SIOP 2011: Day 2/3 Summary
Day 2 at SIOP started with a session not quite related to tech research, but rather something I found personally interesting: ways that I/O Psychology is currently “making a difference.” The presentation that struck me the most in the set was one covering the role of I/O in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is apparently a division of the US Department of the Interior tasked with working with the several hundred Native American tribes residing in the United States. Historically, the Bureau was responsible for overseeing “Indian Affairs” but is currently in the midst of a cultural transition towards an advisory help-from-within sort of role.
As a result, the Bureau is actively trying to hire Native Americans to fill its ranks (Native Americans serving Native Americans), and there are many, many job roles within the Bureau that need to be filled. Although their recruitment efforts are fairly successful – they are able to recruit several hundred Native Americans each year – these folks often leave within a year. I/O psychologists working within the Bureau discovered the reason and helped design new recruitment and other materials to support Native American retention.
I also attended a session on online recruitment. It was fine, but there was not a whole lot of new information. Online recruitment at the military, for example, consists of live chat and e-mail with potential recruits. The Navy alone apparently holds 700-800 recruitment chats per day with around 100 e-mails per day – that’s a lot of recruits. But that’s also a recruitment technology and approach that’s been around for at least a decade. While the volume is impressive, it’s not particularly innovative.
The one piece of that presentation that I did find interesting was the report on their online social network called MyNavySpace, which is a space for potential recruits to chat and communicate prior to showing up for basic training. Across the board, 26% of recruits don’t show up for basic training, but among those using MyNavySpace, the number drops to about 6%. Whether that’s because recruits using the social network are more motivated or because the social network motivates them is unclear.
On Day 3, I only attended one session, but it was a good one: a group of practitioners discussing serious games and virtual worlds. Several major issues relatively untouched in these research literatures were touched upon, including: the distinction between serious games and gameification, the limitations of artificial intelligence for automatic assessment within serious games, and the lack of evidence of transfer of behaviors from serious games to the workplace.
Two ideas discussed were particularly interesting to me. First, Ben Hawkes at Kenexa brought up research on the uncanny valley and its implications for video-based simulations. The uncanny valley is a fascinating theory – the idea that as the fidelity of human representation in 2D/3D media is only good to up to a point, at which point it becomes suddenly very disturbing. For example, a small photo of a person is more “human” than a name in a chatroom; a Second Life avatar is more “human” than a photo. But at a certain point – think Polar Express – the representation is just downright creepy. It’s close to “human” and yet there is something wrong that really jumps out at us. Some researchers say this is why people find zombies so disturbing – human, but not quite.
Second, I really did not like the idea of “stealth assessment.” There was some belief that people really engaged in a serious game would enter a “flow state,” and people in this flow state would forget they were being assessed (i.e. they would drop their self-monitoring defenses because they were so engaged). Thus, the assessor would get a more honest read of the applicants personality. The two problems I see are 1) this may be somewhat unethical, as we should never be tricking job applicants for any reason and 2) this creates measurement inequalities. If John the Applicant enters the flow state and starts yelling in frustration and Mary the Applicant does not enter the flow state and does not yell, it doesn’t mean that Mary has greater emotional stability than John. There is no way to disentangle the propensity for an employee to enter the flow state and the psychological constructs we think that flow state should let us see.
So that’s it for my SIOP 2011 conference experience. The relatively light density of technology presentations meant that I only spent about half my time at presentations and posters, and the other half chatting with old friends and new collaborators. And isn’t that what conferencing is all about?
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