy I worked with at the time had a minor in psychology. He insisted that the colors and arrows were supposed to detect bias, aggression, passiveness, extrovertedness, and introvertedness. Some of the colors were black and the arrows were white. The white arrows may have just been so you could see them inside the black as all of the other colors had black arrows.

But he had absolutely no cite on that except that because “I just know from my education”. :rolleyes:

He didn’t make the team but for other reasons not because he failed that part of the test. I haven’t had any contact with him since 2007 as we weren’t real chummy.

After I retired I began another career with another agency, first part-time then full. I had to take another psych test when I started and it was nothing like the colored circle one.

I’ve just always wondered what the heck that test meant.

You’ll be glad to know you beat a 7th grader. :wink:

Sounds like something out of on online IQ test to be honest. Did they ask you if you liked Alice In Wonderland?

So, they told the candidates if that particular test was the reason for not getting the assignment?

Maybe it was all just a smoke screen.

If you passed the psych test you passed all sections of it. if you failed any one section you failed the entire psych assessment. He passed. He was dropped from consideration for other reasons.

The colored circle test was only one section of the entire psych evaluation.

It sounds like a bullshit test. “If they choose triangles it indicates aggression, if they choose squares it indicates loyalty. If they choose blue it indicates passivity, if they choose yellow it indicates impulsiveness. If they choose outward arrows it indicates extroversion, if they choose inward arrows it indicates introversion.”

Almost certainly it was crap like that, based on nothing more than some guy’s made-up theories that they sold as snake oil to a credulous client.

Having heard a bit more about context I’m going to double-down on my posit that it had less to do with traits such as aggressiveness, extroversion, etc. and more to do with how you handled sticking with a mundane task for three hours. That is a VERY long time to have to focus on something that is not exactly engaging. By the time it gets to the end it would be hard to look at each item freshly. You mentioned the Secret Service – they have to scan crowds and remain focussed on the task at hand, not letting their concentration waiver even for a second, lest that be the second something happens.

If my reading of the design is correct, there were 24 possible figures to rate (red circle, arrow inside pointing inwards; red circle, arrow inside pointing outwards; red circle, arrow outside pointing inwards; red circle, arrow outside pointing outwards; repeat for five other colours). As there were 100 items, that would mean each choice appeared 25 times (on average). It would then be a matter of looking at preferences and checking for consistency. If it were truly as simple as red equals this, outward arrows equals that, it could have been designed to be much less time consuming.

As a psychology edumacator: nope.

I bet it’s like this too. A lot of psychology experiments aren’t testing what they tell you they are. When I took psychology in college part of our grade depended on participating in experiments run by psychology students, and they were required to debrief us. One had to admit that they explanation they gave us before the experiment was BS and their real experiment was to see what percentage of a conversation two people who’d never met each other spoke.

I’ve read about a ton of other experiments that also BS’d their participants, and you can too - any time an experiment’s description mentions the word “confederate” the people being experimented on were lied to. A good place to start is reading about the Asch Experiment.

This is a pure guess, but related to what are probably now discredited ideas, but I have no information either way except that Kandinsky seems to have been wrong.

It sounds like some form of implicit association or bias test mixed with some variation of the Kandinsky color/correspondence theory. Or in other words some abstract form of the IAT.

Due to my challenges around spelling I was subject to a large number of shape bias tests but that was more like 35 years ago, which probably biases me to assuming it is similar :slight_smile:

Circles and arrows and law enforcement? If you hadn’t mentioned the questions were on both sides, I would have suggested you missed the paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was.

Its not a valid test, as thats not informaton. Perhaps you were meant to walk out because its invalid.

Perhaps you were meant to finish it quickly, showing you were able to accelerate through repetive process.

Perhaps they marked you on if you sat there ensuring your answers were consistent for the reason the marker assumed as the only consistent manner. Is consistent a good thing ? Perhaps they ruled out people who OCD’d a reason and did things consistently according to what they perceived as consistent. Ironically you might have accidently ticked their measure of “consistent” when you randomly chose …

Of course, you might dislike one circle because it was a repeat of the same circle as in the box before… or its an odd number of steps away, or it contains an odd number on an even page. Or any such random reason you like or dislike. you might like outs in corners, and in’s along the insides. you might like outs looking out, or ins looking out, or any pattern…

Since you cannot even intuit “the answer they want you to put” , you have no reason to like or dislike anything anywhere, there’d be no systematic way to score well.

I wrote backward S’s with one hand and then the other. I dont know why. perhaps they were looking for differentiated left right brain, so as to avoid emotion being involved. but I think they believed the “you use only around 10% of your brain” idea and that well connected hemispheres probably helped bump that % up a bit.

perhaps they merely ignored these useless sections, and after working with the usefull parts of the test(s), went back and scored these useless tests as “pass” if they wanted you and “fail” if they didn’t want you… so as to have an objective score to say why they made their subjective decision…