|Fromfirstname.lastname@example.org (Chris Owen)|
|Subject||ESSAY: The Fallacy of the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA)|
|Date||22 May 2003 15:13:06 -0700|
[Links added. -k]
[This essay will be webbed shortly. Comments & brickbats welcomed at the usual address… BTW, if anyone has a copy of the OCA scoring grid showing the point values for each question, please drop me a line — I have some questions to ask.]
First published 1996, revised and rewritten May 2003
One of Scientology's main recruiting devices is the free "Personality Test" offered by Scientology organisations worldwide. The way this works is simple. Scientology recruiters stand on the streets outside a Scientology office, stopping passers-by to offer free "IQ tests". Anyone who expresses interest is invited inside the building to take the test, which consists of a 200-question sheet on which answers can be marked "Yes," "No" or "Maybe". Having completed the questionnaire, the testee is then given an "analysis" of the results. Scientology is prescribed as the solution to any problems identified by the test. At this point, the testee is offered a Scientology book or course (for a fee, naturally). Many people — probably a majority — refuse this offer, but for some it marks the start of their career as a Scientologist.
So far, so simple. But there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that is never visible to those being invited to take the test — and the test itself, although billed as accurate and scientific, is neither.
Scientology's personality test is formally known as the American Personality Analysis (in the United States) and the Oxford Capacity Analysis elsewhere. According to the book What Is Scientology? (1992 edition),
This test accurately measures the preclear's estimation of ten different personality traits. These rise markedly in auditing, reflecting the preclear's gains. Preclears report being calmer, more stable, more energetic and more outgoing as a direct result of auditing and scores on the OCA furnish corroborative data…
A vital tool in Expanded Dianetics is the Oxford Capacity Analysis. An important use of this profile is to inprove specific personality traits with Expanded Dianetics procedures. The OCA helps locate deep-seated pockets of aberration which can then be addressed and erased with these precise auditing techniques.
[What Is Scientology? (1992), pp. 163, 220]
After the testee completes the two hundred questions on the OCA questionnaire, a graph is plotted (see below). This is marked on a scale of +100 to -100, with a line plotted against ten or eleven factors (depending on whether IQ is being assessed). The factors are:
In the centre of the graph, between approximately the -18 and +32 positions, are two shaded bands of roughly equal height. A data point above both of these bands is "fully acceptable". A point landing in the upper (darker) band is "acceptable under perfect conditions", but indicates "attention desirable" if in the lower (lighter) band. If it falls under the dashed line below the two bands, that indicates an "unacceptable state" — "attention urgent". This graph is used by the Scientologist evaluator to deliver a personality analysis.
The origins of the OCA are somewhat obscure. From the very earliest days of Dianetics — well before Scientology was devised — Hubbard was interested in ways of measuring the progress of those subjected to his new "science of the mind". In a Dianetic Auditor's Bulletin of November 1950, he advised Dianeticists to use tests created by the California Test Bureau:
"Because they are easily given, are quite valid and have good display purposes, the psychometry currently in use is the California Test for Mental Maturity and the Johnson Temperament Analysis Profile…
The tests we need must be of a highly precise nature, depending on opinion of an operator not one bit. Our tests must be administerable to a small group simultaneously, must be graded swiftly, must contain a high degree of arithmetical estimation, and must present to a layman the facts and figures he expects of a science. For ourselves, in our own research and validation of new techniques, these tests are adequate and even desirable. If better tests than the California Test for Mental Maturity and the Johnson Temperament Analysis Profile and the old time-honored Army Alpha can be discovered for our purposes they will be used."
[Hubbard, "The Intensive Processing Procedure", November 1, 1950]
Hubbard made extensive use of these and other psychometric tests, devoting an entire chapter of his 1951 book Science of Survival to the subject. However, they were somewhat complex and time-consuming to use and did not quite match Hubbard's perceived requirement. In the mid-1950s, he turned to a group of long-serving Scientologists to develop an alternative. One of that group, Julia Lewis, produced a test based on the Johnson Temperament Analysis which she named the American Personality Analysis. This was first published around 1955. Hubbard was still not quite satisfied, however, and asked his friend and fellow Scientologist Ray Kemp to turn the APA into a more general test so that it would produce satisfactory results from any population, not just Americans. This Kemp did; he later wrote:
"As a result of quite a few months' work, I eventually devised the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA). Note that it did not test personality, but rather the capacity of any person with respect to various traits and syndromes.
Definition of syndrome: any combination of two or more traits which, when taken as a whole, have meaning.
Example: A person with no action level but very depressed is not likely to commit suicide, but a very depressed person who also shows a high action level and a high tendency to spur of the moment activity is much more a suicide risk."
[Ray Kemp, in "Kemp's Column", IVy #22]
The OCA was originally issued under Kemp's name, which was later redacted in favour of anonymous "HCO Staff" and much later (since 1968) attributed to Hubbard alone. In 1959, the OCA was reworked and republished to take account of Hubbard's new drive to make "Clears" (Scientologists without any mental blockages). Hubbard dubbed it "Scientometric Testing", an obvious allusion to more conventional psychometric testing.
It appears that the OCA was not widely used for recruitment purposes until the start of the 1960s. For some years before then, Scientology had already been using personality tests "as a promotional means", but Hubbard had not yet systematised the practice nor standardised on a specific test. Instead, Scientology mainly used tests that were already in the public domain (such as the US Army Alpha test for IQ) to ensure that "the tests we use should not get us entangled with copyrights."
In the autumn of 1960, Hubbard used the Johannesburg, South Africa Scientology organisation as the guinea pig for a new recruitment system which apparently used the OCA. The results were spectacular, as Hubbard excitedly informed his followers:
"The new line up I have developed for Johannesburg is hot. It is the hottest, fastest procurement service set up we have ever had. All Orgs and Franchise Holders will be using it in a few months.
But meantime, a word of warning. A very sincere word.
This is too hot to embark upon carelessly and without preparation. It has almost blown HASI Johannesburg to pieces. If I had not been monitoring it close to hand, the new PE [Personal Efficiency course] would have been killed off because of the frightening volume of heavy new business brought in. Testing went from 5 to 29 a day in three weeks. All new people. Five people were pulled in to do nothing but testing, marking and evaluating (the heaviest time consumer)."
[Hubbard, "Warning on New PE", HCO Policy Letter of 22 November 1960]
What Johannesburg had done was fairly simple. On Hubbard's instructions, the following notice (similar to the billboards seen outside Scientology organisations today) had been placed in local newspapers:
THE JOHANNESBURG TEST CENTRE
offers for a limited time, free
intelligence and personality
tests. Your IQ, personality
and aptitude determine your
Know them. No obligations.
23, Hancock Street,
Joubert Park, Johannesburg.
[Hubbard, "Testing Promotion Revised", HCO Policy Letter of 24 November 1960]
Respondents were tested in the Johannesburg Scientology office, having been told:
"These are old tests reworked and modernized and coordinated with an electro-psycho-galvanometer. The results are more accurate than psychological tests. This is Scientometry. This is not psychology. These tests are more modern, being electronically coordinated. Psychology considers a person to be a materialistic biological brain. Scientology considers a person to be an electronic spiritual phenomena [sic]."
As this quote indicates, the test was originally performed with the aid of an E-meter, although this practice was later dropped. Other aspects were also refined: Hubbard banned Scientology organisations from giving phone numbers in their adverts, as leaving it in "got no bodies, only floods of phone calls". The "PE Test Program", as Hubbard dubbed it, was rolled out across the world and rapidly became one of the chief recruitment lines of the Church of Scientology.
The OCA's use for recruitment is a purpose very much secondary to its original objective. It was initially devised to analyse the progress of individuals undergoing Scientology auditing, and has been used for this purpose since at least 1956. For those undergoing a variety of Scientology courses, it was standard practice for students to take an OCA test at the start and end of each course in order to measure the improvement deemed to have occurred during the course. In general, the aim is to "raise" the OCA graph and move the "undesirable" segments into the "desirable" region. Some have claimed that the OCA is a complete fraud and its apparent upwards movement is rigged. However, the evidence discussed later in this essay suggests that this is not so and offers an explanation for what the OCA does for Scientologists.
Hubbard's motive in offering psychometric tests to the general public was not simply as a promotional gimmick, although that was obviously his main purpose. He also saw it as a way of opening another front in his quixotic war against psychiatrists and psychologists:
"We are overtly cutting the psychologist off. He has only his test line to offer. All his gains have been in the field of testing. All his cash is received via tests and his opinions of people and some tricks for training or selling.
A free test activity does the psychologist out of a job. We would gladly hire psychologists if our experience with them were not bad in the test field. They have rattled people being tested for us, thrown curves at them, slanted tests and failed to duplicate. The actual test environment must be calm and quiet and always the same. The evaluation must be smooth and done in other quarters by other people. Testing and evaluation of tests are two different things. The psychologist has mixed them up while working for us, thus upsetting test results."
[Hubbard, "New Testing Promotion Section", HCO Policy Letter of 28 October 1960]
I tried the OCA myself a few years ago to see how it worked. Having been propositioned on the street and ushered inside, I was given a sheet on which were some 200 questions — at least some of them were plainly influenced by Hubbard, though he is not credited — and told to answer "Yes", "No" or "Maybe" to each. The questions were strangely reminiscent of the "Security Checks" which Scientologists have to do and, in several instances, share the oddity and leading nature of Security Check questions:
3. Do you browse through railway timetables, directories or dictonaries just for pleasure?
6. Do you get occasional twitches of your muscles, when there is no logical reason for it?
30. Do you enjoy telling people latest scandal [sic] about your associates?
59. Do you consider the modern prisons without bars system 'doomed to failure'?
105. Do you rarely suspect the actions of others?
124. Do you often make tactless blunders?
I was told that the OCA was produced by Oxford University and that it was a precise and scientific assessment of my personality traits. Having filled in the boxes, I gave it to a Scientologist who took it away to enter the data into a computer. I noticed while I was waiting that the OCA form was credited to the "Dianetics Centre, 68 Tottenham Court Road" (this building is actually the London office of the Church of Scientology and is marked as such). It made no mention of Scientology. I waited for about five minutes, watching a stunning blonde in a Sea Org uniform ordering the organisation staff to arrange chairs for a later presentation.
When the tester returned, she took me through to a small booth to discuss my results. I was shown a graph which purported to represent my I.Q. and ten personality characteristics. All but three of my characteristics were shown as being between 40 and 80, which I was told was exceptionally good, but the aforementioned three were hovering down near the bottom of the scale. I was told that I was badly depressed and that my low scores were "dragging the rest down". There was obviously someone or something "suppressing" me and I needed to "handle" or "disconnect" from them or it. The solution, I was informed, was to take two Scientology courses costing £48.50 each, for a total of £97 ($147 in 1997 prices). Despite the fact that the test was conducted under the aegis of the Dianetics Centre, there was no mention of Dianetics, no explanation (or even mention) of the difference between Dianetics and Scientology, and no mention of the religious nature of Scientology. It was promoted purely as a psychotherapy.
I had no intention of taking the courses — my aim was to check out the OCA, not buy Scientology courses — so I refused politely. This was clearly not the right answer, and an intense hard sell began, stressing how unhappy I would be if I did not get my problems resolved. I stuck to my guns nonetheless and the evaluator gave up eventually. I got the impression that she was distinctly disappointed. (No doubt she was; she would have received a commission had I signed up to the courses being offered.)
The Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a widely recognised psychometric test. It appears to be used only by the Church of Scientology and organisations related to it, principally the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, a group which licenses L. Ron Hubbard's "technology" for use by businesses. These organisations are not particularly interested in testing the validity of the OCA. Scientologists adopt a default position of regarding everything emanating from Hubbard ("Source" in Scientology jargon) to be unquestionably correct. Fortunately for the rest of us, there have been some investigations into the OCA by professional psychologists. In 1971, Sir John Foster M.P. was conducting an official Enquiry into Scientology in the United Kingdom. He asked a group of eminent psychologists to visit British Scientology organisations to undertake the OCA. The Working Party was composed of a clinical psychologist, a consultant in psychological selection, and a university lecturer in psychology, all members of the governing Council of the British Psychological Society (incorporated under Royal Charter in 1965) and distinguished experts in their field. They reported:
"The test consists of 200 written questions, to be answered 'yes', 'no' or 'uncertain' (this may not be easy to do when the question, like question 150, is in the form 'Do you rarely express your grievances?'). The members of the Working Party answered the questions in different, but pre-determined, random fashion (see below) which could not produce results of any significance: in fact, they should all have come out pretty average in all personality traits. The subsequent experience of one member of the Working Party follows in his own words: —
'In this particular case the inventory was deliberately responded to in a fashion designed to produce an unpredictable result. As each question was read the answer space was completed for the following question without reference to the content of either question. On any known inventory this procedure should produce a "flat" profile, with few scores departing significantly from the mean. When the profile chart was presented on the second visit it showed extremely low scores on three traits; all save one or two were below the "desirability" band. (The imprecision is due to the fact that, try as he might, the "client" was not permitted to bring away the profile sheet). The staff member who had scored the inventory expounded the extreme scores with some urgency. He avoided questions on the meaning of the scales, dismissing as irrelevant the trait words at top and bottom; yet he invested the points on the scale with immense importance, almost of a charismatic nature. His patter continually referred to the inadequacies which the graph revealed — one point became "failed purpose" and another "loss", although these terms were never explained. He attempted to confirm his diagnosis of these points on the graph by such leading questions as "Do you often fail to achieve what you set out to do?" and "Do you have difficulty making friends?" Affirmative answers to these questions (which were given readily) were, somehow, to be explained by the low scores and the interpretation put on them.
In the course of the session the following information was elicited from the Scientology staff member:
(i) The test was devised by "Oxford students, or the Oxford Dictionary people", he did not know which;
(ii) He did not understand the word "percentile" — although it was he who brought the word into the discussion. He looked it up in the Concise Oxford Dictionary without success and decided it meant "percentage". He thereafter interpreted "90th percentile" as 90 per cent.
(iii) "Most people" scored beyond the "minus 90" point on the three traits being discussed.
In general it was patent that this person had no notion what the test was, how it was designed, what it measured or what the scores meant. He had been trained to produce this ill-informed commentary which, to a gullible anxious person, might sound genuinely insightful. In fact he was pointing out to an unknown member of the public "inadequate" facets of his personality shown up by an instrument which he did not understand.
In a second interview, immediately following on, the "Registrar" explained the hierarchy of levels which could be attained by Scientology processing. He described the courses offered by the organisation to remedy the inadequacies shown up by the profile. All these courses would cost money and a probable minimum total of one hundred guineas [£108 — probably about £500 now] was quoted to deal with the particular personality deficiencies shown up by the OCA.'"
The conclusions of the Working Party are summarised as follows: —
"The systematic quantification of personality variables is one aspect of psychometric testing …. All psychometric tests can be assessed in terms of their reliability and validity. 'Reliability' implies a test yields similar results under similar testing conditions. Various degrees of reliability can be attributed to a number of sources of error. In a properly constructed personality test the various effects of these sources of error are systematically assessed. 'Validity' implies that a test measures what it claims to measure — i.e., that it is a valid measure of the characteristic it claims to quantify. A test may be reliable without being valid, but not vice versa. A known degree of reliability is crucial to the use of any psychometric test in a setting where its results are used with an individual case.
If a personality test is a reliable device, then a systematic approach to answering the questions should yield systematic variations in the conclusions derived from an analysis of the test scores. That this is a property of reliable tests may be assumed from a knowledge of formal test theory such as any person competent to assess the results of a psychometric test should possess. The members of the Working Party used this property of reliability of psychometric tests to assess the adequacy of the personality testing offered by the Scientologists, by submitting themselves to testing as 'clients' responding to the advertisements for free personality testing.
For the purpose of making their assessment of the status of the test, the members of the Working Party employed three different methods of responding to the test items when they themselves completed it: —
(a) one member answered the questions at random, selecting the answer to be given before reading the question;
(b) a second member employed a method in which the response was pre-determined regardless of the content of the question: if the final letter of the question was a consonant in the range 'a' to 'm', he answered 'no'; if it was a consonant in the range 'n' to 'z' he answered 'yes'; if it was a vowel, he answered 'uncertain';
(c) the third member used the reverse of this procedure, so that he answered 'yes' where the second method produced the answer 'no', and 'no' where the second method produced the 'yes' response. The 'uncertain' response was given to the same questions as before.
This systematic variation in response styles would be expected to affect the resultant profiles. ('Profiles' are an accepted manner of presenting the information derived from some types of personality test[)]. A random method of response ((a) above) would be expected to produce scores close to the mean of scores obtained during the standardising of the test. Methods (b) and (c) should also result in profiles with low deviations from the mean scores; if such deviations occurred these two methods would be expected to produce different, if not complementary, profiles. The Working Party verified that on two accepted personality tests such systematic variations in answering did produce variations in profile pattern.
These variations in answering the questions did not seem to affect the Oxford Capacity Analysis as the three methods produced remarkably similar profiles, in which the scores on the first three scales were in an extreme position in the range marked 'unacceptable' … All profile results then rose into the 'normal' or 'desirable' range over the next 2-4 scales and showed a return to 'unacceptable' over the remaining scales.
If these three systematically varied response styles had all produced 'flat' profiles, with few scores departing greatly from the mean, then we would have considered that the Oxford Capacity Analysis could not be criticised on these grounds. But when each of two diametrically opposed methods of response produces the same extreme deviant scores as the other and as a third 'random' response style, we are forced to a position of scepticism about the test's status as a reliable psychometric device.
It should be noted that the Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a personality test known in psychological circles; it is not distributed by reputable test agencies in this country; there is no research literature available about it, nor is it listed in the Mental Measurements Year Book which is internationally accepted as the authoritative source on psychometric devices. While any one of these points does not in itself indict a psychometric instrument, the failure of the Oxford Capacity Analysis to meet all of them does, in our opinion, constitute an extremely strong case for assuming it to be a device of no worth. The scientific value and useful nature of the profile apparently derived from completion of the Oxford Capacity Analysis must consequently be negligible. We are of the opinion that the Oxford Capacity Analysis and the profiles derived from its completion are constructed in such a manner as to give the appearance of being adequate psychometric devices, whereas, in fact, they totally fail to meet the normally accepted criteria.
Taking the procedure as a whole, one is forced to the conclusion that the Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a genuine personality test; certainly the results as presented bear no relation to any known methods of assessing personality or of scaling test scores. The booklet itself might produce genuine scores but these are not the scores presented on the profile. The legend 'produced and edited by the Staff of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International' which appears on the cover is totally inappropriate to a personality measure — such an instrument is not 'edited', it is developed through painstaking research. The validity of the OCA booklet itself is therefore in doubt … The prime aim of the procedure seems to be to convince people of their need for the corrective courses run by the Scientology organisations."
Quite separately of the Foster enquiry, Dr. David Delvin carried out his own investigation of the OCA for World Medicine magazine. He reported:
"I settled down to the 'personality test'. This consisted of 200 questions of the type much favoured by women's magazines (Are you considered warm-hearted by your friends? Do you enjoy activities of your own choosing? Are you likely to be jealous? Do you bite your fingernails?).
Eventually, a young man took my answers away for 'processing'. When he returned, he was waving an impressive-looking piece of graph paper, around which were printed figures, symbols, and various bits of McLuhanistic jargon. Across the paper was drawn a line that looked something like the Boat Race course. This, the young man told me, was my personality curve.
The young man airily drew a ring round the area of Putney, and said that this represented 'other people'. A similar ring in the region of Barnes Bridge indicated 'myself', while another drawn round Mortlake Brewery apparently represented 'life'. On the basis of all this, the young man gave me a 20-minute personality analysis, which mainly consisted of portentous-sounding pseudo-scientific neologisms ('You've got quite a bit of agity and you are moderately dispersed, but we can help you to standard tech.') He seemed a bit vague about what these words actually meant.
At the end, he said to me impressively, 'So you see, it's all very scientific — thanks to the fact that our founder is a man of science himself'.
'Oh yes, very scientific indeed,' I said.
I hadn't the heart to tell him that his super-scientific system had failed to detect the fact that I had marked the 'don't know' column against all 200 questions in the test."
In neither instance were the observers told that Scientology was a religion. Although one might have expected them to deduce that from the "Church of Scientology" sign outside the London Scientology organisation where the testing took place, the OCA is used in plenty of contexts in which neither Scientology nor the religious aspects are publicised. As well encountering them being handed out near Scientology offices, people have reported OCA questionnaire being distributed by direct mail, within businesses and even to people queuing to enter cinemas.
Another evaluation was undertaken by an earlier public enquiry into Scientology in the Australian state of Victoria, where an expert psychologist gave his decidedly uncomplimentary view of the OCA manual: "the overall impression one gets from reading this manual is that it has been prepared by somebody with a smattering of psychometrics rather than by someone who is really competent in the field."
Sir John Foster asked the Scientologists about what claims they made for the Oxford Capacity Analysis, on what published evidence they were founded and what written instructions were given to persons who interpreted the tests. David Gaiman, who was at the time a senior official in Scientology's Guardian's Office, replied:
"As far as I have been able to discover, we don't make any particular claims about the Oxford Capacity Analysis.
All I say about the test is that it is a reasonably reliable test for measuring individual personality.
I don't know if you have received a paper from the British Psychological Society by three of its members who went to our premises in London deliberately to make a mockery of the tests by giving random answers. I would certainty concede that it is possible to make a mockery of them. Newspaper plants have also proved that it is possible to make a mockery out of auditing. It does not discredit the tests, or auditing, for honest men who are genuinely seeking a result."
However, he did not mention any published evidence, or the existence of any instructions. Perhaps Gaiman felt a certain vulnerability on this point; Hubbard did not in fact publish any evidence or research findings on the OCA. However, the instructions definitely did, and do, exist. A detailed examination of them suggests why Gaiman did not disclose them to Sir John Foster — they would have totally demolished his claim that the OCA was a "reasonably reliable test". In fact, it is rigged and deliberately calculated to exploit the anxieties of those being tested.
Hubbard insisted that the OCA was a genuine personality test. However, his instructions on how it was to be administered show quite clearly that the OCA was, and is, intended more as a recruitment tool than as any kind of objective evaluation.
Having been brought into the office, the "prospect" is taken to a Test Section that "is extremely professional and businesslike in atmosphere … we must [do better than] psychologists and others." The test is conducted. The evaluator then tells the individual:
"Now let's look at your personality. This is what you've told us about yourself. Understand that this is not our opinion of you, but is a factual scientific analysis taken from your answers. It is your opinion of you."
In fact, the analysis is derived principally from a script originally devised by a South African Scientologist, Peter Greene, who worked at the Personal Efficiency Foundation in Johannesburg. ("Personal Efficiency" was how Scientology promoted itself in those days; at the time, it did not systematically promote itself as a religious organisation.) Hubbard evidently liked Greene's script and issued it to Scientologists worldwide. It now forms part of volume six of the Organization Executive Course, the official corpus of Scientology policy.
Depending on the type of result, the OCA "Automatic Evaluation Script" gives a sample of the sort of lines to use. For instance, if a low score is recorded on "syndrome" G (Responsible / Irresponsible), the suggested response is:
"You are completely irresponsible. You accuse others of having ruled your life and made it what it is but this is actually your own fault as you at no time have really accepted your share of responsibility. Your frequently feel sorry for yourself and feel that life has victimized you. Scientology would help you with that."
Similarly, if H (Correct Estimation / Critical) is "failed", the line to be deployed is:
"You are an extremely critical person. You lash out verbally or mentally at those about you and the environment, making you a person almost impossible to be around. You may consider that you are being constructively critical or realistic. However, you are being basically malicious and mean. Because you see little good in people or life your opinions are of little value. Scientology can improve this."
[OCA Automatic Evaluation Script, late 1990s]
As the reader will have spotted, the common thread is that Scientology is always promoted as the answer to the problems "identified" by the test. This follows Hubbard's advice to Scientologists:
"Remarks that 'Scientology can improve this or that characteristic" or "auditing can remedy that' or 'Processing can change this' or 'Training can stabilize that' should be used repeatedly during the evaluation for the sake of impingement …
The Evaluation is given with excellent TR 1. Almost Tone 40. The idea is to impinge on the person. The more resistive or argumentative he is, the more the points should be slammed home. Look him straight in the eye and let him know, 'That is the way it is.'
Proceed with evaluation on the low points, column by column. Make a decisive statement about each. If the subject agrees — says, 'That's right', or 'That describes me all right', or similar — leave it immediately. You have impinged. If he argues or protests, don't insist. You simply are not talking on his reality level. Re-phrase your statement until it is real to him. Stop as soon as you get through. As soon as you get an impingement, look subject in the face and say, with intention, 'Scientology can help you with that' or 'That can be changed with Scientology', or some similar positive statement."
[Hubbard, "Evaluation Script", HCO Policy Letter of 15 February 1961]
Tone 40, in Scientology jargon, means forceful insistence. The approach relies not so much on argument as on the manner of delivery; quite simply, it demands that the evaluator batters the subject into submission through sheer force of personality.
The basic goal of the way the OCA is delivered is to so unsettle the subject that he or she is pushed into taking a Scientology course to rectify the "problem". A key element in this is an attempt by the evaluator to predict the future of the test subject — something that no reputable personality test would ever do. The approach is more like fortune telling, an analogy used by Hubbard himself:
"A clever evaluator can surmise such things as domestic grief, trouble with possessions, etc much more easily than a fortune teller.
Test evaluation is modern, scientific fortune telling. It deals with past, present and future. A low profile, low IQ future is of course a dreary one, profitless, unless changed. We can erase the fate of the past and alter utterly anyone's future. So it does not matter how hard one leans on the person. Remember low cases want only to escape the consequences of life.
A poor or average test (or a theetie-weetie [unrealistic] high test with no reality) shows a rough future, full of disease and injury."
[Hubbard, "New Testing Promotion Section", HCO Policy Letter of 28 October 1960]
What makes the OCA different from Gypsy Rose Lee's palm-reading sessions is, according to Hubbard, its scientific nature:
"Testing moves now out of psychological range and into future prediction, so we are not doing psychological testing. The is-ness of the test is applied to excuse the past, avoid difficulty in the future. We will take full advantage of the superstitions of people at the level of prediction. The popularity of astrology is greater than that of psychology even though psychology developed from astrology. That is because astrology pretends to read future. We can factually estimate future from meters and graphs without any pretence and a gruesome future it appears (and would be without us). Pandora's box flies into the future from a middle or low graph. Astrology and Numerology are popular and slightly factual. We can be popular and totally factual. The fate of Man without processing is measured by the catastrophes of the past. The Buddhist Wheel of Life shows Man how grimly he is tied to a never-improving circle of birth and death. Use such facts."
[Hubbard, "New Testing Promotion Section", HCO Policy Letter of 28 October 1960]
Hubbard goes on to provide an example of how this works in practice, even providing a "fill in the blanks" set of lines for an evaluator to take:
"Well, that tells us how you are and how you have been in the past. Now, let us look at your future."
"You have had ……… and you inevitably will ……… again.
"You have been ……… and in your domestic life and in your job, you will find ………, etc, ….
"With those low points on your personality graph, you are going to ………. (Here, you use what you know of Scientology and assess this.)
"Not a very bright prospect is it? Unless you care to change it."
[Hubbard, "Evaluation Script", HCO Policy Letter of 15 February 1961]
By this time the test subject should be "hanging on ropes". In perhaps the most cynical line in the entire evaluation script, Hubbard comments: "If the job has been done well, the person should be worried and will probably ask a question as to what he can do about it all." That represents the first step to persuading the person to sign up to Scientology, as it signifies that he or she has accepted that there really is a problem that needs to be tackled. A variety of other possible therapeutic methods is mentioned and rejected in favour of Scientology, which offers "simpler, more straightforward answers".
The next step is to persuade the person to put down the money for a Scientology course. This is to be achieved by making it appear that the evaluator is not in fact selling anything, but is doing a favour to the hapless test subject. The evaluator "grows confidential" and tells the subject:
"Look, I'm technical staff here. I don't have anything to do with sales or courses, but if you'd like a confidential tip, there are all sorts of courses and services going on here all the time. Your best bet would be to take one of the beginning services and discover what Scientology can offer you. That will save you from getting involved. Go and see that lady over there and tell her you only want one of the beginning services so you can find out what Scientology is about."
[OCA Automatic Evaluation Script, late 1990s]
The subject is thus directed to the "Registrar", the Scientology official responsible for signing people up to courses. Hubbard notes: "The Registrar should realise that if the person walks over from the evaluator's table to Reg., he, or she, is SOLD already." It should be noted that the evaluator's statement not to have "anything to do with sales or courses" is a classic example of a Scientological "acceptable truth" — a way of bending the truth to be grossly misleading but without actually lying. The evaluator is indeed not involved in sales or courses; sales are dealt with by the Registrar, while courses are taken care of by the organisation's course delivery staff. The "acceptable truth" is to define the sales process as only being the actual deed of signing over the money for a course, a matter dealt with exclusively by the Registrar. All the evaluator does, under this ultra-narrow definition, is to test people.
If an IQ test is added to the regular OCA examination, Scientology is likewise promoted as being essential no matter what the results — for everything from raising a low IQ to managing a high IQ. Hubbard provides four levels of grading for this test:
"'Now, Mr, (Mrs, Miss,) let us have a look at your tests'. Open folder. 'Your I.Q. Score was ----'
a) less than 100
'This is very low. Less than average and you obviously have great difficulty solving problems. Scientology training would raise that considerably.'
'A very ordinary score and you have more difficulty than you need in handling problems. Scientology training would raise that considerably.'
'An above average score. You can take advantage of opportunity and when you apply yourself, you progress fast. However, a high intelligence is only useful so long as you have data to apply the intelligence to. Scientology will not only give you useful data, but can raise your I.Q. even higher.'
d) Above 120
[Hubbard, "Evaluation Script", HCO Policy Letter of 15 February 1961]
Although Hubbard consistently claimed to be able to raise IQ levels through Scientology, this is completely unproven. Worse still for Hubbard, although huge advances have been made in neurology over the past couple of decades, there is no evidence to suggest that adult IQs can be raised for any significant period by any significant amount.
The OCA is marked using a scoring grid (or more often these days, a computer program) that assigns certain point values to the answers before plotting them on a graph. The values ranges quite widely and varies from question to question, so an answer might give you +3 or -1, depending on the question. The Church of Scientology treats this scoring grid as confidential, probably not so much to stop the public finding out about it as to keep it from Scientologists undergoing OCA testing. Hubbard stressed repeatedly that staff were not to give Scientology students any assistance with the OCA, as this would skew the results. Knowing the highest-scoring answers would obviously skew the results even further.
The marking scheme shows clear signs of having been manipulated to make it more likely that certain results will be produced. Although the OCA scale goes up to 100, it is in fact impossible to reach that mark, even with a perfect score on any of the ten columns. "Responsibility" is given a particularly low high score. Even if a score is perfect on every attribute across the board, the graph line would waver across the top and drop noticably on "responsibility". It is not a big surprise that this should be so, as the whole objective of the OCA is to provide a sales hook. A perfect profile would give the evaluator a chance to say, "Well, good scores here but not quite perfect — I see you are wavering here — and I see your low point is responsibility." In other words, even with any amount of Scientology training, perfection is unachievable. Each small rise in OCA scores can thus be represented as one step closer to the top. This is a very clever sales device; it gives a great incentive to the subject to persevere indefinitely in pursuit of what is, unknown to him, essentially an impossible goal.
It is not clear how much OCA evaluators really know about the way that the OCA is marked. Since at least the 1990s, the Church of Scientology has used a computer program to automate the marking of the test — the evaluator simply feeds in the questionnaire answers and waits for the results to the plotted. This has advantages as a labour saving device, allowing a quicker turnaround in OCA processing (and thus a greater potential throughput of test subjects). It also makes the scoring of the OCA that much more obscure, possibly reducing the likelihood that the evaluator would work out the manipulation of the marking scheme.
Before and after many stages of Scientology processing, the OCA is performed to test the personality state of the trainee Scientologist. Over time, this is supposed to show a steady increase in the OCA scores. In practice, some curious results appear. This can be seen in a number of Scientology publications; on page 220 of What Is Scientology (1992 edition) can be seen a number of graphs said to have been produced using the OCA. Several of the graphs show characteristics actually declining after auditing. Case A has apparently become less active, Case B less happy and less communicative, and Case C considerably less certain. Only one out of the four shows an across-the-board improvement.
Whatever else the OCA is, it is clear that it is not a genuine, scientifically-based personality test. What, then, is it testing and why do results change over time?
There are a couple of possibilities here. As the OCA was developed by Scientologists, it is possible that its marking scheme reflects — consciously or otherwise — the political and personal views of indoctrinated Scientologists. A new recruit to Scientology would, obviously, be at the least indoctrinated level and would thus be furthest away from the "ideal" curve on the graph. As the recruit was indoctrinated over time, his or her views on the matters raised in the OCA questionnaire would become more closely aligned with the views of the OCA's editors. In other words, the OCA may serve as a measure of how thoroughly indoctrinated a Scientologist is.
Another possibility is that a learning effect is occurring. Scientologists are frequently subjected to the OCA, often retaking the test only weeks or months apart. In this scenario, although the test itself measures nothing of any significance, the test subject is getting better at it over time. Psychologists tend to avoid setting such tests at such short intervals, leaving periods of at least several months between testing. Hubbard may not have been aware of this (or if he was, he disregarded it) — his personal knowledge of psychology appears to have been somewhat limited.
The OCA is an effective recruitment device for Scientology for two main reasons. One is, of course, the "hard sell" to which potential recruits are subjected. Such sales tactics can be highly effective in themselves. It is not unknown for people to say yes to high-pressure salesmen simply to get them off their front doorstep (a fact exploited on a daily basis by unscrupulous door-to-door salesmen). But there is a more subtle factor behind the OCA's effectiveness. It is an ingenious way of exploiting what psychologists call the "Barnum effect", something that Hubbard is likely have been aware of, albeit probably not by that name. This refers to the phenomenon whereby people accept personality feedback about themselves, even if it is universally valid or trivial, because it seems to be derived from valid procedures. This underlies the otherwise baffling popularity of pseudosciences such as astrology and graphology; vague generalisms are taken to be specifically true by many individual people. As Phineas T. Barnum is reputed to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute" — and that fact can be scientifically demonstrated.
Psychologists have explored the Barnum effect for over fifty years with numerous experiments. One of particular relevance to the OCA was conducted by an American psychologist called Ross Stagner. He gave a group of personnel managers a genuine personality test, but instead of scoring it and giving them genuine results, he instead substituted bogus feedback in the form of statements derived from horoscopes, graphology and so on. Each manager was then asked to rate the results on a sliding scale of very accurate to very wrong. Over half felt that their profile was very accurate, with another 40% rating it fairly accurate; hardly any believed that it was wrong. Despite the fact that the results had no scientific validity, and in fact no connection of any kind to the actual tests, more than 90% of those tested believed them to be accurate.
Research on the Barnum effect has shown that a number of important factors affect belief in bogus results. Surprisingly, the status or prestige of the consultant is only marginally important; the fact that the OCA is produced by the Church of Scientology would not make a great deal of difference. Other factors are crucial. One of the most important seems to be that the information required seems to be specific. The more detailed the questions, the better; a list with 200 questions is better than one with 100, or 50.
Another crucial factor is that customer satisfaction appears to depend on receiving statements that appear to be specific to them, even if the statements are actually genuine. Studies show that after such statements are received, clients' faith in the procedure and the tester increases. A client's satisfaction is a measure of how well the tester has differentiated him or her from others, but it is utterly dependent on the extent to which they believe that the results are specific to them. Again, an exploitation of this principle is clearly visible in the OCA. The test instructions require the Scientologist testers to deliver scripted statements as if they were in fact specific to the individual being tested.
Personality testing is notoriously subject to the Pollyanna principle, which suggests that there is a universal tendency for people to accept positive feedback more frequently than negative feedback. Most pseudoscientific personality testing and prediction of the future — by astrologers and fortune testers, for instance — provides positive feedback which is eagerly lapped up by the anxious people who form much of the clientele. At first sight, the OCA appears to turn this on its head. Much of the suggested feedback is extremely negative — "you are completely irresponsible", "you are quite cold blooded and heartless" and so on. However, it may well be almost an inverse form of the Pollyanna effect. The aim appears to be to make the subject feel even worse about himself, in effect knocking out his prop of self-confidence and replacing it with a dependence on Scientology, which is held out as the only way of avoiding an inevitable spiral of decline. The OCA's invariably negative results may well not convince someone who feels no personal insecurity. But for the likes of "Mrs. Pattycake" with a "wandering doubt in her eye" (as Hubbard put it), the promise of a way to overcome anxieties could well be an attractive one.
For some, Scientology certainly does seem to help them to overcome such difficulties. The problem is that the OCA exploits them in such a callous fashion in the first place. When the British Psychological Society evaluated the OCA for Sir John Foster in 1971, it summed up the immoral and irresponsible consequences of the OCA and the way in which it is delivered:
"No reputable psychologist would accept the procedure of pulling people off the street with a leaflet, giving them a 'personality test' and reporting back in terms that show the people to be 'inadequate', 'unacceptable' or in need of 'urgent' attention. In a clinical setting a therapist would only discuss a patient's inadequacies with him with the greatest of circumspection and support, and even then only after sufficient contact for the therapist-patient relationship to have been built up. To report back a man's inadequacies to him in an automatic, impersonal fashion is unthinkable in responsible professional practice. To do so is potentially harmful. It is especially likely to be harmful to the nervous introspective people who would be attracted by the leaflet in the first place.
If Scientology courses prove to be of no help, such people may well end up in a worse psychological state than when they started. Worse still, many of those who undertake the OCA but do not buy anything from Scientology may have their insecurities reinforced by the personality test's results. They would end up as collateral damage of Scientology's recruitment campaign, exploited and discarded. One particularly unpleasant example was cited by the 1965 Anderson enquiry into Scientology:
'In addition to "enlightening" people, the test has also been used to intimidate them into joining Scientology. The Australian Inquiry reported that one boy who took the test claims they told him he had a defective character, was mentally unstable, and would have a mental breakdown unless he joined Scientology. (They also suggested that he had homosexual tendencies.) When he refused to join nonetheless, people at the Org took turns for a year writing him personal letters to remind him of his difficulties as reflected on the test, and his need to join them to remedy it.'"
Unfortunately, Hubbard clearly cared not a jot for this sort of outcome: he told his followers to regard non-Scientologists (or "wogs") purely as "prospects" and "raw meat", of concern only when they are paying fees to Scientology organisations.