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  • Writer's pictureJohn J Lowe

Psychological Research on human behaviours

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

We must avoid crowdminding

Much of empirical psychological research measuring human behaviours is questionable as it starts from a biased premise. It chooses a proposition and then creates a questionnaire with an inherent suppositional focus and purpose. This tendency to be directive either sublimely or objectively means the results can only have a very qualified interpretation.

Questionnaires do not and cannot factor in allowances for personality typing, mood and a whole gambit of influencing factors. Certain personality types will answer questionnaires objectively and scientifically. Others will be influenced by the potentially personal outcome it portrays. They will choose the answer which positively reflects their personality. Other factors such as mood, gender, culture, education, experience will influence the candidate’s interpretation and decision process.

Does this mean that all empirical psychological research to determine human behaviours is meaningless and serves no practical purpose in terms of better understanding human behaviours? I am purporting that we move away from the crowd minding approach whereby we treat people en masse. Our focus must only be on the individual.

I have identified 4 distinct and very individual personality types, the Influencer, the Supporter, the Creative and the Analyst which I describe in my publication The Psychology of Career Planning and I maintain that empirical research projects must embrace this empirical methodology to capture at first hand individuality and diversity to be meaningful. I have conducted over 25,000 interviews to date and each interaction points to how much more there is to learn in terms of the diversity of human behaviours. I feel incapable of making a prognosis which can authoritatively identify a common behavioural thread. My message then is that we must only focus on individuals. The people collective approach has no meaning. Many articles we read fall into the trap of ‘crowdminding’. The approach of viewing people as a crowd rather than making allowances for the individual factor is fallacious.

A forceful endorsement of this point is Lawrence Kohlberg, the moral psychologist and his development theory of stages. Kohlberg conducted a large research programme with the help of PhD students to identify the various educational development stages from childhood to adulthood. The Kohlberg definition of the progressive levels were highly regarded as authoritative and demarcational and he nominated them as preconventional, conventional and post-conventional.

Carol Gilligan, an eminent psychologist and ethicist, challenged Kohlberg’s research as being too dogmatic and insular. It failed to embrace intuition as a personality perspective. The questionnaires and observations were deductive in composition and unconsciously focusing on particular personality types and thus sacrificing the caring trait. In her publication “In a Different Voice” Gilligan challenges many of Kohlberg’s assumptions in their approach to moral values.

I purport then that empirical research which focuses on the determination of human behaviours on a generalistic basis cannot look for a credible outcome as there are too many permutations and variables which cannot be qualified within the questionnaire. I have formulated these observations from my own first-hand experience.

The identification of my 4 personality types are the culmination of one-to-one meetings whereby I could empirically observe and evaluate the candidate individually and contextually in terms of age, experience, gender, culture, mood, articulation, education, work experience, performance, aspirations, reliability and achievements. These 4 types allow for self evaluation and a propensity to act in accordance with type. Individual’s action will be dependant on a myriad of circumstances at the time but I purport that their choices will be primarily influenced by their typology.

Human behaviour is too individual to be measured in crowd form and any empirical research approach must recognise and incorporate all the personality traits and experiences if it is to have a semblance of credibility.

This means that surveys and questionnaires must allow for open ended subjective commentary in their structure which may be more difficult and challenging in terms of assimilating the results in a coherent voice. The alternative though will just gather information without regard to all the disparate permutations of personality and life experiences.

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