Over a month ago, our country was rocked YET AGAIN by the tragic murder of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who was choked to death by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. The institutional racism inherent in our criminal justice system (but ESPECIALLY in our state and local systems of policing) play an enormous role in racial disparities in enforcement, incarceration, and police-instigated violence. But BEYOND the systematic culture of racism (remember, in much of the country, police departments were originally organized as “slave patrols” tasked to hunt down, capture, and return slaves who had escaped their Masters), what kind of HUMAN kneels on the neck of man even after a fellow officer declares him unresponsive. Was this officer a sadist who became sexually aroused by inflicting pain? Or maybe a psychopath, someone who is oblivious to the pain and suffering of others? Does the job of police officer just draw people who are already inherently violent and aggressive? And is there some way we could screen these people out of the applicant pool in the first place? The idea of using tests to pick people for law enforcement jobs is not new—the Chinese have used civil servant tests for centuries to select people for security positions within the government.
The Army Alpha and Army Beta were used in World War I to determined which recruits would make good military police. Federal, state, and local police departments began using personality testing in the 1970s as a way of trying to screen out police recruits that were overly aggressive, violent, paranoid, or unstable. These tests are also used as a way of screening out people prone to lying. A personality test is a series of standardized questions or tasks designed to determine various aspects of the personality or emotional status of the person being assessed. Some designed to measure personality traits, others designed to identify psychological disorders In Pennsylvania today, you MUST take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a personality test discussed in Chapter 10, in order to become a police officer at either the state or local level. In fact, you have to take that test in order to get a license to carry a gun for ANY employment purpose (park ranger, bodyguard etc) in the state of Pennsylvania (ACT 235). Some police departments use personality tests that measure the Big Five personality traits to assess officers. In fact, MANY companies use Big Five personality tests to hire people for jobs. Here are the Big Five and the jobs that these traits are normally associated with (the ones in bold are the traits associated with good police officer) :
Extraversion: Sales, hospitality Agreeableness: Customer service reps Emotional stability (opposite neuroticism): Jobs involving health and safety of others (law enforcement, pilots) Openness to new experience:
Jobs involving travel Conscientiousness:
In general, people who are conscientious make better employees all around However, one of the biggest problems with personality tests is that people can lie, ESPECIALLY when applying for jobs.
This is known as faking:
A conscious attempt at increasing one’s score on a personality assessment in order to obtain a desired outcome. Many personality tests have questions that are meant to identify people who might exaggerate or be hesitant to say bad things about themselves.
To try to get around that, some police departments have started using projective personality tests, like the Rorschach Inkblot test, which are harder to fake, but also harder to interpret.
Assignment: Part 1 (100 words)
1) List five different jobs that you think might be related to the Big Five Personality traits Extraversion:
2) Do you think personality tests are effective at screening out violent police officers? Do you think being a police officer would change your personality?
Part 2 (100 words One of Freud’s biggest contributions to the field of psychology was his use of talk therapy as a method of trying to help people with their psychological problems. Talk therapy is the idea that people could get help with their problems simply by talking about them and it was a novel idea in psychology in the 1900’s when Freud started doing his work, although Alcoholics Anonymous had been using the technique of group therapy for years (we will talk about support groups in Chapter 12). Talk therapy is still one of the most widely used therapies for psychological disorders today, second only to drug therapies. You will see in later chapters that there are many different kinds of talk therapy. Freud’s particular style was known as psychoanalysis.
The goal of psychoanalysis is to talk to a patient to help them discover their unconscious memories, wishes, fears, and desires to better understand how they were affecting your behavior.
For example, Freud used dream analysis as a way of trying to better understand how unconscious forces may be influencing how you think, feel, and behave. Another clue that Freud looked for when identifying a patient’s unconscious wishes and desires (and which is still used by many psychotherapists today), was the patient’s use of defense mechanisms. As human beings, we like to think of ourselves as good people, even though we often do bad things. Some we use different techniques to make ourselves feel better about our bad behavior. Freud thought he could learn a lot about the unconscious mind by understand the methods we use to protect our egos. In fact, the idea that we repress memories, wishes, desires etc into our unconscious in the first place is a defense mechanism. Freud thought we used repression to protect our ego from remembering painful past experiences or undesirable wishes and desires.
Projection is when a person feels guilty about some behavior, so he projects those feelings onto someone else. I feel guilty for cheating on my girlfriend, so I project and accuse her of cheating on me, thus making me feel better about my bad behavior. Reaction formation is when you act opposite of how you really feel in order to feel better about your bad behavior. For example, let’s say you grew up in a family where watching porn was considered immoral behavior.
But you LOVE watching porn.
So what you might do is be the biggest anti-pornography advocate during the day, picketing porn shops, writing congressmen, trying to get them to pass anti-pornography legislation, joining anti-porn church groups etc. Then, at night, you go home, you lock your doors and your roll down your shades, and you watch your porn. By the way, this is often used to explain why people who are the most homophobic may deep down have gay feelings themselves. “I can’t be gay because I am beating up a gay guy!” Denial is the idea that you will ignore or pretend that the behavior is not happening as a way to feel better about it.
Till the day my grandmother died, she referred to my uncle’s crippling gambling addiction as “his job” because she felt so guilty that it had ruined his life, his career, his family, that the only way she could deal with the guilt was to pretend that the problem wasn’t happening. Displacement is the idea that we focus our emotions on safe targets instead of the real target.
For example, Freud thought that we often displaced our anger and unresolved issues that we feel for our parents on safer targets, like our husbands and wives. “I am angry at my Dad but I can’t express my feeling to him, so I yell at my husband instead.” Not all defense mechanisms are destructive. We might engage in sublimation as a way of channeling our emotions in a social acceptable way. I am sexually frustrated that my girlfriend is away for a weekend. But instead of cheating on her, I channel my sexual energy into writing a nice poem for her. There are a chart of these defense mechanisms in Chapter 10. Assignment: Choose four of the defense mechanisms and give me an example of each.
SUGGESTION: Choose one that you are having difficulty with and give me an example of that one, too.