Choices: A Characteristic of Life
In every stage of our lives, we have to make choices. What to eat, which school to go, what organisation to join, who to marry, where to live… the list is endless. The difficulty of making the decision depends on various factors such as the number of options, the impact of the decision on ourselves and others etc.
Our urban, capitalistic society focuses on the positive aspect of being able to make choices; giving us a sense of autonomy and of being in control of our lives. Of course, the common debate arises; are our choices truly self-determined, or in actual fact influenced by societal expectations and excellent marketing strategies? For example, did you know that eating bacon as a staple of a western breakfast was actually part of a marketing campaign? Bacon was never meant to be included in a healthy breakfast set until Edward Bernays came along. As part of a huge public relations campaign, he was paid to convince the public that eating bacon was part of a recommended dietary plan for breakfast.
The possibility that freedom of choice may be more of an illusion than a reality, can be frightening. Yet as we delve deeper, we begin to pay more attention to our environment, the tasks we engage in and the people we interact with, as these things shape the choices we make.
The Context of our Choices
Enter the Barker & Bateson’s System Psychology model, and is essentially the core approach of what SQI is rooted in. I.e. the effectiveness of a behavior is dependent on its fit with the nature of the work, the people working together and the work environment.
Now depending on our life stage, environment and context, we make choices in response to what we perceive will work best for us. Hence, by first seeking to understand one’s situation and the choices he makes, we come closer to understanding the person himself.
If we simply evaluate a person’s choices by their desirability in general, we are going to miss out valuable information in determining the person’s personality. Like being assertive (not aggressive) is generally seen as a good thing but under an authoritative management culture, being assertive can work negatively.
The Barker & Bateson’s System Psychology model thus gives us an objective baseline to evaluate the effectiveness of a person’s choices in a more precise and accurate manner.
Making a decision is essentially cutting off every other remaining options. It cuts off any advantages of the unchosen alternative, no matter how small or irreversible they are.
This is where studies have shown that having more choices and freedom, does not necessarily equate to elevated happiness. VSauce, a channel on Youtube (more in the link below), has done an experiment showing how people got more upset and dissatisfied because of the overload of choices given to them.
Now we make decisions based on a variety of factors. And under the right conditions, we make decisions that our conscious minds are not able to explain.
The impact on decision-making evolved from the basic idea rooted in Festinger’s Dissonance Model. I.e. When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.
For example, this occurs when a person’s observed behaviour is different from his/her intended behaviour. Specifically, a person communicates in a concise manner because that is expected of him/her in the workplace. But actually, the person believes in being tactful and persuasive.
This model is a key analytical framework underlying the SQI assessment. The seeming contradiction (a paradox) between the observed behaviour and intended behaviour reflects a job misfit and cognitive dissonance for the person. Unless action is taken first to reduce the dissonance, it will eventually have negative implications on a person’s work performance.
Quantifying the Trade-Offs
This necessity of choice is also reflected in SQI’s forced-ranking measurement scale, differentiating us from most other assessments. Most traditional assessments adopt the rating scale measurements that allow individuals to choose the extent they agree with statements of context while for SQI, individuals are required to rank work-specific statements in order of preference.
A handful of assessments that do not adopt rating scale measurements, make little or almost no mention of observed versus intended behaviour. A probable contradiction is not quantified or address. The trade-offs are ignored; these tests prefer to focus on the logical cycle between passion for and performing well on a variety of tasks. Hence, it is important for both the fundamental frameworks and measurement scale to realistically differentiate and measure what a person intends to do, against what is commonly observed by others in the workplace.
This gives an added assurance that the assessment can predict how a person is likely to behave, not based on a person’s perception of his/her own behaviour. With this, it thereby allows one to find an industry and job role that has a better psychological job-fit.
Motivation for the Choices we Make
The order of priority a person places in the SQI questionnaire indicates what behaviours would be most important and more effective to the person in the realm of the workplace. And those behaviours work to satisfying the superior’s expectation for the job role that he/she holds, meet the demands in the type of working environment he/she is in or have a successful progression in the organization.
Our behavioural choices are not fixed. They can change accordingly when we are in a different environment or when engaging in different tasks with different people. This is rooted in Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Model, where people choose or are motivated to behave in certain ways because of 3 key components:
-Expectancy: Their effort will lead to performance
-Instrumentality: Performance will lead to outcome
-Valence: They value the outcome
Take for example the behavioural inclination to be assertive. An employee sees its relevance to meet his current needs to improve his workplace relationships (Reward factor / Valence). With the support of effective trainers who use real-life case studies, he believes his learning effort will enable him to be assertive effectively without offending others (Effort factor / Expectancy). And with that, he is confident that the assertiveness will help him to effectively manage his workplace relationships (Performance factor / Instrumentality).
Actual Work Performance
Actual work performance is an interaction of a variety of factors. In SQI, we recognise that workplace traits, such as assertiveness, alone do not determine a person’s work performance. The expectancy model also takes effect through other factors that affect work performance such as knowledge and skills (technical and soft).
For a holistic interpretation of a person, we recognise that actual work performance is a function of these five factors: Psychological traits and behavioural tendencies, Skill Level (Vocational and Soft), Job Role Perception, Motivational factors as well as Family & Personal Variables.
Outcomes & Applications
Now after learning of the 3 analytical frameworks that underlie SQI’s choice-outcome assessment model, know that every theory has its unique value as well as its limitations SQI is not based on a single theory because we strongly believe in applying an integrated model in order to be holistic and representative. Therefore it is a combination of established theories to gain a holistic view of psychology.
Within several professional bodies, many psychologists are still debating on different methods of measuring concurrent validity, construct and content validity. These debates pile on to the debate on various theories of psychology. SQI prefers to progress and perfect the work along the way rather than hold back valuable time debating on theories as there will be no final conclusion to that.
Do keep a lookout for our next article about SQI’s optimal balance assessment model.
Melanie Radzicki McManus “10 Most Deceptive PR Campaigns in History” 15 August 2015. HowStuffWorks.com. <https://money.howstuffworks.com/10-deceptive-pr-campaigns-in-history.htm>
Vsauce, (Feb 8, 2017) Freedom of Choice – Mind Field (Ep 5) – (Video). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmI7NnMqwLQ