Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crystal ball career advice:

Universities and career guidance centers get ahead of themselves by harping on drum that is now off beat. What on earth am i talking about? I am worried about the extensive use of type indicators, personality indicators, and standardized testing instruments to help undergraduate students make career decisions. In theory, you answer a few questions in a few minutes, the administrator plugs your number on a computer, clicks some buttosn, *make machine noise here* and pronto, your life is explained. Like the mysterious magic ball, career counselors too can tell you where you are most likely going to head.

However, the problem is that the logic used by the so called personality inventories, are in my opinion, flawed.

It all starts like this: Personality tests like the MBTI made in the US are very conveniently imported to countries like Malaysia. The western models of career counseling is applied vigorously. The counselors boast of personal accreditations from prestigious organizations like the American Psychological Association, *insert list here* If you have not noticed anything wrong with this picture, it is because you think that the people of the world are made of Americans, and only Americans. You don’t see anything wrong because you think that the million plus cultures are very much like yours. And you are dead wrong in making that assumption. Why?

In the west, the Mother of all assumptions is made(at least in the case of career placement): it is assumed that matching personality and work interest is the best way to determine a good career fit. But this does not have to be so. Though this seems like a logical deduction, In the Asian, career choices are largely based on a family or group dynamics. An Asian student may choose to become a doctor because his families esteem or his communities esteem depends on it. Thus, in collectivistic cultures, individual choices may be given up for group choices. Though they may see “dependant” and unable to make their own choices, to think other wise is to deny cultural heritages, and is a demonstration of cultural tunnel vision.

What’s interesting is that current research originating from the America and Europe identify this gap, and have proposed strategies to overcome it. For example, research ideas now point to measuring the degree to which people are able to adopt to various jobs as a function of a good-career fit. The new models admit that people inherently change and thus, identify change as a key variable. Sadly, this development is yet to reach Asia.

Then there is the assumption made by the test, which makes it flawed in its very assumption of human nature. Tests assume that personalities is static: They assume that People do not change. They assume that people are static totem poles with predefined and robot like personalities defined largely at birth or in few years spent as an adolescent.

Reality however is far from that. People, by their very nature, are changing everyday. The well known verse “all the worlds a stage, and all the people the actors” is best used. The current personality inventories assume that “all the people play the same parts, over and over and over and over and over”. People are able to adopt, change, wear masks, learn though experience, and people are uniquely about to change each day.

My desire is to drive psychology in the Asian context. My desire is to adopt personality types that are flexible enough to encompass the complex cultural forms that is seen (if you choose to see) in this region. My desire is to bring awareness of the potential pitfalls, issues, conflicts, and problems that the application of the western chop-block-model brings to our clients in Asia.



chris said...

I'm a little surprised that personality inventories are relied upon so heavily...!

But yeah, I don't see how they can extrapolate inventories (that are presumably validated on very specific cultural demographics) to entirely different cultures...that's rather irresponsible (assuming that is the case, I have no idea if these inventories have been vetted on asian population samples)

Mildred said...

harlow burger!

sorry hadda screen ur comment on me blog, coz none of my frens noe that i'll be headin home! it's a surprise... ha... but yes, im hopin to go up to msia! if not, both u and steph can come down to tiny weeny spore!?... and come say hello to my cutecute dog, Bobby! hehe...

Dr. Deb said...

There should be more cultural and cross cultural awareness, assessments and interventions in the field of psychology. Go Astro and make it happen!!


Anonymous said...

Hey, i totally agree with you that its not fair to compare Malaysian data against European or Western norms. It is not a responsible thing to do and pisses me off as well. I never really thought about the implications of using different norms against a set of Malaysian data till i received appropriate training on the impact and what it can do. It is high time that those who wish to use personality assessments for selection or developmental purposes should be made aware of the implications. Like u said, using American/Western norms against Malaysian/ Asian norms are still crappy and distorted because Asian values are different no matter how much we think we have assimilated into the Western culture. I also dont like the idea of using personality as a selection tool. It could be one part of a repertoire of measures just to validate and provide more info about an applicant but NOT as THE selection tool. Heck, based on my personality i am suppose to be an architect haha those who know me would laugh their heads off. you mentioned that people would have the idea that personality does not change. to a certain extent it doesn't. an individual's personality does not change but he learns behaviours which make him appear to be something he's not. For example,someone who is naturally hot-tempered would almost always feel the anger but would learn ways of either keeping the anger in check or other ways of regulating this feeling. now this is an exagerated example but i hope u get my gist. anyway, interesting postings recently.