One of the most common and powerful recruiting methods Scientology uses is the “free personality test.” This is a 200-question informal examination given at Scientology centers. One answers various questions with Yes, Maybe or No and gets a graph or profile which plot various personality traits on a scale from -100 to 100.
Scientologists claim that the test was developed scientifically and is not what they think of you, but what you think of yourself. Free test evaluations are supposed to reveal character traits and emotional or psychological problems a person may be having which Scientology then offers its services to cure.
What is this test really? Where does it come from, how is it used and does it have any real value? Let’s take a look at this in depth and see what we find.
What is personality testing?
The idea of developing tests to determine whether a person has “good traits” or “bad traits” goes back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Before then, testing was a bit less formal and consisted of such things as throwing a woman in to a lake to see if she would float or not. If she did, she was a witch and the that was that.
As physiology and anatomy became more developed sciences, the brain started being focused on more heavily. In the late 1700s, Franz Joseph Gall gave lectures on organology, which was later called “phrenology” – a popular practice until about 1840 which assumed that a person’s character and personality were determined by how big specific parts of the brain and skull were. So if you wanted to know how conscientious someone was, for example, you simply measured how big their head was right here.
When it turned out that didn’t work so well, Sir Francis Galton tried a different approach in the late 1800s based on what is called the lexical hypothesis. Briefly, this states that personality characteristics that are most important in peoples’ lives will eventually become part of their language and that the most important of these characteristics are more likely t o be expressed as single words. Development of this hypothesis eventually led to what is now called the Big Five personality traits (also called the Five Factor model). These five traits are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism and each of these break down into numerous sub-traits which can be tested for and which help predict behavior, which is the basic point of personality testing in the first place.
There has been a lot of work done on personality testing over the years by a lot of psychologists. It’s a field of much controvery and contention because of the various theories and ideas about how people think and act and what can and cannot be tested. There are also big questions about how to deal with people who are not giving honest answers as well as how the test results are interpreted.
Why the Oxford Capacity Analysis?
When Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was first released in May 1950, it was pretty broadly panned in scientific circles. One of the reasons for this was its lack of scientific credibility. Since Hubbard had pretty much dreamed it up using hypnotic techniques and had failed to provide any evidence of rigorous scientific testing, it could hardly be labeled a science at all.
That didn’t stop the book from becoming a national bestseller and the Dianetics therapeutic technique from becoming very popular for about a year or so. Then people tended to find out for themselves that it didn’t really do anything like what Hubbard promised and there were very few people being cured of cancer, leukemia, bad eyesight and a host of other illnesses which Hubbard claimed were psychosomatic in nature. Its popularity waned and Hubbard eventually went bankrupt. He then decided the scientific approach was not really working out so well and he started a new religion instead using the same pseudoscientific therapy techniques and called it Scientology.
However, almost from day one Hubbard tried to gain scientific credibility after-the-fact of publishing his work using psychological and personality testing of Dianetics patients. Various standardized tests were used including the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the California Test of Mental Maturity for Adults, the Bernreuter Personality Inventory and the Otis Tests of Mental Ability. A booklet was published by the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation in January 1951 to show positive changes in these test scores as a result of Dianetic processing.
The authors took great pains to state that they had not run rigidly controlled experiments to test Dianetics results, which of course would be something any science worth its name would actually do to present validation of its results. Also, they complain about the validity of the tests used since they claim that Dianetics “has no parallel in the history of psychology.” Psychologists had been trying for decades before Dianetics came along to resolve the problem of psychosomatic trauma and illness. To state that Dianetics was something without parallel in the field of mental health was meaningless hypberbole and I believe was just meant to give Hubbard an excuse to not follow through with rigorous scientific testing. Of course, that’s exactly what happened.
After failing to get the scientific validation he craved, and with Dianetics bankrupt and the copyrights to the work lost, Hubbard gave up on trying to use standardized psychological tests to gain scientific support for his claims. In fact, it appears he wanted to move away from using them at all. However, he still liked the idea of selling people on his techniques by claiming they were scientific in nature. It sounds very impressive and gives Scientology a credibility it never earned and doesn’t deserve. So Hubbard developed Scientology’s own tests.
Now Hubbard did not actually sit down and write the first personality test himself. Instead, he had a Scientologist staff member named Julia Salmen Lewis write it and she copyrighted it in 1955.
Ray Kemp later wrote a column claiming that in 1956, back when Ray himself was still a Scientologist, Ron had spoken with him about the APA and wasn’t happy about it. Ray had studied some psychology and suggested that one reason for the poor results was that American personalities were not the same as British, German, French or other cultures. Ron asked him to write a test that was more general in nature but would maintain the same format as the APA.
Ray went to work on this and a few months later, the result was the Oxford Capacity Analysis. He said it’s not a personality test as such but tests the capacity of any person with respect to various traits and syndromes. For example:
“A person with no action level but who is very depressed is not likely to commit suicide, but a very depressed person who also shows a high action level and a high tendency to spur of the moment activity is much more a suicide risk.”
According to Ray, the graph is not the person’s personality but is a picture of how the person thinks others view him and what he agrees with. Ray was not a trained psychologist and as far as I could find, had no formal training in clinical testing so I take everything he says about his test results with a grain of salt.
These APA/OCA tests were only used internally in Scientology up until 1960 to see how auditing was working on people. Ray claimed that in 1959 the test was revised with certain questions that a person who had achieved the state of Clear would answer differently and he made the scoring system easier to administer. Ray said he copyrighted the test in 1960 but, as with so many other things in Scientology, the credit was given to Hubbard and was later copyrighted and trademarked in Hubbard’s name.
Fooling the Masses
As of 1959, the OCA had not yet developed into a means of bringing new people on board. That started in 1960 when Hubbard had testing sections setup in Scientology churches and said that they should promote themselves as Test Clinics offering free IQ and personality tests which could be used to convince people that they were in need of Scientology.
His first policy on the matter, written on October 28, 1960, said this:
“Remarks that ‘Scientology can improve this or that characteristic’ or ‘auditing can remedy that’ or ‘Processing can change this’ or ‘Training can stabilize that’ should be used repeatedly during the evaluation for the sake of impingement.
“A clever evaluator can surmise such things as domestic grief, trouble with possessions, etc much more easily than a fortune teller.
“Test evaluation is modern, scientific fortune telling. It deals with past, present and future. A low profile, low IQ future is of course a dreary one, profitless, unless changed. We can erase the fate of the past and alter utterly anyone’s future. So it does not matter how hard one leans on the person. Remember low cases want only to escape the consequences of life.”
“The methods and scripts used to evaluate tests have been developed and revised over the years for maximum effectiveness. Various conclusions and evaluations were written over the years for each point of the profile. These weren’t surveyed or tested to see if they were accurate; they are merely guidelines that test evaluators use to see if the person who they are evaluating will agree with them. For example, a person with a low H trait is told that he is intolerant, tactless, easily annoyed if he can’t get to do what he wants and will go to great length to invalidate others people’s efforts. These would all be points that a test evaluator would throw out at the person, see what the person says and if they agree or can find instances where they acted like that, then use those as examples as reasons why the person needs to buy Scientology services.”
Hubbard eventually devised a scale of Awareness Characteristics, claiming that people not in Scientology were so bad off that they weren’t even aware of how messed up they were and only Scientology could help them. He wrote that it was the job of the people doing test evaluations to bring a person from low awareness levels to Need of Change and Demand for Improvement.
By some estimates, some 20% of the people who got started in Scientology did so because they received one of these test evaluations. I happen to think based on my own experience that the percentage is much higher and would personally rate it at more like 50%. The personality test has been an extremely lucrative and successful way for Scientology to make people feel worse about themselves and come to realize how bad off they really are and how much they need Scientology.
The OCA is Pseudoscientific Nonsense
Now having told you what Scientology’s personality test is all about and how it is used, let me now emphatically state that this OCA and all the other tests that Scientology uses are pseudo scientific nonsense and have no value whatsoever. Any claims that Scientology staff make that these tests were scientifically formulated or are carried out in any way similarly to how real psychological testing is done should not be believed because they are lying to you.
As I described earlier, this is a field that has been under development for over 200 years and Scientology’s contributions to it add up to exactly nothing.
As one statement of proof for what I’m talking about, in 1971, Sir John Foster had three expert members of the Council of the British Psychological Society go to a Scientology center in London, go through the full testing line and evaluate what they found. They each gave random answers to the test in three distinct ways, which in any standard test should have given a mean or average result. Instead, they found that the test is weighted to give below average or poor scores on the left and right hand side of the graph. Why does it do this?
Hubbard wrote a bulletin about how to read the OCA on December 19, 1971 where he said,
“An OCA with any point on the left side of the graph in low or undesirable range means the pc is out of valence. Any low point on the right side of the graph means the pc is crazy.”
Out of valence means the person is in someone else’s personality or is somewhat schizophrenic. So the test is actually designed to produce this result on any normal Joe who is taking the test for the first time. While the rest of their findings are too long to cover in detail, among the statements made in their review was the following:
“…the Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a personality test known in psychological circles; it is not distributed by reputable test agencies in this country; there is no research literature available about it, nor is it listed in the Mental Measurements Year Book which is internationally accepted as the authoritative source on psychometric devices. While any one of these points does not in itself indict a psychometric instrument, the failure of the Oxford Capacity Analysis to meet all of them does, in our opinion, constitute an extremely strong case for assuming it to be a device of no worth.”
The people who wrote these tests and the Scientology staff who adminster them have no formal or even informal training in psychology or the subject of testing. I’d be willing to bet that having watched this video so far, you know more about their test than they do.
In the Foster Report, one psychologist stated
“In general it was patent that [the test administrator] had no notion what the test was, how it was designed, what it measured or what the scores meant. He had been trained to produce this ill-informed commentary which, to a gullible anxious person, might sound genuinely insightful. In fact he was pointing out to an unknown member of the public ‘inadequate’ facets of his personality shown up by an instrument which he did not understand.”
Additionally, something you might not know is that real psychological testing is a very large field which is subject to a great deal of regulation.
“No reputable psychologist would accept the procedure of pulling people off the street with a leaflet, giving them a ‘personality test’ and reporting back in terms that show the people to be ‘inadequate’, ‘unacceptable’ or in need of ‘urgent’ attention. In a clinical setting a therapist would only discuss a patient’s inadequacies with him with the greatest of circumspection and support, and even then only after sufficient contact for the therapist-patient relationship to have been built up. To report back a man’s inadequacies to him in an automatic, impersonal fashion is unthinkable in responsible professional practice. To do so is potentially harmful. It is especially likely to be harmful to the nervous introspective people who would be attracted by the leaflet in the first place. The prime aim of the procedure seems to be to convince these people of their need for the corrective courses run by the Scientology organisations.”
It’s a shame really, that because Scientology calls itself a religion, it is able to get away with so many baseless claims and is able to blatantly lie to people all day long about its methods and activities. This field of testing is no different.
One last point about this test. Although I could not find documentation that made this certain, it appears that Hubbard personally decided how many points each answer to the various questions would be assigned. Given how much attention he had on the subject of testing and its development wholly within the world of Scientology, it is not beyond reason that he would have carefully reviewed the materials before letting them be broadly released to his churches.
The way the test is graded, more points are assigned for various “Yes” or “No” answers which make different questions more significant than others when it comes to how the test results will look. And the standard by which these points are assigned are based on L. Ron Hubbard’s own personality, what he thought was good or bad.
For example, on the question “Do you consider more money should be spent on social security” a “Yes” is 3 points while a “No” or “Maybe” is 4.
But on the question “Do you consider the modern prisons without bars system ‘doomed to failure’? a “Yes” answer is 1 point while a “No” is 5.
These two questions are more about a person’s politics than they are their personality. One would have to agree with the writer of the test in order to score well on these answers. And the more a person is indoctrinated in Scientology principles written by Hubbard, the more that person takes on Hubbard’s values and ideas. One of Scientology’s most powerful mantras, indoctrinated into all of his followers, is to constantly ask themselves “What would Ron do?” To get a good score on the OCA, one has to think like L. Ron Hubbard, something all Scientologists aspire to do. So is this test a measure of a person’s real personality or a measure of how successful Scientology has been at taking over their thought processes?
Thank you for watching.
Chris Owens “The Personality Test” published on Operation Clambake
Public Activities Administrative Letter of April 16, 1969 by Tom Morgan
HCO Policy Letter of 28 Oct 1960, NEW TESTING PROMOTION SECTION
Dianetics Processing, January 1951, Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation Staff
HCOB 19 Dec 1971, D OF P OPERATES BY OCAs