The Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA), also known as the American Personality Analysis, is a personality test that is given for free by the Church of Scientology. The OCA test is offered by the Church of Scientology online, at its local churches, and sometimes at local fairs, carnivals, and in other public settings. It has no relation to the University of Oxford, although the name may have been chosen to imply so.
The test is an important part of Scientology recruitment and is used worldwide by the Church of Scientology to attract new members. However, it has attracted criticism from psychologists, who point out that it is "not a genuine personality test" and criticize the Church of Scientology for using it in a "highly manipulative and "manifestly unethical" fashion.
The OCA is composed of 200 questions which can be answered "Yes," "No," or "Maybe." The following is a brief selection of the typical questions:
The OCA test is often given at the same time as a "Novis Mental Ability Test," a short 30 minute test which is claimed to measure IQ. After the two tests have been completed, a computer program is used to plot the results on a personality profile graph. This gives the testee's IQ rating and score in personality characteristics such as "Stable," "Happy," "Composed," "Certainty," "Active," "Aggressive," "Responsible (Causative)," "Correct Estimation" (meaning the testee's ability to look at a situation and determine what is needed to deal with it), "Appreciative," and "Comm[unication] Level" (meaning the testee's ability to communicate with others).
The scale on the graph of each trait ranges from +100 to -100, with three main bands marked "Desirable State" (+100 to +30), "Normal" (+30 to 0) and "Unacceptable State" (0 to -100). In the middle are two shaded bands, "Acceptable under perfect conditions" (about +32 to about +6) and "Attention Desirable" (about +6 to about -18). A legend at the foot of the graph sheet warns that a point below the latter band indicates "Attention Urgent.
After the graph has been plotted, a Scientology staff member reviews the results with the testee.
In the mid-1950s he commissioned a long-time Scientologist, Julia Salman Lewis, to produce a new test for use in Scientology. She developed the American Personality Analysis (APA), based on the existing Johnson Temperament Analysis. Hubbard was still not fully satisfied with the results and in 1959 he asked his friend and fellow Scientologist Ray Kemp to develop the APA into a more general test. According to Kemp:
Ron brought up the matter of the APA, stating that the test results did not seem to fit the observed results on students and pcs [preclears] in London. I pointed out that a personality test is only as valid as the testee's personality meets the original stand entered into the test set up. Put very simply, an American personality is not the same as a British, German, French, or any other cultural group's personality. Ron asked me whether it would be possible to write a test that was more general in nature, and would enable him to see in the test what he was looking for. He also wanted it to be in the same general format as the APA and if possible to have both tests interchangeable in the matter of what he wanted to see as information. Quite a task. As a result of quite a few months works, I eventually devised the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA). Note that it did not test personality, but rather the capacity of any person with respect to various traits and syndromes.
The OCA was first publicized in an article by Kemp in the pages of Certainty, the magazine of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists in London. At this point, its authorship was attributed to him; later it was attributed to unnamed Hubbard Communications Office staff and it is now attributed to L. Ron Hubbard himself. Both the terms "Oxford Capacity Analysis" and "OCA" are registered trademarks belonging to the Church of Scientology's Religious Technology Center. The copyright is attributed to "L. Ron Hubbard Library," a business alias of the Church of Spiritual Technology.
The test was first used as an internal assessment tool, but its systematic use as a recruiting tool appears have begun around 1961 following a highly successful pilot conducted in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1960. On Hubbard's instructions, the following advertisement (not dissimilar to the billboards seen outside many Scientology organizations today) had been placed in local newspapers:
THE JOHANNESBURG TEST CENTRE
offers for a limited time, free
intelligence and personality
tests. Your IQ, personality
and aptitude determine your
Know them. No obligations.
23, Hancock Street,
Joubert Park, Johannesburg.
Respondents were tested in the Johannesburg Scientology office, having been told:
These are old tests reworked and modernized and coordinated with an electro-psycho-galvanometer [an e-meter]. The results are more accurate than psychological tests. This is Scientometry. This is not psychology. These tests are more modern, being electronically coordinated. Psychology considers a person to be a materialistic biological brain. Scientology considers a person to be an electronic spiritual phenomena [sic].
The results were spectacular, with Hubbard proclaiming it "the hottest, fastest procurement service set up we have ever had." He announced that the new "Personal Efficiency Test Program," utilising the OCA, would be rolled out across Scientology in the next few months. Since then, OCA tests have been one of the most visible means by which the Church of Scientology attracts new members.
The OCA is today used for two principal purposes. Within the Church of Scientology, it is used to monitor changes in the personality of a "preclear" (novice Scientologist) effected by Scientology "processing." OCA evaluations are conducted regularly and recorded, following Hubbard's instructions:
The American Personality Analysis or the Oxford Capacity Analysis should always be given before processing or training has begun and after that processing or training has been completed. In the case of preclears, they should, if taking several weeks of processing, be tested at the end of every twenty-five hours.
The more visible use to non-Scientologists is that of external recruitment, using the OCA as a tool to attract new members. In a 1960 policy letter, Hubbard wrote:
For some time Orgs have used testing as a promotional means. It has been found that this is a good, reliable method of getting people to come in.
The essence of testing procedure is (a) to get the person to do a test and (b) get him or her to come in to have it evaluated. From this follows his or her buying processing and training as sold to the person by PrR [Promotion & Registration] at the same time as the evaluation is done.
The results of the test are invariably negative, as numerous reviewers and reporters have found over the years:
Then, after your answers are put through a computer for analysis, a counselor takes you aside and rips your entire personality to shreds. A Daily Express journalist who took the test stated that after an hour's assessment, she felt like "curling up in a ball and never going out again".
With a serious expression, another woman called Emily — a long haired, pretty 20-something — took me into a booth and with a deadpan voice told me it was 'well, not very good.'
Apparently, I was depressed, unstable, overly-critical, argumentative and withdrawn.
The computer print-out said I needed 'urgent attention.'
A university student who visited the HASI [Hubbard Association of Scientologists International] ... was told that, though he had a high IQ and was a genius and could do anything he wanted to, his character, as the graph showed, was defective, that he was mentally unstable and that he was going to have a mental breakdown in eighteen months' time unless he had scientology help, and it was also suggested to him that he had homosexual tendencies.
Hubbard advised that the hopelessness of the testee's predicament (or "ruin," as he put it) should be emphasized by the tester, who should continually state that Scientology was the only way in which the situation could be salvaged:
Remarks that "Scientology can improve this or that characteristic" or "auditing can remedy that" or "Processing can change this" or "Training can stabilize that" should be used repeatedly during the evaluation for the sake of impingement.
A clever evaluator can surmise such things as domestic grief, trouble with possessions, etc much more easily than a fortune teller.
Test evaluation is modern, scientific fortune telling. It deals with past, present and future. A low profile, low IQ future is of course a dreary one, profitless, unless changed. We can erase the fate of the past and alter utterly anyone's future. So it does not matter how hard one leans on the person.
The evaluator follows a script originally devised by South African Scientologist Peter Greene around 1960/61, which Hubbard instructs "must be studied and learned by heart" by evaluators. Although the analysis is represented as being "not our opinion of you, but ... a factual scientific analysis taken from your answers," it relies heavily on pre-scripted responses set out in detail in the "OCA Automatic Evaluation Script". For instance, if a low score is recorded on "syndrome" G (Responsible / Irresponsible), the suggested response is:
You are completely irresponsible. You accuse others of having ruled your life and made it what it is but this is actually your own fault as you at no time have really accepted your share of responsibility. You frequently feel sorry for yourself and feel that life has victimized you. Scientology would help you with that.
Similarly, if H (Correct Estimation / Critical) is "failed," the line to be deployed is:
You are an extremely critical person. You lash out verbally or mentally at those about you and the environment, making you a person almost impossible to be around. You may consider that you are being constructively critical or realistic. However, you are being basically malicious and mean. Because you see little good in people or life your opinions are of little value. Scientology can improve this.
Former Scientologists have spoken of how "everything that's wrong with [people]" is purposefully emphasized in OCA test results. Individuals who have undertaken the OCA have described how they were given just such negative evaluations; as a young Sydney woman put it in an interview in 1980,
After they had graphed the results of my test, this lady came up to me and said: "Well, I don't want to ... it's not a personal comment on you, you understand, we are not personally trying to put you down, but this is your graph,' and it was just scraping along the bottom, way below normal.
Then another lady came and talked to me about doing a course with them, because though I had an abysmal personality, they could fix it, they could scrape me up from the bottom.
She hit on a few nerves that were really sensitive at the time — I'd split with my boyfriend, I'd only just moved into a place of my own, I didn't have a job, I didn't have any money and I was feeling really lonely and insecure.
The evaluator is instructed to recommend Scientology as the only viable remedy for such problems. Alternatives are to be mentioned — "psychology, psychoanalysis, Dale Carnegie, Confidence Courses, Mental Exercises" — but only for the purpose of dismissing them: "these things had a very limited application and you could get yourself terribly involved in mysteries, expenses and wasted time, before you found any solutions to your difficulties. All across the world today, people are coming to us, to find simpler, more straight forward answers."
The testee is not permitted to dissent, with the evaluator forcefully insisting on the benefits of Scientology:
The idea is to impinge on the person. The more resistive or argumentative he is, the more the points should be slammed home. Look him straight in the eye and let him know, 'That is the way it is.'
Proceed with evaluation on the low points, column by column. Make a decisive statement about each. If the subject agrees — says, 'That's right', or 'That describes me all right', or similar — leave it immediately. You have impinged. If he argues or protests, don't insist. You simply are not talking on his reality level. Re-phrase your statement until it is real to him. Stop as soon as you get through. As soon as you get an impingement, look subject in the face and say, with intention, 'Scientology can help you with that' or 'That can be changed with Scientology', or some similar positive statement."
The vehemence with which OCA test evaluators attempt to "impinge" has attracted comment from non-Scientologists who have undergone the test. Writing in 1970, a British psychologist who underwent the test noted that
The staff member who had scored the inventory expounded the extreme scores with some urgency. He avoided questions on the meaning of the scales, dismissing as irrelevant the trait words at top and bottom; yet he invested the points on the scale with immense importance, almost of a charismatic nature.
If an IQ test is added to the regular OCA examination, Scientology is likewise promoted as being essential no matter what the results — for everything from raising a low IQ to managing a high IQ. Hubbard provides four levels of grading for this test, for each of which there is a scripted response:
Now, Mr, (Mrs, Miss,) let us have a look at your tests.' Open folder. 'Your I.Q. Score was ----'
a) less than 100
'This is very low. Less than average and you obviously have great difficulty solving problems. Scientology training would raise that considerably.'
'A very ordinary score and you have more difficulty than you need in handling problems. Scientology training would raise that considerably.'
'An above average score. You can take advantage of opportunity and when you apply yourself, you progress fast. However, a high intelligence is only useful so long as you have data to apply the intelligence to. Scientology will not only give you useful data, but can raise your I.Q. even higher.'
d) Above 120
The OCA is licensed to Scientologist-owned companies through the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises. It has been used for a variety of purposes, most commonly employee screening. It has often been used without alteration, but has also been issued in modified versions; for instance, MasterTech markets the OCA with minor changes and calls it the Personnel Potential Analysis Test.
The OCA has repeatedly been the subject of controversy. The manipulative aspects of the way that the test is administered have been criticized many times since the OCA was introduced, and professional psychologists have strongly criticized the test's lack of scientific basis.
Testifying before a public inquiry into Scientology in Victoria, Australia, around 1964, an expert psychologist gave evidence that "the overall impression one gets from reading this manual is that it has been prepared by somebody with a smattering of psychometrics rather than by someone who is really competent in the field." A more detailed investigation was undertaken in 1970 by a working party from the British Psychological Society (BPS). The BPS conducted a systematic evaluation of the OCA at the request of Sir John Foster, who was conducting a public inquiry into the practice and effects of Scientology. The working party concluded that
Taking the procedure as a whole, one is forced to the conclusion that the Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a genuine personality test; certainly the results as presented bear no relation to any known methods of assessing personality or of scaling test scores.
Another detailed evaluation was carried out in 1981 by Gudmund Smith, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Lund, Sweden. The evaluation was performed at the request of a local prosecutor who was investigating a local branch of Narconon, an offshoot of the Church of Scientology. Smith cited numerous methodological and empirical flaws in the OCA, describing it as a "terrible mess," and concluded (in translation from the original Swedish):
The Oxford Capacity Analysis consists to a high degree of unclearly formulated, ambiguous or misleading questions. It is used as a foundation, in a non-specific way, for an individual evaluation in 11 dimensions, partly incoherent or openly judgmental, as a whole diffuse. In view of the weaknesses also characterizing serious instruments of this type, this instrument must be regarded as completely unreliable.
The OCA also came under scrutiny in Queensland, Australia in 1990, when it emerged that scores of people had lost their jobs after a Brisbane-based personnel management company had given them poor OCA evaluations, "us[ing] such brutal terms they can read like character assassinations, leaving employers with little choice but to fire staff." The Australian Psychological Society denounced the OCA as "downright dangerous," commenting that
We've had a look at their tests and if you didn't know better, they look credible ... These tests are saying people are acceptable or unacceptable, but really there's nothing in them to allow you to draw that kind of conclusion. It's the interpretations that are bogus — they are drawing arbitrary conclusions that simply aren't warranted.
On Friday the 28th of March 2008, Kaja Bordevich Ballo, daughter of Olav Gunnar Ballo, Norwegian parliament member and vice president of the Norwegian Odelsting, took a Church of Scientology Oxford Capacity Analysis test while studying in Nice. Her friends and co-inhabitants claim she was in good spirits and showed no signs of a mental break down, the report from the Church of Scientology said she was "depressed, irresponsible, hyper-critical and lacking in harmony". A few hours later she committed suicide by jumping from her balcony at her dorm room leaving a note telling her family she was sorry for not "being good for anything." The incident has brought forward heavy criticism against the Church of Scientology from friends, family and prominent Norwegian politicians. Inga Marte Thorkildsen, parliament member, went as far as to say "Everything points to the scientology cult having played a direct role in making Kaja choose to take her own life."
The Church of Scientology has reportedly been unable to produce information to substantiate the validity of the Oxford Capacity Analysis. This has attracted criticism from the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements in Lincoln, Nebraska, which produces the Mental Measurements Yearbook — the industry "bible" for psychological tests. According to the institute, "Any group should include information that substantiates the use of its test. If they can't, then it doesn't meet the standards for educational and psychological tests."
The OCA evaluators' criticism of their test subjects' personalities has also drawn sharp criticism. A London Evening Standard reporter described the unease she felt after she had taken the OCA test:
Later, as I sat on the Tube thinking about this small taste of Scientology, I was able to brush it off. Maybe Nicole Kidman has done, or is doing, something vaguely similar. In truth, though, while I sat in that office and listened to a total stranger utterly trash my personality and character — on the basis of no evidence at all — I began to feel vaguely insecure. Paranoid even.
The Church of Scientology claims to help people attain a deeper, richer existence — but it clearly does so by erasing all sense of self-respect first.
Psychologists have echoed this critique. The methodological flaws of the OCA were such that, in the view of Professor Gudmund Smith, "Analysis for evaluation of an individual is, in my opinion, manifestly unethical." Testifying in a court case in Ireland in 2003, Dr Declan Fitzgerald of University College Dublin said he believed that the OCA "impinged on people's self-esteem and was highly manipulative." In its 1970 report, the British Psychological Society's working party was even harsher with its criticism, declaring that
No reputable psychologist would accept the procedure of pulling people off the street with a leaflet, giving them a 'personality test' and reporting back in terms that show the people to be 'inadequate,' 'unacceptable' or in need of 'urgent' attention. In a clinical setting a therapist would only discuss a patient's inadequacies with him with the greatest of circumspection and support, and even then only after sufficient contact for the therapist-patient relationship to have been built up. To report back a man's inadequacies to him in an automatic, impersonal fashion is unthinkable in responsible professional practice. To do so is potentially harmful. It is especially likely to be harmful to the nervous introspective people who would be attracted by the leaflet in the first place. The prime aim of the procedure seems to be to convince these people of their need for the corrective courses run by the Scientology organisations.
Even the name of the Oxford Capacity Analysis has been criticized as misleading. The Times comments that the test "has nothing to do with Oxford University" and says that "Scientologists use the word "Oxford" to give it credence.