Embedded Hierarchies

Preferences and interests are organized hierarchically

In the early days of psychometrics, there were two strands for testing. The first was to extract factors from correlations of subject choices against lists of adjectives or phrases in a neutral or theory free manner. Factors identified by this method were solidly supported by statistical correlations. However, the researcher then had to label the factor and that process of labeling imposed an implicit theory. Resulting instruments were often variants of 16 factor lists, such as the CPI, the Jackson, the 16 PF and so forth. This first tradition continued into the "big Five" instruments which reduced the number of defensible factors to a smaller set and enabled the psychometrician to evolve a model based on the short list. The disadvantage of this statistically defensible short list is that the explanations of behavior and personality that follow are thin theoretically. This leaves the psychometrician attempting to extrapolate from a little list, with each extrapolation being less defensible.

The second strand in psychometrics was based on a theoretical model. Some of these models were of four factors usually derived from a variant of a property space diagram, but there were others that had five or more factors. These models depended on the endorsement of the psychological establishment and the persuasiveness and marketing of the theory by the creator of the theory. The psychometric instrument was designed to capture the dimensions or factors intrinsic to the theory. The MBTI, the DISC, the Kolbe, the Strong Campbell, and many other instruments came out of this tradition.

One reason Human Patterns is "better" than many other instruments is due to the design of the items or questions. The arrangement of questions into a set of 4 often difficult and contradictory choices requiring the subject to select one descriptor that is most like them and one that is least like them forces the subject to pull their embedded beliefs, preferences, and interests to the foreground. If this were done for a few factors related to a single theoretical model, this "ipsative" question style would enable a slightly better statistical validity that items that force a polarized choice and require the subject to "scale" on a single dimension or continuum. However, when the same item construction is used multiple times for multiple factors drawn from different theoretical models, the resulting factors groups are enriched. In effect, a hierarchy of the theoretical models that might be useful to explain "patterns" also surfaces. This enables statistical operations to identify a hierarchy of clustered sets of factors. Thus Human Patterns combines the best of both traditions in construction of psychometric instruments. The disadvantage is that the 250 questions within Human Patterns increases the time the instrument takes to complete to up to 1.5 hours. The compromise involved also leaves Human Patterns in a middle ground where the correlation of the instrument with theoretical models is between 65% for some models and 95% for others. This can be frustrating for true believers in a given psychological map. For traditionalists who want "pure" factors, Human Patterns can also be frustrating because the items have been constructed to map to models - albeit many models.

These statistical considerations lead the organization providing Human Patterns to discourage use of the instrument for workshops that are usually directed to one or two theoretical frames for preferences and interests. Instead we encourage coaches, placement specialists, succession planners, and leadership development professionals to use the instrument for long term development where the subject can investigate and explore themselves from many angles and in light of many and various situations and contexts. In effect, Human Patterns is a holographic view of a person, offering multiple views and multiple angles.


A. Laffoley

Academic Program Director Raleigh- Durham, NC

I used the Human Patterns Inventory in the development program for high potential senior leaders and recommend it as an effective tool as part of any comprehensive employee development program. In my opinion an important differentiator of this tool is the light it shines on the switches that may occur in our behavior when we are in reaction mode (e.g. in a stressful situation). Bringing awareness to where this occurs is invaluable to an individual’s personal development.

K. Jobe

Executive Recruiter Charlotte, North Carolina Area

I have used the Human Patterns as an internal recruiter as well as during client “coaching” engagements. It is the most comprehensive psychometric test that I have ever worked with. I highly recommend this tool to any organization that is committed to talent optimization.

F. Christian

Managing Director Chicago, IL

Human Patterns is a rare exception among assessment tools. Most are simplistic and slipshod, more mirrors of their creators' craniums than windows into one's own. Human Patterns has a richness that allows me to start meaningful conversations with the hidden high potentials I work with, who after years of severe underemployment have lost sight of themselves and their unique ways of working with the world. I'm so enthusiastic I now require it for new clients to shortcut to solutions.