In a September edition of TimeOut London there was an article titled “16 amazing escape rooms you have to try in London”. Sixteen! And that is just in London! Escape rooms have been steadily increasing in popularity and can now be found in many larger cities and towns all over the world. This increase is largely thought to be due to the idea that people are craving more and more interactive forms of entertainment and escape rooms are essentially like real-life gaming.
What is an escape room game?
If you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years and have managed to avoid hearing about the phenomenon then an escape room is essentially a room filled with puzzles and clues that your team have to solve within a limited time period. The aim is to solve the clues providing a code to unlock the door of the room – and escape!
This summer, as part of our annual corporate day, the hfi team signed up for an escape room game in London. As a group, we were split randomly into two teams, each entering identically designed escape rooms to engage in a little friendly competition on who would come out first… and we finished within minutes of each other!
As a group of psychologists you can imagine the discussions that ensued! After analysing the challenge in detail (which clues were easy, which ones stumped us etc.) we started discussing how we behaved in the room. Would our performance have been different if we were in different groups for example? Or if there was no time limit? (That timer really gets you!) Who took on leadership roles? Who acted more assertively than perhaps we might expect? Who offered the most ideas and suggestions?
And this got us thinking- would there be any correlation between our performance in an escape room game and our outcomes on psychometric assessments?
What are psychometrics?
A commonly used term within business psychology consultancies and HR departments, “psychometrics” is derived from two terms, “psych” – meaning psychological, and “metric” – meaning measurement. Essentially, psychometrics measure a person’s psychological make up. It is the use of tests and questionnaires to measure the psychological aspects of skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities, potential, or aptitudes. A combination of these outcomes are used to make predictions about behaviour and performance, usually in relation to someone’s suitability for a particular job role.
What are the similarities between psychometrics and escape room games?
In most escape room games you have 60 minutes to try to solve the clues which lead to your escape (and believe me, watching that timer count down really puts the pressure on!) Similarly, psychometric tests that measure maximum performance such as intellectual ability are taken under timed conditions with right and wrong answers. This allows us to provide standardised test conditions under which all candidates have the same experience and same opportunity to perform at their best. This way we know that what we are truly measuring are differences in their aptitude or ability.
When signing up for an escape room game, teams are able to choose the level of difficulty they would like to go for. Similarly, with hfi’s test of General Reasoning we have 3 levels of difficulty. This enables us to ensure that we are measuring candidates based on the level that is expected of them for the role they are applying for and compare their results to a relevant norm group.
A key element of any escape room is communicating with each other and working together as a team as there are far too many clues to solve on your own! You might start off all working together but you will inevitably have to split up, delegate and tackle different challenges in order to maximise the group’s skills and get out in time. The way you behave inside the escape room may be quite different to the way your friends or colleagues normally perceive you. The pressure is on and in these moments people can step up and into a leadership role or completely crumble under the ever-present glare of that red ticking clock.
Psychometric assessments of personality can be used to measure the same sorts of things- how is someone likely to behave? How might they respond to pressure and changing priorities? Do they have a preference for working with others or would they rather get on with things on their own? Are they naturally assertive or more likely to accommodate the needs of others? There are many different personality assessments on the market, each taking a different approach and measuring slightly different things but overall their purpose is the same- to provide insight into how someone is likely to typically behave in certain situations.
Escape rooms are a lot of fun, provide an environment for some friendly competition, and certainly exercise your brain for an hour. They may well incorporate some of the elements that psychologists are looking to measure with psychometric assessment but they are missing a few key criteria which are essential for a fair assessment process:
The escape room phenomenon doesn’t look to be dying down any time soon and with the rising popularity of gamified assessment among many large organisations hoping to attract top talent from the millennial talent pool who knows – maybe escape room style assessment could be the future of psychometrics! Someone must surely be researching this!? MSc dissertation anyone? You can thank me later!
But for now at least, we can be sure that as psychologists we have some good tools in the meantime to help us select the best person for the job!
*If you would like to learn more about the use of psychometric assessment in recruitment or development initiatives then please do get in touch. Our friendly team of business psychologists will be happy to answer any questions you may have, advise on the most appropriate tools, or help you to integrate psychometric assessment into your current recruitment process.
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