Thursday, April 28, 2011

Personality Analysis: Suspicious

Someone e-mailed me to ask for my participation in a Pilot Personality Survey and I said bring it on, but the survey was ... weird. The cover letter requested that I forward it to other pilots, but later in the letter stated that the link was for me only, and not to forward it. I took that to be an issue with the survey software. The survey itself started all the right ways with the notification of approval from the ethics board, contact information for the research supervisor and so on, but if it was a real survey it was either done with poor preparation or it was researching something completely different.

It started with some unnecessary personal questions, like salary and the actual names of the airlines you have worked for. Then it asked me to "Indicate the endorsement obtained from the federal agency National Transportation Safety Board." Now the survey was based in a US possession, and not being an American commercial pilot I know I don't know every wrinkle in their licensing and endorsements, but I've never heard of an NTSB endorsement, and couldn't find anything out about it at the FAA or NTSB sites. Neither organization is a paragon of user accessibility, so that still doesn't mean an NTSB endorsement isn't a thing. I know that the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigates accidents and that the FAA grants licences and endorsements. The Canadian equivalent of the NTSB, the TSB, is completely and deliberately separate from Transport Canada, and I thought the same relationship existed between the NTSB and the FAA. The FAA sets and enforces regulations and licensing standards and the NTSB investigates why people crash anyway. What kind of endorsement could a pilot get from the NTSB? Options are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and above, not very descriptive. And they are check boxes not radio buttons. You can choose as many as you like. Anyone know what this is? I move on to the personality survey.

There's a question asking how many children I have and it has the same answer options as the NTSB endorsement question, only this one is with radio buttons. So I can't have simultaneously four and five children, but I can't have zero children, either.

Many of the questions are too transparently like generic statements about CRM to separate pilot personality from pilot knowledge of what research shows good CRM engenders. It's like filling out the CRM awareness annual exam. What can they possibly learn from such a thing? The obvious answer CRM questions are interspersed with "most people have done ... even if just once in their life" questions, for various bad things like stealing and lying. Often those types of questions are honesty markers on a survey, catching people who are putting what they think they should, instead of the truth. Or they are really asking if I have done these things, using the psychology that people imagine that that they are better than most people, so if they have done a bad thing, then most people have done it. I'm not sure it necessarily follows that if someone believes that most people have done a thing that it's an indication that the person himself has done it.

Why yes, I am overthinking the questions on this little survey. I seem to be thinking more about them than the person who wrote it, anyway. After about eighty questions they start repeating. And I don't mean that they ask a similar question again with different words. That's normal on a survey to test for honesty and attention span. No, the last twenty questions are all repeats of earlier questions, or almost repeats with trivial editorial differences. At the end I didn't hit the DONE key, just abandoned the survey, left wondering if this was some kind of strange phishing attack.

I e-mailed the researcher to ask, but received only a form letter thanking me for my participation. I think that e-mail was triggered by my visiting the link, or starting the survey. I notice that the NTSB question now includes the words "only applies for USA pilots," and the children question now has an option for none, so perhaps she updated the survey but didn't get around to acknowledging me. I also e-mailed the purported supervisor, in case it's a phishing attack using her name.

Here's the survey link, purportedly uniquely tied to my e-mail address, so if you want to put nonsense in and click through to see if I'm more likely an ignorant paranoid bitch ragging on some well-meaning researcher's Master's project or a savvy scam-spotter, go ahead. And if you're a statistician or psychologist and would like a platform for an educational rant on survey methodology, send it here.

Meanwhile other things that people have sent here, lately include an article on why there are so few female airline pilots. It omits to mention, as do most such analyses, that the state of the industry reflects not the role of women today, but the role of women fifty to sixty years ago, when today's senior captains were making their career choices. Ten years ago, when today's junior airline FO was making her career choices, it's quite possible her parents told her women weren't allowed to become pilots. That's what I was told ten years ago on the bus, by one of my fellow citizens.

Heck, you want to know what life advice I was give, by a well-meaning relative born in the 20th century?

  • Don't compete with a man, but if you have to, let him win.
  • Always wear a bra to bed.
  • Muscles on a woman are unattractive.
  • Only ride your bicycle on the sidewalk.
  • Treat frostbite by rubbing snow on it.

Let me tell you, she was not pleased when she saw the big muscles I had from riding my bike up steep hills, on the road, in order to win races, against men. But that's how slow change is. Those ludicrous ideas were held by a person who influenced me growing up.

People are so impatient about change. There are a number of children growing up in my extended family who believe that flying is for girls, and kids making career decisions now have seen female astronauts their whole lives. I don't think there is any great need to see the sexes, races, religions, and sports team fans proportionately distributed in the professions of the world, so long as people have the opportunity to do what they have the capacity to and want to do.


Anonymous said...

And given the structure of some of the questions, I would conclude they were written by someone using excellent English, but as a second language.

A Squared said...

I thought the same relationship existed between the NTSB and the FAA.

It does.

John Lennerton said...

The link brought me to a very generic survey, nothing at all about aviation. Cue Twilight Zone theme music.

Aviatrix said...

Weird. It still takes me to the survey. It must have given me a cookie or something.

kbq said...

Hmmm.... I get dumped into the middle of the survey. Moving back towards the beginning, there's one page of the aviation questions 'Trix listed. Going to the first page, there's somebody's name as the test taker - one of us?

Verification word: alist. Aviatrix's readers, right?


Paul B said...

OMG, I *hate* those sort of sets of questions... mind you, I'm not keen on mosts non-technical sets of questions!

When you get a question like "I hate it when...." and you are expected to agree or disagree... but so often the real answer is "well, it depends...."

I give training, and at the end of each course, we have to get our students to fill in the feedback forms: I really feel sorry for them!

Aviatrix said...

I'm not sure if sexist is the term, or bizarrely misguided. But at least she wasn't hawking designer sunglasses on someone else's blog after several polite requests not to do that.

Jamie & Sam said...

Why would anyone wear a bra to bed? I'm a male and that just sounds uncomfortable. I must say a healthy body (muscles and all) is what guys are attracted to, at least in the U.S.

Funny how people are different but they "think" they are "normal".


Aviatrix said...

I think the bra theory was that it would delay the inevitable southward boobslide.

GPS_Direct said...

@Trix - when sleeping, wouldn't the slide be backwards?

Besides, now - for those who are really vain - they have come up with a psuedo 'bra' that looks like a sports bra without cups. Instead of supporting the boobies, it forces them apart...

The whole idea is to prevent 'cleavage wrinkles' caused by mashing them together all day! LOL! What will they think of next?

I must say that - as a guy - I was happy with the ready-access the cupless format provided...

wv: susslyso - a British version of "thusly so"?

Aviatrix said...

I don't know the theory about the bed bra: I'm just reporting what I was told. I also have seen the anti cleavage wrinkles bra, but I think it's a solution in search of a problem. May favourite (not to use, just to be amused by) boob solution is breast lift tape. (Video is pixelated but still may be NSFW). There's a better, non-pixellated version out there.