Practicing Psychological Tests for the Service Selection Board: Practical? Or illogical?
What is psychology? And what does a psychologist do? Many have no clue about the answers for these questions but they make a guess and arrive at conclusions such “psychology is the study of mind or of “crazy” people and many creative answers. But in reality psychology is “The science of human behavior and mental processes”. Notice that mind is not mentioned anywhere. This is because “mind” is an abstract word that represents the mental processes and also that psychology is a science which means that the methods, results, assessments and conclusions made are scientific, based on evidence, experimentally proven theories and not on some random person’s random thoughts and ideas. Psychologist are people who use the science of psychology in various fields for different purposes that requires assessment, understanding, predicting, describing, explaining and modifying/controlling(to some extent) human behaviors. In SSB, the psychologists assess a candidate’s personality for which he/she administers many tests such as TAT, WAT etc.
Now, what are these TATs, WATs? What are their purpose?
TAT is Thematic Apperception Test and WAT is word association test. These tests measures an individual’s Unconscious. “Unconscious” is a word that is often misunderstood by people. One of the earliest perspectives in psychology gives three parts to the mind namely, Unconscious, pre-conscious/Subconscious and Conscious.
Imagine that our mind is a huge planet like earth and that we are explorers( like Columbus) living in a small part called conscious in this huge planet called mind. Since we have been living in this small part we know everything and everyone in it. So is the nature of consciousness. We are aware of everything happening in our consciousness.
Now, we explorers have explored certain areas on this huge planet but at present we are here in this place called conscious. However, we can go to these other places we have already explored if we wish to or try to. Let’s call these places pre-conscious or subconscious. So is the nature of pre-conscious. These are the parts of our psyche which we are not aware at present but if we try to we can remember them. For example, we try to remember the name of that old friend when we see his face and remember it when we think hard enough.
Now, in this huge planet there are of course places which are not yet explored and places we are not even aware of but nonetheless they exist and have a huge effect on the planet. This vast unexplored area that we don’t know of is called unconscious and so is the nature of unconscious. Unconscious is everything we don’t know about ourselves.
These TATs and WATs measure the subconscious and unconscious part of a candidate’s mind and hence understand their personality. The way a person perceives a picture in TAT and associate with a word in WAT in a very short time is often the first response and hence an expression of the one’s unconscious. There is no right or wrong response because these are expressions of the unconscious and has to be expressed freely. The unconscious is formed majorly at the childhood. This does not mean that a person is a victim or a puppet of one’s unconscious. It just means that our experience has shaped us to be the person we are today and this can be accepted or modified with the right efforts.
Early uses of these tests include identifying serious psychological disorders and in-depth understanding of personality. These tests may be done in SSB for many reasons such as understanding the personality, checking for psychological disorders etc., because the candidate is going to be trained as a military officer and hence will be put under high physical and psychological stress. This stress that the gentlemen and lady cadets are put through should make the cadet in the military academies to withstand stress of wars, military operations and uncertainties of the military life and cope with them. But for people with certain kind of personalities such a training would be a torture and thus can inflict severe psychological damage, thus it becomes the ethical responsibility of the psychologists in the SSBs to ensure that they assess the candidates personality correctly and check if it suits the requirements of a military life to protect the candidate as well the organization.
Now, the problem is that there are people who encourage a candidate to practice such scientific test in a way that does not express one’s own unconscious but maybe the unconscious of this “mentor” or “coach” who thinks he/she is trying to help the candidate clear an interview. This is seen through advises given such 1. Write positive response no matter what; 2. Express OLQs through story 3. Write according PIQ; write according to life experience and many more…
Why all this drama? In the limited time given for the TAT and WAT are you going to think about all these advises or express yourself freely? These advises may right or wrong but the fact is whether a person tries to or not what is revealed in the stories of TAT and sentences of WAT is what is written is the PIQ form and based on one’s life experience because that is what is in a person’s unconscious. Also, when a candidate tries to write positive stories despite that fact that he/she has perceived something negative, first, time is lost, second, the story is distorted from the most probable reality. In psychology, the more a person is out of touch with reality the more chances that he/she is susceptible to or is having a psychological disorder. Hence, a psychologist interprets such a story to be out of touch with reality whereas if the candidate would’ve written truthfully that first response then candidate would have had a better chance. Also, a psychologist does not come to conclusion based on one story or one word or even one test. It is the combination of all these tests that reveal certain aspects of a person’s personality. A person’s personality can never be completely understood as that nature of personality is dynamic, that is it changes with experience, practice and exposure to new ideas over time.
The more a candidate is in touch with reality and accepts reality the more he/she is able to express better. We must also remember the fact that the military is looking for a certain type of personalities only and some people may not have such a personality or may acquire such a personality later in life hence if one does not make it and has exceeded the age limit to join the defense forces it does not mean that he/she is worthless or unfit. Everyone grows at different rates that is how nature has intended us. We can only try our best efforts and work in sync with nature.
The writer is Post Graduate in Psychology. You can read more from him here : https://aadithyanath01.blogspot.com/
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