Therapy and Learning
Therapy and Learning


Read my latest articles on business, organisational and Educational Psychology.

Profiling in Recruitment

Why Pop #Psychology Can Mislead... So How Can We #Manage #Recruitment and #Relationships?

The problem with choosing who we will enter a relationship with, whether personal or professional, is that everything we think we can tell about a person may be wrong! The most important decisions we make in life depend on our judgement of peoples honesty, integrity, motives, attitudes and attributes; and these judgements are based on our pasts, and ultimately on our assessment of how similar other people are to us!

We judge this in several ways, and we do this instantly (before refining this initial judgement over time). Firstly we pattern match, we judge people against archetypes, categorizing people based on the little we know and then assuming everything else will fit the template. Secondly, we experience people in ways that can remind us of previous experiences and the people responsible for them, and then assume they will be the same. Both of these approaches do sometimes work, sometimes the person in front of you will be similar in certain characteristics to a past person; but in many ways they will be different and the problem is we won't know which characteristics will be the same and which will be different! Also, certain psychological personality types are harder to make reliable judgements of than others. For example, some people are highly adaptive and will, at least in the short term, change how they present depending on who they think they are talking to (even accents and vocabulary), others hide a lot of their true personality behind false a persona.

A good example of the difficulty of making good judgements is telling if someone is honest or not. For example, with just a little psychological knowledge people judge a liar to be someone who avoids eye-contact, however, most of us know this so most liars actually maintain too much eye-contact!

The problem is we again can't easily tell which type of liar they are! Nor can we tell easily if a persons over- or under- maintenance of eye-contact is due to other factors, such as cultural background or parenting. Different cultures can have different norms, so for example research has shown West Indian immigrants in the 50s and 60s were judged to be liars by police and courts because culturally they had learned it was wrong to look authority figures in the eye. Some people avoid eye-contact due other psychological factors, fear, social anxiety, stress and nervousness.

To make matters even harder, it often the best and most prolific liars who can be almost impossible to spot. Narcissistic, anti-social and psychopathic personalities often lie without any physiological issues... as they may believe their own lies at the moment of telling.

These type of problems exist whenever we try to assess people, hence so many people are wrongly employed, wrongly acquitted and wrongly married! This is also why so much so of  my work is spent helping people make good judgements in all these areas. In recruitment, advising on effective process and profiling applicants can avoid costly errors; in relationships, exploring how we judge others and keep ourselves safe. The more accurate information we have the better we can make decisions. The more aware we are of our own pasts and our own bias the better we can discount them and make clear choices. The most important ability to develop is the ability to spot clusters of behaviours and inconsistencies in behaviour we observe, and to understand that these are only indications... we  always have more evidence to find!

School Behaviour

Improving School Behaviour:

I have worked in or with many schools, and certain characteristics are common when behaviour is good, while other things, such as severity of punishment seem to make little difference:

1) VISION: Everyone must share a common, clear and simple vision for behaviour and teaching. There are many competing strategies and approaches to behaviour management; all can work... but the most important thing is that objectives, strategies and techniques are shared by all. This must come from the leadership but be shared by all, including the parents and students!
2) REINFORCEMENT: The vision must be sold to all, again and again. Too often initiatives are brought in and allowed to wither away; but everything the leadership does must reinforce the core vision. No one should be allowed to ignore the vision... too often teachers with 'no problems' are left alone to follow their own path, but they undermine the vision and approach for everyone else!
3) TEACH BEHAVIOUR: Good behaviours must be taught with as much vigor as subjects. But this teaching behaviour is not teaching rules and consequences once a term in form time, it is teaching all the behaviours we want to see again and again... so this may mean teaching how to deal with failure, how to ask questions, how to work in groups, how to enter the dining room, how to say sorry and even how to sit in a chair! Saying, 'they should know...' is accepting behaviour will never improve!
4) CONSISTENCY: The rules apply to all students and teachers, all the time! Behaviour improves when there is certainty of the rules and outcomes. Students with severe issues can be accommodated individually of course, but the aim is that they will follow expectations most of the time.
5) BE POSITIVE: It is much more powerful when we sanction a student who believes we are on their side, if not they will just ignore the lesson and decide you are unfair! Being positive means being polite, calm and non-aggressive. It also means catching students when they are doing right.
6) ROUTINE: Behaviour will improve when students have a clearer understanding of the expectations, and negative stress behaviours will occur when they do not. Practice routines again and again, and stick to them.
7) RELATIONSHIPS: Build relationships with students, understand them, remember them and listen to them. Ask them about their interests and motivations.
8) TEACH GOOD LESSONS: The most important part of this is real differentiation. Real differentiation is to know the students and their learning needs, and accounting for them throughout the lesson. It is not superficial differentiation based on levels which fails to account for students difficulties and strengths. Special Needs students are much more likely to misbehave, largely because issues like dyslexia and autism are inadequately accounted for in most lessons.
9) ENGAGEMENT: Engaging lessons with engaging teachers will motivate students, and all lessons can be with enough thought.
10) RED LINES: Every effective behaviour policy has non-negotiables, those behaviours which are unacceptable and are have a clear sanction. Thes are known, taught and reinforced.

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