Use of Natural Language vs. Specialized Language to Describe Preferences and Interests

Use of Natural Language vs. Specialized Language to Describe Preferences and Interests

Use of Natural Language vs. Specialized Language to Describe Preferences and Interests

This article discusses the use of natural and specialized language in psychometrics, and specifically in Human Patterns.

The Human Patterns approach has been to label factors with ordinary language that does not require specialized knowledge or membership in a psychological or psychiatric tradition.

In the early days of psychometrics, when factor analysis and residues of the psychiatric tradition were strong forces, naming of factors served several purposes:

1. It enabled the factor to stand as “unique” within the theoretical frame being offered by the theoretical model. This is how terms like “succorance” and “nurturance” came into use.
2. It enabled the factor to fit into the psychiatric tradition itself. This is how Eysenck could offer “psychoticism” and “neuroticism” as factor labels.
3. It enabled the model being offered by the creator of the instrument to shift common language into a more specialized term or meaning. This is how the “Big Five” labels and the Firo labels came into use.

Human Patterns legends are intended to be viewed in light of the common dictionary definitions of the terms and phrases. While this effort has been moderately successful, the Administrator’s manual and the full report also offer fuller explanations of the factor labels and the derivation of them from the psychological or psychiatric models that they loosely correlate with.

The reason “loosely” is underlined is that the measurement method, the items offered to the subject completing an instrument, and the labels for the factors are an integrated set. Factor labels within Human Patterns can parallel those of other instruments, but correlation of our labels (measured our way) with labels for factors by other instruments (measured their way) is never 100%. If a coachee is interested in factors similar to those of the MBTI or the EQ factors or the Firo for example, it is best to administer the relevant instrument to deepen and enrich the discussion of those factors

Human Patterns is best offered as a tool to encourage conversation about preferences and interests in the broadest sense and that a coachee be encouraged – especially if a graph is particularly important to their coaching or development agenda – to complete supplementary instruments that are focused specifically on the material in the graph so a fuller and more in-depth picture can emerge of how that set of factors is constellated for the coachee.


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.