Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fear Not The E-Meter, Part III

The first test I took at the Scientology Center was called the Oxford Capacity Analysis. The test evaluator told me that the test was invented by people at Oxford (I assume she meant to imply the University) but a little bit of research shows that it came out of the Church – either written by Hubbard himself or by some associates. We could respond to each question on the test in one of three ways: "Agree," "Sometimes Agree," "Disagree," or something like that. The test had two hundred questions, and we were supposed to take as long as we wanted to answer. The questions were generally standard questions about one's mood and personality, like: "I sometimes feel depressed for no reason at all" or "I have no trouble acting decisively."

There were a few more peculiar questions thrown in, though, like: "My muscles sometimes twitch for no reason," "my voice is monotonous rather than varied in pitch," or, "Children sometimes irritate me." A very few were quite peculiar, like, "I would be able to kill an animal to put it out of its misery" or "I believe in class distinctions and the color bar."

While we were taking this test, the promotional videos were blaring and two staff members had a loud argument in the hall. It was very hard to concentrate. "How come I never get to use a test room?" one yelled. "I never get a test room." The CA looked at me sadly and said, "those Scientologists are having trouble communicating with each other. I guess they're not Clears yet…"

When we had finished this test, our nice host came back and took it away and gave us a second test, theoretically a timed, half-hour IQ test. I have no idea whether this was a real IQ test or not. There were a lot of simple math problems, analogies, and pattern recognition problems. Some of the analogies were absolutely terrible – so bad that the CA and I would have to stop and consult on a problem, and it would become clear that there was no correct answer whatsoever. The CA and I went to good schools and we're just killer test takers, so we were enjoying this even though the Timed Test With No Right Answers is basically the Organization Kid's nightmare. In fact, we got very competitive about it. (The CA ended up beating me by about seven points, if you must know.)

Other peculiar elements - the answer sheet was numbered right to left, so if you sat down without paying attention you would fill it in all backwards. I asked afterward whether this was an element of the test, meant to see whether you were paying attention to detail, but the test evaluator didn't know. (I told the CA that my noticing this should count for at least three IQ points.)

Finally, there was a timed test that I believe was intended to check how well you read directions and how fast you could act under time pressure. The first three questions were a couple of simple logic problems. #4 on the test was just the statement: "A triangle has three sides." There were no boxes to check, or questions that followed this statement, so I had no idea what to do. The CA wrote "True" and I just skipped it. We judged which of two lines was longer, and we wrote our names in the margin of the page and circled our last names twice and first names once. Then we wrote down how long it took us to finish the test.

When we finished the test, we moseyed around for about 10 minutes until our tests had been scored. (How did they do it so fast? It wasn't electronic, because we were using red pens.) Then they escorted us into separate rooms (quickly, before we had time to protest), where evaluators talked to us about our test results.

The "Oxford" test scores different aspects of your personality, from -100, which is bad, to +100, which is good. The metrics include "unstable/stable," "depressed/happy," "nervous/composed," etc. I was in a good mood, so I scored above 0 on everything except "responsible/irresponsible" and "appreciative/lack of accord." I
scored particularly high on "aggressive," and so did the CA. But "aggressive" was listed as a positive quality. Odd. Or, I guess, if you think about Tom Cruise, not really so odd.

The evaluator sat me down, closed the office door, and asked me deep questions about my life based on this test. She was young and slender, with an accent I couldn't place and extremely thick black eye makeup. She seemed shy. Were there circumstances in which I felt unappreciative of other people? she asked. Was I sometimes critical of others unnecessarily? She told me I was careless in the third test, the timed test, but as far as I could tell, I hadn't made any mistakes on the test itself. She didn't give it back to me, though, so I'm not sure. She asked me whether I was careless because I was being distracted by issues in my life. She was a bit pushy about this, but nothing you don't encounter day-to-day with your basic AM New York pusher or film promoter on the streets around here. Perhaps I would be interested in taking a class on communication. She asked me about myself and my feelings. I could see where this was going. When you confide emotional secrets in a stranger, you feel a connection with them. You begin to trust them and you want to do what they say (recite Hail Marys, sign up for Scientology classes). I am certainly one of those people who, if you catch me in the right mood, close the door on me and ask me how I am feeling, I will burst into tears.

Thus, being behind this closed door made me nervous, and my Aggressive and Lacking in Accord sides came out. I was irritated that she kept telling me I had problems. The IQ test strategy had backfired - my trusty Organization Kid instincts had kicked in, and the test had built my confidence up instead of breaking it down. Plus, the questions were just so terrible. How could I respect a scary cult with such mediocre standardized testing?

With my nerd-powers surging, I brushed aside the evaluator's questions about my feelings, and instead asked her about herself, the tests and the classes. And she faltered.

"I'm just an evaluator," she told me. "I don't really know the answers to these questions. Let me get you someone in sales."


I've read that other people had experiences with much meaner or pushier evaluators at the Scientology center. That some of them got told that their personalities were in deep trouble and that the situation was urgent and they had better take some classes ASAP. It could have been my fabulous test results that saved me from this experience, but my gut feeling is that my evaluator just didn't have the nerve to follow her script, or she had decided that her own sales tactics were better. Or maybe she'd already written me off as a waste of time.


Anonymous said...

i'm hooked .what happened in the CA's private room??

Formerly Fooled said...

Hannah, you sure used your smarts and trusted your instincts... Imagine how difficult it would be for the less assertive or forthright person in the same situation? People can be easily tricked and persuased. It concerns me very much that children and young adults are being targeted by the church to take these tests.
You've done a great service by blogging this experience.

If you're interested, there is a terrific explanation of how the Oxford Personality Test (OCA)is used to lure people into buying serves and books. The OCA was created back in the 1950's " by a psychologist named Julia Lewis and was later adopted and edited by CoS." You can find that here:

I, too, am curious about CA's experience. I hope you will update us on that, too.