Lewis Hollweg, Ph.D.
Uh-oh, here we go again. This was my first thought as I read the Time magazine article “How High Is Your XQ” in the June 22, 2015 issue. Because the U.S. has an on-again, off-again hostile opinion of psychological testing, I have seen these kinds of critical articles every few years over the course of my career. Whether it is educational testing in schools or employment testing, it is a polarizing topic depending on the individual’s perspective, peer group, philosophical ideology or political orientation. However, the Time article is the first that I find written in such a biased, not to mention derisive manner.
Damned by prejudicial graphics and demeaning descriptions
The front page of this issue of Time starts with a listing of questions as a cover underlay, many of which are highly evocative: “Do you understand why stars twinkle?, Do you hate opera singing?”, etc. There may be non-professionally developed tests that ask these questions, but I have never seen them in 40 years of studying psychological assessments. Surely these items were chosen by the authors to be prejudicial and provocative. Inside the magazine, the article title page repeats a few of the previous questions and its opposite page is full of people pictured sitting in boxes. A not-very-subtle depiction of the author’s underlying conclusions that these tests exist only to dehumanize and categorize people. This almost guarantees that the reader will react negatively at the inception of the article since very few of us want to be pictured in small cardboard boxes.
Inflammatory statements, not facts and social science
The ‘XQ” icon created by the authors also symbolizes their opinion that users and test developers do not even know what they are measuring (the X stands for the UKNOWN). They blame the current business obsession with “big data” and the dependence upon “analytics” applied to human beings as the root of this travesty. It is duplicitous that the authors are using labeling and categorization to make their own point while accusing businesses of using this same descriptive approach. Additionally, the authors use the old technique of destroying the interviewee’s credibility up front by describing the Jet Blue HR professional as a “35 year old with a toothy smile”. This is before the authors summarize the excellent results of Jet Blue’s use of testing. Surely, we should disregard his comments because of the “toothy smile” and youthfulness. Very devious on the part of the writers and again revealing of the depth of their bias. I find the whole article written in a contrived, sensationalistic manner with the use of smarmy, low-blow tactics rather than with incisive, thoughtful, and professional discipline. I consider this article far below what I would expect from Time magazine.
In my next post I will detail specific falsehoods and prevarications in the Time article.