Psychometric Driving Test (and maybe how to pass one)

Most people at my work have to drive a van, and in the past having a clean driving license was considered enough to show that we could do that. However, that has now changed, and this week we all got given psychometric driving tests to do. We were told these tests used clever algorithms to determine how careful and conscientious we were, how quick our reaction times were, etc. There were three possible outcomes: to be low, medium or high risk. Almost everyone came out as ‘medium risk’, which is fair enough, but the two most dangerous (reckless, rude and impatient) drivers were the ones given a ‘low risk’ status, which made me suspicious. After doing some investigation, I think I’ve figured out why this was: the test doesn’t use clever algorithms at all, it isn’t testing reaction times and conscientiousness, it’s just bollocks.

Disclaimer: no promises here, presumably there are a few tests like this around, and I only have experience of one. I’ve done my best to figure out how the tests work, but it’s all guesswork.

I took the test first. It consisted of a series of very simple questions you don’t need any knowledge to answer, such as:

When a cyclist pulls out in front of you without warning, how often do you get annoyed?

When late for an appointment, how often will you exceed the speed limit to get there on time?

There are five possible answers, things like: always, often, sometimes, rarely or never and you have to pick one.

The questions seemed so simplistic that I assumed to just put ‘never’ to every negative trait and ‘always’ to every positive trait would raise a red flag that I was lying. It being a psychometric test using a fancy algorithm, suggested that there was something complicated going on. So I didn’t completely lie, instead I put answers that were a slightly better version of me, my answers to the above questions were ‘rarely’ and ‘never’.

I came out medium risk. I discussed it with another colleague, and he had much the same approach, assuming that to claim he never got irritated with another driver or never sped up to get through the lights before they change would be unrealistic. He was also medium risk.

Then today I asked the colleague who got low risk, how he did it (I was in the van with him at the time, he was speeding through lights and cutting people up as we talked about it.)

“Well, they obviously just wanted us to put that we’d never do anything wrong, so I did that. I don’t know why they even put options other than always and never, because those were clearly the only answers they wanted. I mean they’re just idiots really.”

So there you are. As far as I can work out, there is no fancy algorithm or subliminal testing, they assume that if you say you’re a great driver who never does anything wrong, that you must be telling the truth. When asked if you’ve ever sped up to get through an amber traffic light, you should put never. Having asked around other colleagues for how they answered, backs that up also.

The frustrating thing is that the kind of personality that is comfortable and confident about lying, is not likely to be one that is a safe driver. Those who put more cautious answers (the ‘rarely’s and ‘sometimes’ answers) are penalised. I’d quite like to find out I’m wrong about this though, so if anyone has a different experience, or knows more about how the tests are designed would like to comment, that would be great.


21 thoughts on “Psychometric Driving Test (and maybe how to pass one)

  1. I went through a two day testing session a couple years back involving a wide range of different testing related to neurological functioning. As a passing thought I wondered whether I could ‘slant’ the results. In my followup session a few weeks later the psychologist commented on the high level of reliability of the results. This was based on how often my responses contradicted earlier responses. Given the number of tests and the varying nature of the tests, if I had actually tried to ‘slant’ the result I think a lot of quirky and contradictory information would have surfaced.

    I would imagine that there’s quite a range when it comes to test designs as to the level of sophistication. The reliability of a test I would think is very closely related to how much planning (read expense) has gone into the design.

    Having said that. At test that takes less than a half hour to take and is simply a series of questions could easily be slanted to get the results you want to see. How to get someone to answer questions honestly will depend on the purpose of the test.

    In your case it was to the employees benefit to fudge the answers to make them look good. In the case of my 2 days of testing, it was in my interest to get as accurate a profile as possible of my injuries and match that with designing a protocol to help me learn to cope and adjust to my new reality – post brain injury.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad with your testing they took it seriously enough to get it right, since it was a test that really mattered. I think the driving test was just corporate box ticking.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I so agree with you. I think algorithms work by looking for patterns and this would assume truthfulness on the part of the test subject. It will take a long time before artificial intelligence understands the human ability to lie. Wait till they have annoying robots doing jobs for assessing all kinds of things. People will definitely try to fool them. In fact the very idea of replacing human jobs with robots makes me want to drive them crazy so that they have a melt down.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It sounds like you have experience with algorithms, have you encountered them in your work? I like the idea of you sending robots into meltdown! That could be an interesting place to work in!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No I have never had to deal with them specifically but I’ve read about how they are used to market goods to people with Google ads etc. and we are being assessed by algorithms every time we do something online. The algorithms analyse your internet search patterns to work out what you like and try to sell you stuff. They also can work out the socio-economic level, political views etc of an individual from what they are searching for and viewing. The implications have privacy experts worried because who knows where this type of data will end up or how it can be used in the future.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. “Cheats never prosper” always sounded like an expression of blind hope in the face of reality, because we know that in an age of fake news and blatant political lying cheats are the ones who are indeed prospering, and the biggest tellers of porky-pies may never be called to account. I think you’re right to be suspicious of multiple choice questionnaires like this because smart but amoral cookies will always turn things to their advantage compared to their more honest colleagues.

    Now I’m depressed. Time to snack on something inappropriate!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Snacks save the day! You’re right that in certain circles (politics and the media certainly) cynicism and lack of empathy are qualities. I think it’s not true for most people though, there are many arseholes in power, but us little-guys are still trying to do the right thing and be honest. Mostly…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Definitely some parts do, is a good thing, yes? Is that an influence? And am I being daft or has the rest of your blog disappeared? (note: there’s every chance I’m being daft, it’s my ‘thing’).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. My About section explains that I remove all posts rather quickly…within 48 hours. So you are not being daft. And, yes…sounding like Hitchhiker’s guide is a good thing! The ONE book of his was simply comic genius the way the dialogue floated around, went on tangents, but always returned…IMO, the other two books of his were not as funny. So I’m trying to get that style down and you recognized it! Thanks!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. IMO, I only get rewarded for fresh, new content. So removing my posts motivates to keep writing and developing the story. All FYI. (Besides, who has time or interest to back scroll? LOL!)


      4. I been good, but busy – writing big things, changing jobs. It means I’ve been a bit crap keeping up with my favourite bloggers, but hopefully getting it more together now… šŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “The frustrating thing is that the kind of personality that is comfortable and confident about lying, is not likely to be one that is a safe driver. ”

    Hi Petra, very interesting post. I will share a similar mind-effing discovery, similar in the sense that clearly honesty does not pay… This is that if you are admitted to a psychiatric hospital against your will two things can happen. One you get discharged on time, or immediately, or two, they keep you longer than you want. These outcomes are dependent on two very crazy-making but contradicting phenomena: 1) if you claim you are not ill, say that you are fine and want to leave “toute suite”, the chances are very great the powers that be will keep you, and on that account alone. 2) if you concede that you are ill and would benefit from a hospital stay, they will at once decide you are fine — simply and only because you agreed you are ill — and discharge you! So being honesty means you will never “win” in their game, unless you lie, knowingly, and say the exact opposite of what you know is truthful…

    Best wishes,

    Pam W of WAGblog.

    PS thanks for the reblog! Consider my permission granted for any other post you should want to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the exact Catch 22 situation and maddening and terrifying in its illogicality. A few big institutions seem to have this same reasoning, and it makes you wonder who the hell came up with it. Lying is very difficult if you are an honest person by nature, but it’s something we need to learn to survive, I guess.
      Look after yourself, have a beautiful day, and thank you for the permission šŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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