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From The MRA Newsletter
We Don't Care What You Think.

By John Loven, MRA
"Psychological" tests, like Myers-Briggs, talk about inner processes and unconscious urges, but make no dependable predictions about behavior. But isn't anticipating behavioral patterns what hiring, career management and training are all about? In business, you want a tool like the MRA Leadership Matrix that helps identify what a person is going to do, rather than how they're going to think.

I recently profiled a woman - the president of a service club - who was interested in how MRA Profiling works. She completed the Leadership Matrix, our tool for measuring and describing behavioral traits. The Leadership Matrix asks you to look at a list of 100 descriptive words and select all the words that other people have used to describe you. Then you see with the same list of words and are asked to select those which truly describe you.

After completing the Leadership Matrix and receiving her report, the lady send me a note:

Interesting choice of descriptive words. I found that the words I chose for myself are those I feel best describe what I feel, not what I try to appear to be and work to be. As I say, "what you see is pure sham...many times." How did you put what I "work against within myself to be an effective person" in a descriptive list of words?
Like many people, she had become interested in her inner process of selecting words, and wondered how MRA could possibly anticipate the complexity of such a personal process. I wrote to her:

"We don't know what you were thinking and we don't care."
I was flippant only because I know her well, but I went on to explain the origin of the Leadership Matrix.

How the Leadership Matrix was Developed

Several hundred people from many walks of life were recruited as test subjects. They engaged in a series of activities with each other while they were observed by trained researchers. The observers knew all the details of the four behavioral traits which the Leadership Matrix measures:

  • Ascendancy (A): Assertive response to challenge
  • Sociability (S):Ascendant behavior in social situations
  • Emotional Accommodation (E): Emotional response to the pace of environment
  • Readjustment (R): Adaptive response to authority and structure

The observers were trained to recognize how these traits play out in interpersonal behaviors. The test subjects were ranked high or low on the four traits based on observed interactions with others.

After lengthy observation, the subjects were then asked to choose descriptors from a list of about 200 adjectives. Like today's matrix assessment, they were asked to choose words others had used and words they believed were accurate. The word choices were subjected to detailed statistical analysis to determine which words "cluster around" the individuals who are high and low on the four traits. Words that didn't cluster were excluded. When two words had almost exactly the same clustering tendency, one was removed to reduce redundancy. The result is our current list of 100 words and a scoring method that measures the strength of A, S, E, and R.

The Inner Process

The important point is that the Leadership Matrix says nothing about anybody's inner mental processes. We don't even speculate on what makes people choose certain words - we don't have any data about that. In a sense, we don't even want any data about that. What we have is a very strong set of statistical associations: people with certain traits do choose certain words. The Leadership Matrix produces results that are acknowledged by test subjects to be more than 90% accurate.

Over years of profiling, I've heard many different accounts of what went on in the subjects' minds. Some, like the lady who wrote to me, took a careful and analytical approach, carefully observing and categorizing their own word selection process. On the other hand, lots of people tell me it's no different from being asked to name the colors of their living room furniture: It's just an exercise in memory. For some, it's an existential exercise in "who am I supposed to be?"

With all the varying accounts of the inner process, the accuracy remains very high. In most of my experience, when the profile is not accurate, the subject was under extreme stress or was not doing the exercise honestly.

The Power of Statistical Association

Here are a couple examples of strong statistical association - scientifically sound and well regarded - without any identified "inner process":

Numerous studies covering 140 years have shown that married persons tend to have better general health and, in fact, live longer than their unmarried counterparts. To this day, no one has definitively explained the mechanism behind this phenomenon, but it is established fact.

A recent study of diet and drinking patterns published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that people who drink wine tend to choose foods that are healthier for the heart. No one has put forward a reason for this, but it is considered a possible explanation for the strong association between moderate wine drinking and better cardiac health.

The superior accuracy of Leadership Matrix is another example of a strong statistical association: people who are high or low on the four behavioral traits choose certain words far more often than others. The resulting system is predictive and stands up to statistical rigor, but without making any assertions about the subjects' inner process of word selection.
We don't care what you think - we care how you behave. And that's good!

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