this is only a test
(originally posted 10/5/2012)
The story you are about to read is true. I know because I was there. Only a former Vice President for Personnel at a major pharmaceutical company would have this kind of firsthand information. Before joining the company I received my BA in Industrial Psychology, a Masters (M.Ed/C.A.G.S) in Applied Behavior Analysis and my PHD in Experimental Social Psychology. I then accepted a position in human resources for $35k a year at my former firm because one of my professors said that it was “where the action is.” I remember taking the personality test my first day there. It was a cheap knock-off of the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory and I knew exactly what they wanted to hear. After finishing it I was quickly summoned into an adjoining conference room and introduced to the head of human resources. “I guess you think you’re pretty cute huh?” was all he said as he gazed across the laminate expanse.
Being young and too stupid to know what I was getting myself into I smiled and replied “I had an Eysenck Personality Questionnaire for breakfast and washed it down with an Oxford Capacity Analysis.”
His eyes never left mine but I sensed something change about his demeanor. “So I guess you don’t think much of our personality test.”
“We both know that it will take more than a simple Abika test to bring out any dementia praecox I might have lurking.”
Bingo. I was in. I spent the next three years working on a new revolutionary personality test for the company. We broke all the rules and pushed the boundaries of ‘the process.’ We started where the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory left off. There were, of course, setbacks. We had a secret underground bunker known as PSY6 that we used to administer our early tests to fresh-faced job candidates straight out of top Ivy League business schools. Unaware that their every move was being recorded we got to watch our tests in action. Some of the results were hard to watch. In one case we returned to the room to find one of our applicants sitting naked in a fetal position in the corner of the room drawing on the walls with his own feces. He was immediately hired and now runs West Coast Operations. Not all of the tests were as successful however. We learned early on to make sure we could remove the doors easily after one subject, a Charles Bartlesworth from Dartmouth, barricaded himself in and, after raving about the industrialization and internationalization of the Spanish economy, drove two pencils into his eye sockets and repeated “Did I pass? Did I pass?” until we were able to get inside and sedate him. Ironically he later accepted a better offer from one of our competitors but did not make his sales goals and was later terminated.
In the early days it was all about the T-scales. These were enough to weed out the hypochondriacs and the deviants… those with interpersonally exploitative behavior might as well have been wearing t-shirts stating as much. (Ironically we did end up printing up a few of those prior to the 2001 Xmas party but that, in retrospect, was probably not in good taste. No one parties like clinical psychologists, am I right?) It wasn’t until we caught the connection between past membership in fraternities/sororities and disturbing questions of self-worth and self-identity that we made the breakthrough that led to us changing our ‘infrequency’ coefficient and thereby making our F Scale the groundbreaking FU Scale. Still with me on this?
Human psychopathology was from that point on a game we could not lose. We held all the cards. Soon the government came sniffing around. We had tests that could, within 30 minutes, have test subjects openly weeping or vigorously masturbating, abandoning their faith or speaking in tongues and ‘The Man’ wanted in. After realizing what we had I knew it couldn’t fall into the wrong hands. If the government was to ever use this test and only hire qualified and competent people I knew Washington would shut down within weeks. The depressed, schizophrenic, and paranoid had to work somewhere and that somewhere had always been the local and federal bureaucracy. Where would all the workers who are now at the Department of Motor Vehicles go? I knew what I had to do. I had to burn it all down and I did.
You never even heard about the fire. Lives were lost and a $40 million dollar facility was burned to the ground and it was all hushed up. Big money in action. I went into hiding. They were looking for me you see. I still held the answers they were looking for. I was forced to accept a job at a retail clothing giant at the mall. Knowing that they would be watching every personality test on the eastern seaboard looking for me I was forced to throw in a little lack of acceptance of authority and a hint of social alienation to avoid detection. My results were still good enough to get me an assistant manager’s position and while life is a little less exciting, it’s a living. I still tinker around a bit and tonight I’m giving a neighbor a little ‘test’ to see if they are trustworthy enough to water my plants while I’m away next week. It should only take 30 minutes or so.
(I was looking for a little Hannibal walking off at the end of The Silence of the Lambs feel for this story… I guess I should have started it with a description of myself that made you think of Anthony Hopkins. Could I trouble you to reread the whole thing with that in mind now?)
(No? Hmmm… interesting.)