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The role of psychology in recruiting

My career has brought me into contact with many people and many attitudes to life, so the thoughts expressed here are based on personal observation rather than in-depth expertise.

My own personal experience has also taught me that, in the wrong circumstances, I can be a horrible person! Most of the time I work very hard to try not to be! I do not always succeed!

It bought me to a realisation that we all have the potential to display a whole range of personas, depending on where we are, what is happening and who we are with, or influenced by.

As a first-time mother, I was thrown into a world I had never experienced, and with which I did not cope well. A crying child, who cannot be in any way comforted, has a disastrous effect on me!

My kids are tired of hearing me say that it is a miracle that they survived their childhood, because I do not like small children!

It is true – but they did survive and become good citizens – despite!

Yet, normally I can take problems in my stride and behave rationally! But small children delightful though they can be, take a long time to become rational beings – if they ever do!

In the 1970s, when metrication, across the board of of all types of measurement, was being introduced, I was asked to provide a short course to police cadets, to enable them to adjust their thinking to the new parameters for, for example, body measurements, or climate conditions, vehicle speeds etc, required for reporting purposes.

I worked on the basis of providing a few, easily remembered, benchmarks so that, for example, a male, 6 foot tall, weighing about 16 stone, became a male, 180 cm tall weighting about 100 kg. (Colloquially, we do use weight when we should use mass, so let that one pass!)

(Remember – a 12 inch = 1 foot ruler is 30 cm long. Weight is not quite so easy, but 2.2 lbs (pounds) = 1kg and 1 stone = 14 lbs.)

Similarly a daily temperature of 61 deg F, clearly a cool day, or 95 deg F – during a heatwave – became approximately 16 (transpose the digits) and exactly 35 deg C, (over 40 deg C is VERY hot) respectively. Of course freezing temperature is 0 deg C and 32 deg F, while boiling temperatures and 100 deg C and 212 deg F, respectively.

A car travelling at 50 mph was now moving at 80 kmph, a neat 5:8 ratio.

The group I worked with included a fairly wide age range, and was, I dimly recall, exclusively male.

As an aside – in teaching a bridging maths unit to mature age students, primarily female, I found an alarming proportion of women who thought they were no good at maths – because that was what they had been told by a male maths teacher

“Women can’t do maths!”

The fact of being a female with an honours maths degree has raised my status enormously in the “she’s only a woman” stakes!

So – back to my cadets!

They could be divided in roughly 3 groups.

There were the ones who had served in the defence forces, were used to obeying rules and commands, were comfortable with discipline, but wanted to be back in civvy street.

Then there were the younger ones, minds set on becoming whizz bang detectives, and willing to soak up knowledge.

And lastly there were the bullies.

The ones who wanted to strut around, gun on hip, and whip everyone into their idea of shape.

They would not be there to protect the law.

They would BE the law!

And, IMHO. they should not have been recruited on psychological grounds!

I had one student in this category who refused to accept the information I was giving. and argued black was white in order to not have to back down!

Underlying his aggressive attitude was clearly the fact that I was a woman, who would not cede ground to him, because my expertise was superior to his.

When, as a mature age student myself, and with several years of teaching behind me and 3 children of my own, I did my Grad Dip Ed, we did a fascinating unit on psychology, and I have since read several books by psychologists on how the brain develops, how it can repair itself to an amazing extent, even after severe damage – and, in particular, how lack of development of or damage to the part of the brain, which allows the development of empathy, can lead to psychopathic behaviour.

In today’s world, it seems, from observation, that many in control, whether in government, in services like the armed forces or the police – and particularly in security services outside the ADF – display the symptoms of psychopathy.

Certainly there are situations when preserving one’s life demands actions which would not be regarded as normal in other circumstances.

But I think serious thought has to be given to finding a suitable way of measuring psychological reactions to a whole variety of situations before giving anyone power over the lives of others.


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  1. Lawrence S. Roberts.

    A psychologist is one who can tell you ; ‘what is going to happen before it happens’
    and then can explain – why it didn’t.

    Having been on both sides of the recruiting table I will say that it’s random numbers.
    Depending on the mood of the main player in the melee.

  2. New England Cocky

    One of the Mathematics teachers I worked with struck the same ”Women can’t do Maths” attitude both at her otherwise good regional state high school and the University of New England from student colleagues. Her response was to top Mathematics each year, winning the annual Booth Prize for the best Mathematician of her cohort.

    At those times UNE had excellent lady Maths lecturers, including the highly respected (and loved) Mollie Horadam and Evie Bofinger, who in turn were both married to excellent Mathematician husbands. It is a tradition that has carried on naturally because mathematical brains have nothing to do with gender.

    But then my generation was told that ”women cannot do Science” because that would have required the building and maintaining of Science blocks in each the gender separated Girls High School, which the politicians and Education Department refused to contemplate until a NSW Supreme Court decision against gender discrimination forced the gender integration of most high schools.

  3. Craig

    Rosemary, you might have the cart before the horse. The govt, police, security services, etc hire staff based on psyche testing, with different areas of deployment demanding different criteria be met in testing. A few weeks ago I watched three men exit Coles and I guessed from their slovenly appearance that they must be casuals (trolley collectors or shop security) hung over from the previous night. My next thought was that Coles previously higher standards of staff hire are slipping. As they got closer they morphed into uniform police. Is it possible these kinds of staff are now being employed for their proven ability to float along in life, perfect candidates for taking orders without thinking things through?
    The question is, if so, who are the idiots ordering psyche tests that lead to this result? On the topics of idiots, did anyone see that copy of Kloun Schwabs book ‘The Great Reset’ on the Health Ministers bookshelf (posted on instagram) last week?

  4. Geoff Andrews

    Look, let’s be fair here: they mightn’t shape up all that well in maths (I suppose because it requires logical thinking), BUT they do excel in english because they speak earlier than boys and are better readers, not being interested in rough and tumble outdoor games like boys,
    Now that I have aroused your indignation and removing tongue from cheek (you’ve got to see it to believe it, Phil!), consider the cohort of Australian males born between 1994 and 1999. All their life they’ve been told by the MSM that we have been at war with Muslims, the “bad guys”. From about the age of ten, they have had access to, have become quite proficient in and are quite possibly psychologically addicted to violent, realistic computer games, in which the gamester sights along the barrel of a gun, pursues & kills the “enemy”, dressed in Muslim clothing. Statistically, half of them have parents who believe Muslim asylum seekers are such a danger to our country that they should be stored for life on remote islands. About ten percent are enjoying long term unemployment.
    Some join the Army; are trained to obey and kill then sent to Afghanistan. What could go wrong?

  5. Matters Not


    that was what they had been told by a male maths teacher

    Had a look at why females didn’t do as well as males when it comes to mathematics (generally speaking) albeit more than 40 years ago. Lots of ‘forces’ that went beyond the legendary male maths teacher that supposedly caused so much damage. The study involved hundreds of students (both male and female across the senior primary/lower secondary age range, in private and public schools, including some same sex cohorts). Basically, it was a quantitative study because the College of Advanced Education (CAE), now a University, where I was working allocated computer time (card reader) at their expense.

    The literature review revealed any number of historical theories ranging from head size (boys have larger heads than girls – but provided head size and therefore brain size is within the normal range it’s not a measure of anything significant basically) to the type of physical activity when playing (girls don’t do as well spatially as boys who spend more time upside down which may contribute to better spatial awareness). There was a whole host of possibilities but most are best forgotten and have been). But I’m sure a quick Google would produce a fruitful result.

    My interest was in the role models encountered. In brief – Is mathematics for girls or boys or both? Such things as Who helped with homework (mathematics in particular)? While mothers were the main influencer in the primary years, it was the fathers that assumed more of that (mathematics) role as the students progressed to the higher grades. A content analysis of mathematics textbooks was also interesting with sex role stereotypes to the fore. Yes the mathematics textbooks of the time had maths as a male domain. Mothers handled the small money amounts associated with shopping while male engineers did the more advanced calculations. Looked at local as well as US textbooks. Etc.

    As I say it was more than 4 decades ago and time moves on as I did. The point though is still valid I believe. – it takes more than one individual teacher to effect or even affect girls’ mathematical achievement. Rather it’s a whole socialization process that’s more likely.

  6. Carl Marks

    We all know the decoded answer to this question.

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