There is fascination that I have with psychometric tests. It seems like the creators of these assessments have faced the impossible tasks of trying to capture complex aspects of personality with a series of phrases and sentences on which subjects must rate themselves. Recently I went through the somewhat tedious tasks of assessing myself and a friend who seems to be of very different temperament on a series of personality tests. It was tedious because I did all the scoring, carefully noting which items were to be reversed and checking twice to ensure accuracy.
Not surprisingly I tended to score higher in test of conscientiousness and process orientation behavior while my friend was higher in extroversion and ability to deal with people. However, the results of one test in particular interested me, the Friendliness Scale, created by John M. Reisman. Predictably, I turned out to be far less friendly than her according to this test. But the odd thing is that I have at least as many friends as she does.
It occurred to me that the difficulty with this scale and many other psychometric tests is their basis on self-perception. I may perceive that I not very willing to drop everything and help someone else in need. However, in reality I may do this more often that some people who believe they do this frequently. When I compare myself to others I do not hear myself complimenting others nearly as much. But words of praise are not always the same. I tend to reserve mine for what appears to be a struggle to achieve. I have noted that people tend to respond to praise that is individualized and meaningful to specific events.
When I read the instructions on the Friendliness Scales I found that research had shown that lower scores were not predictive of fewer friends. Low scores correlated with less satisfaction with friendship. However, Reisman never address the apparent incongruity of people having as many friends despite dissatisfaction with their friends. Is it possible that people who scored lower are not less friendly but more demanding of both themselves and others within friendships? Reisman’s analysis of the components of friendship was not that deep. Much of it was based on anecdotal accounts and apparent current societal standards.
Do emotionally intelligent people really have a greater insight into these other people’s emotions? Or do they perceive emotions based on the less demanding standard that only regards the “typical” feeling that the average person shows?
A person’s self perception also affects the kind of characters that they are drawn to when reading fiction. An empathetic person, who assumes that they are emotionally intelligent, will find a character that can read hidden emotions more believable. Do emotionally intelligent people really have a greater insight into these other people’s emotions? Or do they perceive emotions based on the less demanding standard that only regards the “typical” feeling that the average person shows?
People with a systematic way of deducing the traits of other people will scoff at this mind reading character as being too good to be true, and a fantasy projection of the author. They demand carefully delivered actual clues, such as Arthur Conan Doyle labored to provide in his Sherlock Holmes series. For a writer, finding an audience is not always a matter of following prescribed rules. It is often the openness of the individual author to reveal their perspective of humanity that matters to the reader.
As with the friendliness scale, the high score was not based on having more friends, but enjoying them more. Initially authors may not have huge quantities of readers, but they will gain loyalty if readers enjoy their books more.
Dr. John M. Reisman (1983) “SACRAL: Toward the Meaning and Measurement of Friendliness.” Journal of Personality Assessment, 47, 405-13