Today’s guest is psychologist Vince McLeod, who runs a website called The Story Generator. Vince is here today to talk with us about the psychology of our characters–and more than that, how we might use psychological testing to help inform our fiction. Enjoy!
How to Use Psychometric Testing to Create Believable Characters
In order to create a believable, well-rounded character you need to know them as if they were a real person. Many real-life people use psychometric testing to get to know themselves, so why not apply these same principles to getting to know your characters? This article looks at what psychometric testing is and how it can be used to develop more engaging and compelling characters.
What is psychometric testing?
‘Psychometrics’ means psychological measurement. It refers to a field of study where tests and techniques are used to quantify personal qualities of individuals. Some of these qualities include abilities, beliefs, knowledge and personality traits. The commonly accepted way of trying to quantify such characteristics is by using questionnaires or tests.
An example of these questionnaires might be a fifty-question multi choice test that asks the participant to rate, on a scale of one to seven, how strongly they agree with certain political statements, with one representing ‘strongly disagree’ and seven representing ‘strongly agree’. The resulting answers are then crunched to come up with numbers that indicate where that person’s attitudes lie on a relevant scale.
How can I use psychometric testing to develop my characters?
Because your characters are not real people, you don’t need to be as responsible as a professional psychometrician when it comes to testing them. Which means you are free to subject them to all manner of investigations, no matter how intrusive, and can misinterpret them however you wish to make for the best possible story.
This means that the best way to use psychometric testing to develop a character is to first find a psychometric test, preferably one with a lot of questions, and then do the test as if you were your character. Be a ‘method writer’ for a few minutes, putting yourself in the mind of that character and imagining yourself reacting to a range of everyday situations. Bear in mind that the psychometric test you choose will also test you – namely, it will tell you how well you have done your planning on your character and how well you know them. If you find that you can’t answer many of the questions with any confidence, it’s time to go back and develop the background of that character some more.
An example of a psychometric test in character development.
One of the best personality tests for understanding yourself or one of your characters is the Cattell 16 Personality Factor test. Raymond Cattell, disappointed with the arbitrary and abstract nature of the psychological sciences of his time, developed this test in an effort to discover and measure the fundamentals of human personality. You can find an online version of the test here.
This test will ask you over eighty multiple choice questions, and then give you results that suggest what personality traits your character scores high and low for. Then you can go to this story generator and discover some ways that these personality traits can be used to create conflict-filled fiction.
Thanks for being with us, Vincent. Readers, you can learn more about Vincent on his website, The Story Generator.