Are Your Conscious and Unconscious Minds Aligned?

August 1, 2009  

While working on Innovation Personality Poker® over the years, one question has lingered in my mind…

How do we know we are getting the most accurate picture of someone’s personality?

Personality Poker is based on a 75 year old psychological testing technique called a Q-sort.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in a Q-sort, “a person is given a set of sentences, phrases, or words (usually presented individually on cards) and is asked to use them to describe himself (as he thinks he is or as he would like to be) or someone else.” In some variations, the cards are sorted from most like the individual to least like them.

If you read academic paper about Q-sorts, you will see that the question arises as to whether or not a self-assessment is accurate. Researchers question if other methods of personality testing are more accurate.  They posit that there are three testing methods…

  1. Self-assessment (of the conscious mind)
  2. Assessment by a friend, family member, or colleague
  3. Assessment by an unbiased 3rd party who is expert in the Q-sort process

Which method is most effective?  It appears that the answer is “all of the above.”  All methods are accurate, depending on the situation.

However, there is a 4th method that is not listed above that may prove even more interesting.

Can our unconscious mind be a better predictor of our personality than our conscious mind?

There are very few methods available to answer this question. Fortunately I was introduced to people at Harvard University who developed a tool called “Implicit Association Testing (IAT).”

Harvard’s website gives a very simple introduction to the concept…

“It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods.”

In short, these tests tell you if your conscious mind (i.e., explicit) is aligned with your unconscious mind (i.e., implicit).

We are about to start work with Harvard that will assess if the conscious mind (tested via the card-based version of Personality Poker) correlates with the results from the unconscious mind (tested via a specially designed Personality Poker IAT).

One of three scenarios will prove to be true:

  1. In most people, the conscious mind is perfectly aligned with the unconscious mind
  2. In most people, the conscious mind is not aligned with the unconscious mind
  3. Alignment between the conscious mind and unconscious mind varies from person to person

If scenario #1 proves to be true, then we will have proven the validity of the Personality Poker at both a conscious and unconscious level.

However, if scenarios #2 or #3 prove to be true, we have a new opportunity…to develop an online IAT-based Personality Poker game that we can make available to the public. In some respects, scenario #3 is most interesting, because it means that in some cases “explicit” personality testing (done via cards, questionnaires, and other diagnostics) is accurate. However in order to get a full picture of one’s personality, “implicit” testing is also required. Only through both types of testing can we get an accurate assessment of one’s total psyche.

In order to better understand Implicit Association Testing, I encourage you to take some of the tests on the Harvard IAT website. This may give you some interesting insights into your own personal biases…some of which you might not want to even admit to yourself.

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4 Responses to “Are Your Conscious and Unconscious Minds Aligned?”

  1. What Businesses Can Learn About Innovation from Cultural Anthropology | Business Innovation Speaker and Consultant Stephen Shapiro on August 25th, 2009 10:08 am

    [...] conscious mind rather than the unconscious mind. For more on this, don’t miss my article on “Are Your Conscious and Unconscious Minds Aligned.” In it I discuss a testing approach called “Implicit Association Testing” that can help test [...]

  2. JoAnn Corley on August 30th, 2009 6:23 pm

    The answer I believe is YES….I’ve observed in the work that i do (and in my own life) that the unconscious many times overrides even natural wiring….in fact might even drive it. Then we act beyond our natural wiring and might even surprise ourselves with an action and then say, “Hey..that’s not me…or I acted out of character.”

  3. Take Our Ultracool Test that Assesses the Unconscious Mind! | Business Innovation Speaker and Consultant Stephen Shapiro on December 30th, 2009 4:06 pm

    [...] developed an approach for testing the implicit or unconscious mind.  You can read about it a previous blog entry.  This is fascinating stuff!  Read the article if you have not done [...]

  4. What Businesses Can Learn About Innovation … a comment about the numbers | Toby Elwin on November 29th, 2012 8:08 pm

    [...] mind rather than the unconscious mind. For more on this, don’t miss my article on ‘Are Your Conscious and Unconscious Minds Aligned.’ In it I discuss a testing approach called “Implicit Association Testing” that [...]