Monday, June 13, 2005

Twenty-Nine Dimensions for the Twenty-Ninth Time

Having descended from a tribe of Edwards people, I am one who has claim on a very valuable parcel of land in the heart of New York City. The claim is real and has been in effect since the late 1700’s, but the boundary lines of the land are so vague that the claim is not enforceable. Nevertheless, every twenty-five years or so, new interest in the land claim springs up. That is, a new generation decides to get a piece of the action.

The Edwards claim is not the only generational idea I have run across lately. Psychological testing is another. A company is advertising a matchmaking business on the radio and television stations. It seems to be saying it can find a perfect mate for you. At its heart, the company is promoting a psychological test with “twenty-nine dimensions” of compatibility.

What in the world is a “dimension”? It sounds mathematical and precise, whatever it is. And this company has twenty-nine of them on one set of papers. Is there no limit to this company’s precision?

This matchmaking scam appears to be like the old hiring tests that personnel offices used to administer, or send you to psychologists so they could administer them. Come to think of it, what is the difference between hiring a new member of the firm and hiring a new husband or wife? Not much. In both cases one hopes for a long-time match.

Years ago courts made psychological companies reign their testing and promises because questions on the tests had nothing to do with the open position (what does your feeling about your father have to do with installing hood ornaments on an assembly line?). Also, the best the tests could do, was be right about 50% of the time. A savvy personnel interviewer does that well, and so does the flip of a coin.

Well, what were these tests good for? They could rule out the obvious rejects. Thanks to such testing, there are no one-legged running backs on the St. Louis Ram football team. And no blind bus drivers in Los Angeles. No doubt the twenty-nine dimensional tests will keep Beauty from marrying Jack the Ripper.

A generation has passed since psychological testing and its gee-whiz terms have faded. But now they are back, and the makers of the tests are hoping we have all forgotten why we don’t use such tests anymore.

Next, the ad men will be bringing back the image of a little dog listening to a recording device, with the title “His Master’s Voice.”

1 comment:

caleb said...

I'm sure their intentions are 99 44/100% pure.