The top two quadrants apply to the individual and the bottom two apply to the collective, or groups. The left two quadrants apply to our internal, subjective sense of self and relationships, and the right two apply to the external, objective aspects of being human.
Dr. Stein pointed out that traditional measurement ignores the upper left and the lower left quadrants. He described aspects of assessment that go with each quadrant. I’ve added my comments relative to personality type assessment using tools like the MBTI® instrument.
Upper Left, often referred to as the “I” quadrant:
- What aspect of the individual meaning making are we accessing? What information are we missing?
- What does the instrument or the process mean to the individual?
This would be influenced by type as well as level of development and other factors. This is subjective and therefore variable with different individuals. It has to do with how the client interprets and makes meaning of the instrument questions. How does the instrument affect the client? What are his or her feelings about the situation; hopes, dreams, or fears about how the information will be used; and so on? In addition to some of these individual and subjective aspects of the instrument taking situations, we need to realize that when people take a type instrument, they are answering questions about how they subjectively value different aspects. We don’t know their frames of reference or mind sets in response to the items and the instrument-taking situation. This introduces so many variables that are not taken into account with such wide variability in frame setting from none to extensive. These same variables are at play with trait-based instruments, but since results are presented quantitatively, the consequences are not so noticeable.
Upper Right, often referred to as the “It” quadrant:
- Does the assessment method involve observable behaviors and not just self-report that derives from subjective meaning making?
- How objective is the instrument being used?
How is its reliability (repeatability) affected by the contexts the individual is in?
This is objective behavior and the domain of validity and reliability. Can we have confidence in the scores? Are the responses to similar items consistent? What are the scores? Most personality instruments are judged on this basis. However, they ignore that the instrument results are not actual behaviors, but self- reports of preferences, which are really Upper Left and therefore subjective. To expect a direct correlation between behavior and self-report is unrealistic. There are many influences on our behaviors, including adaptation and development. The critics ignore these other influences and expect more than the instrument is designed to deliver. No wonder the instruments aren’t working the way they are expected to in research or just plain test-retest for the individuals.
COLLECTIVE (the group)
Lower Left, often referred to as the “We” quadrant:
- How do the various cultural contexts and relationships influence the self-report?
- How will they be treated when the information is shared?
How will the results be perceived in these cultures? What biases are present that can influence how someone responds and interprets descriptions?
The modal type of the culture can have an effect as well as other cultural factors. This is where the influence of cultural meanings and values comes into play and these influences greatly influence how the individual responds. There is also the issue of how the results will be used in the culture of the organization. If certain type preferences are given privilege in that culture, they will likely be seen as less desirable than others and maybe it is in the best interest of the individual to not respond from her or his core self. Relationship and cultural variables are major sources of reliability and validity variables. And the critics ignore that best practices with type models and instrument control for this. With good typology instruments and descriptions there is a lot of effort put into developing the items and descriptors to counter the effects of social desirability.
Lower Right, often referred to as the “Its” quadrant:
- How will the results be used?
- Do these uses fit the intended uses?
How do these uses influence the meaning made by the individual in responding? What are the influences of the setting? If the assessment is done in a work context, is there time for adequate self-reflection? Does the individual think of their job duties rather than how they operate outside those described behaviors? This is the influence of the fit between the instrument and its function. How useful will it be for the applications areas? In the arena of personality types, this becomes one of the biggest issues because while type indicates some likely talents, it doesn’t predict skill so to use it for selection or promotion is not appropriate. Yet the critics don’t get this point.