Number 23 ULRICH ET AL

Number 23 ULRICH ET AL - Student acceptance of generalized...

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Unformatted text preview: Student acceptance of generalized personality interpretations“ It. Ulrich, 1'. Staehnilt, and R. Stainton One reason for the.oontinuing popularity of astrology, palmistry. and other pseudoscientific methods is probably the fact that they help people to find order and direction within the often confusing conditions of modern life. But why is the credibility of these procedures maintained despite their lack of obiective support? The following article may provide an answer to this question, as well as help us to understand the "de- nominationalisrn" that has characterized the adherents of various schools of therapy within psychology itself. I 0 Previous investigators have been concerned with how individuals react to personality interpretations which are based on information obtained from per- sonality tests. Since “virtually every psychological trait can be observed to some degree in everyone" (Forer, 194-9) , it is possible that such interpretations may be given in terms so general that they could apply to almost anyone. The fol- 10wing study was conducted in'an attempt to discover the degree of acceptance of vague, generalized personality interpretations, presumably derived from per- sonality tests, and to determine whether the “prestige” of the person making the interpretation is related to acceptance. _ Procedure. Two experiments were performed involving 136 students from three educational psychology classes plus 79 other 55. In the first experiment (N = 57), the instructor of the class administered both the Bell Adjustment Inventory and the House—Tree-PersOn (HTP) test. The students were told by the instructor that he would score and interpret each of their tests and return the interpretations to them at a later date. About a week later each student was given an interpretation with his or her nanoe on it. All interpretations re- turned were identical, but the statements were arranged in a different order. 'Fnom Psychological Reports 13:831-334. 1963. Reprinted with permission of author and publisher. IQ. .138 Psychological testing The students were then asked to read and think about the interpretations care- fully and to rate them as follows: A. Rate the interpretation of your personality according to the following scale: I feel that the interpretation was: Excellent Good Average Poor Very Poor B. Please make any additional comments about the interprehtion that you feel would be appropriate. In thc Second experiment members of two classes {total N = 79) were given instructions for administering the tests to one other person, e.g., a room- mate, neighbor, etc. Both the tests and the personality interpretations were the same as those used in Exp. I. The students were not to reveal to their Ss that they were part of an experiment. They were simply to state that they were studying personality testing and needed an S for practice. Ss were to be given the tests, and several days later they were to be given the interpretation. Ss were then to be instructed to rate the interpretation. The method of rating was similar to that of the first experiment. The following interpretation, adapted from Forer, was used in both experi- ments. - . “You have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a. great deal of un- used capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you haw.- sorne personality Weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you. Disciplined and con- tmlled on' the outside, you tend to he worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as being an independent thinker and do not accept others' opinions without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself _to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and mowed. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic." Results. It is evident from the data that Ss for the most part accepted the interpretations. Table 10 shows the students’ ratings of the test interpretation for the first experiment Fifty-threeof the 57 students rated the interpretation as good or excellent. Row 2 gives the students’ ratings of the test interpreta- tions for the second experiment. Fifty—nine of the 79 students rated the intet- pretation as good or excellent in spite of the fact that these interpretations I 'I'oble 10. Ratings of personality interpretations Tm! Emile»: m Very poor Psychologist’s interpretations 57 27 26 3 l 0 Student’s interpretations _ - 79 29 30 ' 15 ' 5 0 --——————-—-———-——._._______________________________ Student acceptance of generalized personality interpretations 139 were given by admittedly inexperienced students! Chi-square tests significant at the .001 level indicate that in both experiments the ratings given the inter- pretations were higher than chance expectancy. Other data obtained were the comments of Ss concerning the validity as well as the helpfulness of the interpretation. Several examples were chosen which are indicative of the opinions and reactions of the majority of the $5. The following statements were taken directly from the students’ papers. ' "IIcelthatyouhavedoneafinejohwiththematerialwhichymhadto work with. I agree with almost all your statements and think they answer the problem I may have." "Ontbenose! Verygmdlwishyouhadsaldmore,butwhatyoudid mention is all true without a doubt I wish you could go further into this Damn- ality sometime." _ “The results have brought out several points which have worried me because stsnotstu'eil'Ihadimaginedthcsetobepersonalityts-aitsolmine.Tests like this could be valuable to an individual in helping him to solve some of his own problem." I _ "I believe this interpretation applies to me individually, II there are too many facets which fit'me too well to be a generalization." “The interpretation is surprisingly accurate and specific in duct-iption. I shall take note of many of the things said." "I feel that the interpretation dou apply to me individually. For the first. time things that I have been vaguely aware of have been put into concise and constructive statements which I would like to use as a plan for improving myself.” “It appears to me that the results of this test are unbelievably close to the truth. For a short test of this type, I was expecting large generalizations for results, but this was not the case; and I give all of the credit to the examiner whose conclusions were well calculated." The first three statements were written by the group of Ss who were given the test and interpretation by a profional psychologist. The last four state- ments were written by those 5s given the test and interpretation by students. These results indicate not only that So were "taken in” by the interpretation, but also that 5s were very likely to praise highly the examiner on his con- clusions. Discussion. The principal finding is that the majority of the people tested accepted personality interpretation stated in general terms as an accurate de- scription of their own personalities without being aware that the same inter- pretation could be applied to almost anyone. 'A previous study demonstrated the same phenomenon suggested that the probability of acceptance of the interpretation was increased when it was made by a prestigeful person, i.e., a psychologist. However, in-the present study the interpretations made by inexperienced students were as readily accepted as those made by a profional psychologist. The mean ratings given the student and psychologist interpretations were $05 and 4.38, respectively (t = 21, n.s.). This in part indicates the awe with which personality tests per se are viewed by the naive student or others of comparable test sophistication. Furthermore, the fact that some of the students did praiselthe interpreta- tion demonstrates that individuals accepting a general interpretation as an ac- I40 Psychological testing curate dacription of their personality are Very liker to praise the examiner. It has been noted that approval can serve as a reinforcement, thereby increas- ing the probability that the approved behavior will recur. It thus follows that in a counseling setting such reinforcement might cause the examiner to con- tinue to make this type of vague, general interpretation When the counselor has given a. test and is interpreting the results, general statements used by him are perhaps reinforced by statements of praise similar to those observed in the present experiment, although neither the client nor the caunselor is capable of verbalizing the contingency which has .causad such a situation to occur. ...
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This note was uploaded on 04/03/2008 for the course PSYC 1000 taught by Professor Carter during the Spring '07 term at Montana Tech.

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Number 23 ULRICH ET AL - Student acceptance of generalized...

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