A Very REAL Experience in Psychological Testing

I never truly got a feel for psychological testing until I participated in one myself. In my first semester at McGill, I partook in a study examining collective autonomy and its effects on cohesion and motivation. Being a first year Psychology student, I went into the study not really knowing what to expect. There are a few components of the study I wasn’t aware of until I took more psychology courses and learned more about how psychological testing works. In the study, we were separated in two groups of 4 subjects. The researcher explained that we would need to create a coat of arms representing the qualities that we value as a group. Little did I know at the time, this coat of arms was creating in-group cohesiveness and a group identity. The coat of arms, we were told, would give us specific abilities in a videogame called “Group Quest” which we would be playing together in the same room on separate monitors. After approximately 20 minutes of gameplay, the experimenter left us alone in the room to collect some data, and we were given the free choice to either continuing playing Group Quest, play another interactive game, or use our phones independently.

At the beginning of the study, the researcher additionally explained that the group in the other room would decide whether they could change the coat of arms we created for the entire group. We learned that they decided to keep the coat of arms the way we had originally created it. Not realizing what this meant, the researcher later emphasized how this component of the study operationalized as the “group cohesiveness” factor. Should the other group have decided to change our coat of arms, we may have had less group cohesion and sense of identity, and we wouldn’t have continued interacting after the Group Quest game was over. At the end of the experiment, we were told that the clock in the corner of the room actually had a camera in it, and that we were being recorded all along. What a shock! Even as a Psychology major, I didn’t think or anticipate how any of the variables throughout this experimental study were going to be operationalized.

When I think about how much I’ve learned (and have yet to learn) being a third year Psychology student, I realize that any other psychological testing I would participate in could end up biased, since I would be overanalyzing the entire experiment. Being more vigilant now, I would try to interpret multiple testing methods that the researchers could be using, or potential variables that they could be operationalizing for the study. My first experience really opened up my mind to the incredible varieties of psychological testing one can experience, and has me speculating on what is yet to come in the vast world of psychological tests.