Event: spring 1961
Updated: 23 June 2013
Reflecting on Oscar McConkie's startling prophetic blessing, which I had silently challenged at first and then accepted, I decided to seek out my old friend from Army Language School days, Victor B. Cline, now a professor of psychology at the U of Utah. Vic had always been willing to help me "find myself" in my new role as soldier as far back as 1953 when we first met as fellow Mormons at the Pacific Grove Ward on the Monterey Peninsula. I was a new 19-year-old student at the Army Language School and he was a staff psychologist at nearby Fort Ord.
Now, as a first year graduate student at the University, I came to him with a next level "find myself" request. "What can you tell me about myself that I don't already know?" I asked.
"Wow", he replied, "no one comes to me with that kind of question. If you are serious, I'll give you everything I've got!"
It took several weeks for the scores to be processed and results returned to Vic. When he called me to review results, his first words were something like, “You are the screwiest guy I have ever measured! You don’t fit any standard patterns.” Then he systematically took me through the results of each test. The ones I remember now are:
1. The Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory (MMPI);
2. The California Personality Indicator (CPI);
3. Intelligence test;
4. Comparative interest test
Regarding test 1 (MMPI), I recall he said something like, “The results of this test suggest you are the perfect profile of mental health.” To which I remember saying aloud (with tongue in cheek), “Thank God! I thought I was paranoid!”
Regarding test 2, he explained that my pattern was highly unusual because of two strong peaks in it that usually did not appear on the same person’s chart to the exclusion of all others. I recall there were a bunch of categories, maybe 10 or so, and that there was a median score line with a standard range above and below the median that were considered “normal” limits. What evaluators looked for typically were any scores either above or below this normal band. Vic showed me that I had two very high peaks above this band and one slightly below. He explained that the first high peak measured “will, drive, determination, etc.” and that my score was in the high 90s percentile. The second peak, he said, literally went off the chart. It was a category called “flexibility”. He further explained that it wasn’t unusual for one to evidence one or the other of these particular peaks, but not together in the same person. He said he thought this indicated the “creative personality” and that he wanted to follow my career to find out how this would manifest itself over time. As for the 3rd peak which was somewhat below the normal spread, he said that this was a measure of “sociability” and that the negative value indicated a “tendency to withdraw.” I remember not taking it very seriously by saying, “Oh, I think that means I just don’t like wild parties.”
Regarding test 3, he said that my score was that of the typical U of U engineering student, to which I replied that that was what I expected (I was super sensitive to intelligence tests in those days, i.e., I didn’t think I was very bright.). He said that he would have gone to the next test results without much further thought, except that he noticed some irregularities in this particular test’s details. First, he said, the test was timed (3 hour maximum) and designed so that people generally do not finish. But he observed that I finished and walked out 30 minutes early. Further, the test was structured so that the easy questions were at the beginning and the difficult questions were at the end in increasing and abstract difficulty. He was surprised that I had answered all the last questions correctly, but that I had failed a long string of the simple ones, so that the overall score evened out with a mediocre value. “Tell me, Gene”, he said, “What does it mean, the early bird gets the worm?” Or “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? I remember being shocked by his then showing me my score with what appeared a deliberate scoring wrong on such a series elementary questions. I do not recall having deliberately missed such obvious and simple-minded questions. But then a light dawned in me and I remembered that I typically had trouble with tests in my classes, usually starting by flunking the first (usually easy) tests and then having to scramble at the end to make up for the deficit to get a superior grade. It seemed like some kind of unconscious mental blocking process was at work in me. THAT was news to me, and was certainly something I did not know about myself. Vic thought that my success in my classes was often due to my having “seduced” my professors, since I invariably went to see them after not testing well at first. (I remember I would often freeze during tests for classes such as physics and physical chemistry).
Regarding test 4, a comparative interest test, which compared one’s interests to those of various professions. My interests tallied with those of industrial executives rather than scientists or engineers. That was interesting to me, too, and another something of which I was not already aware.
Vic had clearly shown me several useful things I did not know about myself at the time. When crunch time came a little over four years later, he had apparently forgotten all about these results.