Personality profiling for Business Success
Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson
Related Notes: My tips for
improving communications skills.
Snap Judgments on personality
Being able to quickly "size-up" a person is one
of the toughest skills in business. The ability to quickly access
the personality and intent of a person is a skill so important that
almost every successful executive will tell you that reading body
language and facial expressions is a critical skill.
The FBI teaches this all-important skill, and
cameras are now used in airports, hooked to software that
analyzes facial expressions of passengers:
"In an attempt to
prevent terrorists from boarding commercial planes, scientists are
developing a device that can detect and record facial expressions
that show fear and other emotions."
But it's not just the F.B.I. and law
Remember the scene in the Thomas Harris book
"Silence of the Lambs" where Hannibal Lecter makes eerily accurate
snap judgments about Clarice Starling? Hannibal the Cannibal has
become one of the most frightening characterizations of evil,
primarily because of his high intellect and his uncanny ability to
quickly access the personality of strangers. In one memorable
scene, Hannibal makes an eerier assessment of Clarice Starling
(played in the movie by Jody Foster):
ambitious, aren't you? You know what you look like to me, with your
good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A
well-scrubbed, hustling rube, with a little taste.
given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one
generation from poor white trash, are you, Agent Starling? And that
accent you've tried so desperately to shed - pure West Virginia.
What does your father do? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the
You know how
quickly the boys found you. All those tedious, sticky fumblings in
the back seats of cars, while you could only dream of getting out.
Getting anywhere, getting all the way to the F...B...I."
Personality Assessment Tests
Mental health professionals are trained at
person assessment, and a well-trainer personality evaluator can
often seem frightening and magical. The Minnesota Multiphasic
personality Inventory (MMPI). The
is a set of 500 true/false questions that accesses personality with
remarkable validity, and it's results are accepted in all U.S.
courts. Their test-base consists of hundreds of thousands of
subjects,. with a pre-diagnosed mental disorder (see
By comparing their responses to seemingly innocuous questions (e.g.
"I read the editorials in the newspaper every day") a proven
predictive model was created (Federal
courts have affirmed the MMPI as a scientifically valid) and
accepted procedure for personality assessment.
For example, the subjects preference to take
showers vs. baths is an extremely reliable measure of self-esteem,
and other scales such as the "Mach" scale that measures how
manipulative you are (based on the bestselling book "The Prince" by
Machiavelli. Here is an excellent
the MMPI scales and how they access your personality with eerie
Additional MMPI scales include Hypochondriasis
(Hs), Depression (D), Hysteria (Hy), Psychopathic Deviate (Pd),
Masculinity-Femininity (Mf), Paranoia (Pa), Psychasthenia (Pt),
Schizophrenia (Sc), Hypomania (Ma), Social Introversion (Si), and
the important "lie scale (that measures if the subject is trying to
manipulate their test results). These MMPI scales are all
valuable for "getting inside" someone's personality, and the results
are often used as evidence in criminal and civil (especially child
If you practice personality evaluation ardently
it can almost seem to others like you have psychic ability.
Formally, a snap judgment is call a "Cold
Reading", and you can infer amazing things about people with
simple observation skills. Scientists have now taken-up and
formalized this skill and confirmed that facial expressions can be
reliably interpreted to
tell when someone is lying, and noted that most people don't
have this skill:
"People don't seem to be very good at
spotting deception signals. On average, over hundreds of
laboratory studies, participants distinguish correctly between
truths and lies only about 55 percent of the time."
Snap judgment is not an easy skill to learn
unless you practice. As youngsters most of us are taught that it's
not nice to size-up people. Putting classes of people into
broad-buckets is naughty, we are told, because categorization leads
to stereotyping, and it's not fair to make assumptions about people
based on your "profile" of them.
Even in the absence of face-to-face contact,
some claim to be able to access personality solely from forum and e-mail
analysis. See this
excellent article on personality assessment from online writing
analysis. The book
Principles of Kinesic Interview and Interrogation (Practical Aspects
of Criminal & Forensic Investigation) is another example of a
formalized approach to this age-old skill.