The Fallacy of the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA)
Chris Owen

The staple of Scientology recruitment now is the Personality Test, or to give it its more formal name, the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA). This has been used by Scientology since the 1950s. 'What Is Scientology?' (1992 edition) says of the OCA:
"This test accurately measures the preclear's estimation of ten different personality traits. These rise markedly in auditing, reflecting the preclear's gains. Preclears report being calmer, more stable, more energetic and more outgoing as a direct result of auditing and scores on the OCA furnish corroborative data [...]

A vital tool in Expanded Dianetics is the Oxford Capacity Analysis. An important use of this profile is to inprove specific personality traits with Expanded Dianetics procedures. The OCA helps locate deep-seated pockets of aberration which can then be addressed and erased with these precise auditing techniques."
['What Is Scientology?' (1992), pp. 163, 220]

Last year I decided to try the OCA for myself and see what happened. I was given a sheet on which were some 200 questions - at least some of them were plainly influenced by Hubbard, though he is not credited - and told to answer "Yes", "No" or "Maybe" to each. The questions were strangely reminiscent of the "Sec. Checks" which Scientologists have to do and, in several instances, share the oddity and leading nature of Sec. Check questions:
"3. Do you browse through railway timetables, directories or dictonaries just for pleasure?
6. Do you get occasional twitches of your muscles, when there is no logical reason for it?
30. Do you enjoy telling people latest scandal [sic] about your associates?
59. Do you consider the modern prisons without bars system 'doomed to failure'?
105. Do you rarely suspect the actions of others?
124. Do you often make tactless blunders?"
I was told that the OCA was produced by Oxford University, which is untrue (but as we shall see, this line has been used for at least the last 25 years). Having filled in the boxes, I gave it to a Scientologist who took it away to enter the data into a computer. I noticed while I was waiting that the OCA form was ascribed to the "Dianetics Centre, 68 Tottenham Court Road" (this building is actually the London org of the CoS and is marked as such). It made no mention of Scientology.

I waited for about five minutes, watching a stunning blonde in a Sea Org uniform ordering the orglings to arrange chairs for a later presentation. When the tester returned, she took me through to a small booth to discuss my results. I was shown a graph which purported to represent my I.Q. and ten personality characteristics. These were:

  1. Stable
  2. Happy
  3. Composed
  4. Certainty
  5. Active
  6. Aggressive
  7. Responsible (Causative)
  8. Correct Estimation
  9. Appreciative
  10. Comm Level
The scale ranged from +100 to -100, with bands marked "Adequate", "Normal" and "Unacceptable". All but three of my characteristics were shown as being between 40 and 80, which I was told was exceptionally good, but the aforementioned three were hovering down near the bottom of the scale. I was told that I was badly depressed and that my low scores were "dragging the rest down". There was obviously someone or something "suppressing" me and I needed to "handle" or "disconnect" from them or it. The solution, I was informed, was to take two Scientology courses costing GBP 48.50 each. Despite the fact that the test was conducted under the aegis of the Dianetics Centre, there was no mention of Dianetics, no explanation (or even mention) of the difference between Dianetics and Scientology, and no mention of the religious nature of Scientology. It was promoted purely as a psychotherapy.

I was being hit for GBP 97 ($147). I definitely did not want to take the courses - after all, I know Scientology for what it is, and my sole purpose was to see what the OCA was like - so I refused politely. Then the hard sell began, and I have to say, it was intense. But I stuck to my guns, and eventually the evaluator gave up. I got the impression that she was distinctly disappointed. (She probably was: they are paid a 10-15% commission for every person to whom they succeed in selling a course, and they have to pull in a certain number to keep their stats up).

I knew beforehand what the OCA would probably be like. To aid his official Enquiry into Scientology in 1971, Sir John Foster asked a group of eminent psychologists to visit British Scientology orgs to take the OCA. The Working Party was composed of a clinical psychologist, a consultant in psychological selection, and a university lecturer in psychology, all members of the governing Council of the British Psychological Society (incorporated under Royal Charter in 1965) and distinguished experts in their field. This is what they reported:

130. The test consists of 200 written questions, to be answered "yes", "no" or "uncertain" (this may not be easy to do when the question, like question 150, is in the form "Do you rarely express your grievances?"). The members of the Working Party answered the questions in different, but pre-determined, random fashion (see below) which could not produce results of any significance: in fact, they should all have come out pretty average in all personality traits. The subsequent experience of one member of the Working Party follows in his own words: -
"In this particular case the inventory was deliberately responded to in a fashion designed to produce an unpredictable result. As each question was read the answer space was completed for the following question without reference to the content of either question. On any known inventory this procedure should produce a 'flat' profile, with few scores departing significantly from the mean. When the profile chart was presented on the second visit it showed extremely low scores on three traits; all save one or two were below the 'desirability' band. (The imprecision is due to the fact that, try as he might, the 'client' was not permitted to bring away the profile sheet). 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. His patter continually referred to the inadequacies which the graph revealed - one point became 'failed purpose' and another 'loss', although these terms were never explained. He attempted to confirm his diagnosis of these points on the graph by such leading questions as "Do you often fail to achieve what you set out to do?" and "Do you have difficulty making friends?" Affirmative answers to these questions (which were given readily) were, somehow, to be explained by the low scores and the interpretation put on them.

In the course of the session the following information was elicited from the Scientology staff member:

(i) The test was devised by "Oxford students, or the Oxford Dictionary people", he did not know which;

(ii) He did not understand the word 'percentile' - although it was he who brought the word into the discussion. He looked it up in the Concise Oxford Dictionary without success and decided it meant 'percentage'. He thereafter interpreted '90th percentile' as 90 per cent.

(iii) 'Most people' scored beyond the 'minus 90' point on the three traits being discussed.

In general it was patent that this person had no notion what the test was, how it was designed, what it measured or what the scores meant. He had been trained to produce this ill-informed commentary which, to a gullible anxious person, might sound genuinely insightful. In fact he was pointing out to an unknown member of the public 'inadequate' facets of his personality shown up by an instrument which he did not understand.

In a second interview, immediately following on, the 'Registrar' explained the hierarchy of levels which could be attained by Scientology processing. He described the courses offered by the organisation to remedy the inadequacies shown up by the profile. All these courses would cost money and a probable minimum total of one hundred guineas [L108 - probably about L500 now] was quoted to deal with the particular personality deficiencies shown up by the OCA."

131. The conclusions of the Working Party are summarised as follows: -
"The systematic quantification of personality variables is one aspect of psychometric testing .... All psychometric tests can be assessed in terms of their reliability and validity. "Reliability" implies a test yields similar results under similar testing conditions. Various degrees of reliability can be attributed to a number of sources of error. In a properly constructed personality test the various effects of these sources of error are systematically assessed. "Validity" implies that a test measures what it claims to measure - i.e., that it is a valid measure of the characteristic it claims to quantify. A test may be reliable without being valid, but not vice versa. A known degree of reliability is crucial to the use of any psychometric test in a setting where its results are used with an individual case.

If a personality test is a reliable device, then a systematic approach to answering the questions should yield systematic variations in the conclusions derived from an analysis of the test scores. That this is a property of reliable tests may be assumed from a knowledge of formal test theory such as any person competent to assess the results of a psychometric test should possess. The members of the Working Party used this property of reliability of psychometric tests to assess the adequacy of the personality testing offered by the Scientologists, by submitting themselves to testing as 'clients' responding to the advertisements for free personality testing.

For the purpose of making their assessment of the status of the test, the members of the Working Party employed three different methods of responding to the test items when they themselves completed it: -

(a) one member answered the questions at random, selecting the answer to be given before reading the question;

(b) a second member employed a method in which the response was pre-determined regardless of the content of the question: if the final letter of the question was a consonant in the range "a" to "m", he answered "no"; if it was a consonant in the range "n" to "z" he answered "yes"; if it was a vowel, he answered "uncertain";

(c) the third member used the reverse of this procedure, so that he answered "yes" where the second method produced the answer "no", and "no" where the second method produced the "yes" response. The "uncertain" response was given to the same questions as before.

This systematic variation in response styles would be expected to affect the resultant profiles. ("Profiles" are an accepted manner of presenting the information derived from some types of personality test. A random method of response ((a) above) would be expected to produce scores close to the mean of scores obtained during the standardising of the test. Methods (b) and (c) should also result in profiles with low deviations from the mean scores; if such deviations occurred these two methods would be expected to produce different, if not complementary, profiles. The Working Party verified that on two accepted personality tests such systematic variations in answering did produce variations in profile pattern.

These variations in answering the questions did not seem to affect the Oxford Capacity Analysis as the three methods produced remarkably similar profiles, in which the scores on the first three scales were in an extreme position in the range marked "unacceptable" ... All profile results then rose into the "normal" or "desirable" range over the next 2-4 scales and showed a return to "unacceptable" over the remaining scales.

If these three systematically varied response styles had all produced "flat" profiles, with few scores departing greatly from the mean, then we would have considered that the Oxford Capacity Analysis could not be criticised on these grounds. But when each of two diametrically opposed methods of response produces the same extreme deviant scores as the other and as a third "random" response style, we are forced to a position of scepticism about the test's status as a reliable psychometric device.

It should be noted that the Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a personality test known in psychological circles; it is not distributed by reputable test agencies in this country; there is no research literature available about it, nor is it listed in the Mental Measurements Year Book which is internationally accepted as the authoritative source on psychometric devices. While any one of these points does not in itself indict a psychometric instrument, the failure of the Oxford Capacity Analysis to meet all of them does, in our opinion, constitute an extremely strong case for assuming it to be a device of no worth. The scientific value and useful nature of the profile apparently derived from completion of the Oxford Capacity Analysis must consequently be negligible. We are of the opinion that the Oxford Capacity Analysis and the profiles derived from its completion are constructed in such a manner as to give the appearance of being adequate psychometric devices, whereas, in fact, they totally fail to meet the normally accepted criteria.

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. The booklet itself might produce genuine scores but these are not the scores presented on the profile. The legend 'produced and edited by the Staff of the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International' which appears on the cover is totally inappropriate to a personality measure - such an instrument is not 'edited', it is developed through painstaking research. The validity of the OCA booklet itself is therefore in doubt.

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."

132. A similar exercise was carried out independently by Dr. David Delvin, who reported the outcome in World Medicine (17). Again, I quote: -
"I settled down to the 'personality test'. This consisted of 200 questions of the type much favoured by women's magazines (Are you considered warm-hearted by your friends? Do you enjoy activities of your own choosing? Are you likely to be jealous? Do you bite your fingernails?).

Eventually, a young man took my answers away for "processing". When he returned, he was waving an impressive-looking piece of graph paper, around which were printed figures, symbols, and various bits of McLuhanistic jargon. Across the paper was drawn a line that looked something like the Boat Race course. This, the young man told me, was my personality curve.

The young man airily drew a ring round the area of Putney, and said that this represented "other people". A similar ring in the region of Barnes Bridge indicated "myself", while another drawn round Mortlake Brewery apparently represented "life". On the basis of all this, the young man gave me a 20-minute personality analysis, which mainly consisted of portentous-sounding pseudo-scientific neologisms ("You've got quite a bit of agity and you are moderately dispersed, but we can help you to standard tech.") He seemed a bit vague about what these words actually meant.

At the end, he said to me impressively, "So you see, it's all very scientific - thanks to the fact that our founder is a man of science himself".

"Oh yes, very scientific indeed," I said.

I hadn't the heart to tell him that his super-scientific system had failed to detect the fact that I had marked the "don't know" column against all 200 questions in the test."

133. It may be relevant to note that none of these observers at any stage had it suggested to him that Scientology was a religion.

134. I asked the Scientologists what claims they made for the Oxford Capacity Analysis, on what published evidence they were founded and what written instructions were given to persons who interpreted the tests. Mr. [David] Gaiman answered: -

"As far as I have been able to discover, we don't make any particular claims about the Oxford Capacity Analysis.

All I say about the test is that it is a reasonably reliable test for measuring individual personality.

I don't know if you have received a paper from the British Psychological Society by three of its members who went to our premises in London deliberately to make a mockery of the tests by giving random answers. I would certainty concede that it is possible to make a mockery of them. Newspaper plants have also proved that it is possible to make a mockery out of auditing. It does not discredit the tests, or auditing, for honest men who are genuinely seeking a result."

He did not mention any published evidence, or the existence of any instructions.

A quarter of a century on, nothing has changed. But the instructions have now come to light, and I can see why Gaiman did not give them to Sir John Foster.

I came across some documents which give very detailed instructions on the selling techniques to be adopted in the OCA. In HCO Policy Letter of Feb 15, 1961, L. Ron Hubbard laid out the tactics which should be used to conduct personality tests and sell Scientology. It makes very interesting reading, and explains why - no matter who the person is or what their circumstances are - they are always told that there is something wrong with them which only Scientology can put right. Hubbard tells the evaluator how to begin:

"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."

b) 100-110
"A very ordinary score and you have more difficulty than you need in handling problems. Scientology training would raise that considerably."

c) 110-120
"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

Note how, regardless of the intelligence of the person, they are told that they still need Scientology. The person is also told that Scientology can raise I.Q., but this is completely scientifically unproven and the raising of adult I.Q. is, in any case, generally regarded as impossible. Note also how the evaluator concentrates on the negatives, purposefully aiming to make the person feel bad about himself. How could the evaluator know that a person of low I.Q. "obviously has great difficulty solving problems"? And this is the same L. Ron Hubbard who complained in an HCO Bulletin of 18 July 1959 that
The whole Christian movement is based on the victim. Compulsion of the overt-motivator sequence. They won by appealing to victims [...] Christianity succeeded by making people into victims.
Hubbard continues, instructing the evaluator to say something like the following:
"Now let's look at your personality. This is what you've told us about yourself. Understand that this is not our opinion of you, but is a factual scientific analysis taken from your answers. It is your opinion of you."
As the Foster Report indicated, the OCA is not a recognised scientific analysis and is not regarded as being of the slightest scientific value. And, as the following clearly states, the person doing the test is to be given a forcefully Scientological opinion of themselves:
The Evaluation is given with excellent TR I. Almost Tone 40. 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".
Even though this is partly in Scientologese, it is clearly an instruction to browbeat the "rawmeat" (as the public are charmingly labelled). A "Tone 40" statement means one that is given with such force that it is irresistable and must be acted upon. I can certainly testify to having received the full Tone 40 treatment following my OCA, but I was obviously too degraded to succumb...

In point of fact, Scientology evaluators and registrars are given courses which explicitly teach them the techniques of "hard sell" (and yes, it is labelled as such).

"Above this line is satisfactory but even these points can be raised higher. Also knowledge is necessary to make full use of the best points of one's personality. That can be gained through Scientology.

These middle points will get you by, so long as there is no crisis or difficulty in your life.

Now, this section shows that you are very much in need of help."

This is represented as being the result of a "factual scientific analysis", and "your opinion of you" but is, of course, very much the personal opinion of the evaluator - or rather, something that the evaluator has been ordered to say regardless of the actual circumstances. Hubbard has even gone to the lengths of writing the script, as the above shows.

In a previous age, a dishonest doctor would diagnose a patient as having galloping lurgie, or some other fictitious condition, and prescribe a costly patent treatment. Scientologists appear to do exactly the same for mental conditions. I was diagnosed as being "suppressed"; that is not a complaint recognised outside of Scientology.

The next few paragraphs are almost breathtaking in their cynicism:

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.

NEVER say it half heartedly, or apologetically!

Don't bother much with the high points. If he queries them tell him it is the low ones that are the cause of his troubles - and that these can be changed. If several are high you can add that because of these it will be easier for him than for most people, to use Scientology to improve with.

In other words, it doesn't matter what is right about you; the only important thing is what the OCA, a test with no scientific validity, says is wrong with you. Of course, the latter is what provides the snare with which to bring a person into Scientology.
"With these low points on your personality graph, you are going to ------"
(Here, you use what you know of Scientology and assess this)

"Not a very bright prospect is it? Unless you care to change it."

At this point the evaluator leans back in his chair, puts down his pencil on the chart, smiles and says:

"Well, Mr, (Mrs, Miss) - That's what your tests show!

"Thank you very much."

The Evaluator does not reach or try to sell any more than this. If the job has been done well, the person should be worried and will probably ask a question as to what he can do about it all.

This makes explicitly clear - though it probably was that already - that the whole aim of the Personality Test is to so unsettle the person on the receiving end that they feel compelled to buy a Scientology course. "The person should be worried ..."
If so, the evaluator says:
"That is very commendable, wanting to do something about it. A point in your favour".

"There are many things you can do. There are all sorts of things that people go in for. In the past they tried psychology, psycho- analysis, Dale Carnegie, Confidence Courses, Mental Exercises, read books, but 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 [sic] answers."

(Here the evaluator grows confidential) ......

"Look, I'm technical staff here. I don't have anything to do with sales or courses, but if you'd like a confidential tip, there are all sorts of courses and services going on here all the time, but your best bet is to spend L1 (or cost of PE) on a Personal Efficiency Course and discover what Scientology can offer you. That will save you from getting involved. Go and see that lady over there and tell her you only want the Personal Efficiency Course, so that you can find out what Scientology is about."

Then route the person to P.E. Registrar. [...]

The P.E. Registrar should realise that if the person walks over from the evaluator's table to Reg., he, or she, is SOLD already.

Note how Hubbard tells the evaluator to lie - "I don't have anything to do with sales or courses" - when, as he makes clear, the whole purpose of the evaluator is to sell to the person the need for courses!

I can confirm the above as still being in use; it is precisely the approach that was used on me. The only differences were that the courses offered cost 50 times more than in 1961 (inflation, y'know) and that the evaluator herself tried to sell the courses to me, rather than send me to the registrar. I don't know whether this is standard practice or just a local peculiarity.

This HCO Policy Letter is not an isolated example, but develops a theme set out in earlier Policy Letters. HCO PLs of Oct 28, 1960 and Nov 24, 1960 both deal with similar matters, though perhaps not in quite such detail as the one of Feb 15, 1961 quoted above. In dealing with the use of Personality Tests, Hubbard writes in HCO PL of Oct 28, 1960:

Remarks that 'Scientology can influence this or that characteristic' or 'auditing can remedy that' or 'Processing can change this' or 'Training can stabilise that' should be repeatedly used during the evaluation for the sake of impingement [...] Remember low cases want only to escape the consequences of life [...] Certain traits showing difficulty in handling people should be stressed as most easily remedied and kept remedied by academy training. Graphs showing the 'therapeutic' value of training should be in the display book and on walls [...] We will take full advantage of the superstitions of people at the level of prediction.
This can be seen in a number of Scientology publications; on page 220 of 'What Is Scientology' (1992 edition) can be seen a number of graphs said to have been produced using the OCA. Presumably the CoS expects people to look at the graphs, not at what the graphs actually say, as it is curious that several of the graphs show characteristics declining after auditing. Case A has apparently become less active, Case B less happy and less communicative, and Case C considerably less certain. Only one out of the four shows an across-the-board improvement. Validation by Ron? Hubbard developed the theme some more in HCO Policy Letter of Nov 24, 1960. This was evidently rewritten and expanded into the HCO PL of Feb 15, 1961 on which I have already commented. Referring to the "rawmeat" as an "Incomer" (because he brings Income, no doubt), Hubbard writes:
Evaluator takes Incomer off meter without explanation and turns to graph. Evaluator now explains each point of graph. But it is vital that at each low point, where explained he adds, 'Scientology can help that.' This is said directly to make an impingement. The wording can be varied but the sense must be the same. Do not precede this statement with 'Dont' worry' [sic] or the like as this cancels inpingement. Graph done, Evaluator explains IQ. If low he says 'Scientology training can raise that.' He explains levels of IQ; tells person even if it's high that IQ means little unless person knows something with it. Evaluator now takes up the Meter Case Assessment sheet. Here he tells of pc's future. It is done by looking at pc's statement of his past and by rephrasing saying it is going to happen, (without Scientology fates don't change much. Accidents, divorces, &c., happen again). This is all rapidly done. Factually, expertly [...] The Evaluator now leans back and says 'That's it.' Incomer is hanging on ropes. If Incomer says anything like 'What can I do about it?' Evaluator says, 'That is very commendable, wanting to do something about it. A good point in your favour. I'm a technical person, not a sales personnel [sic]. Confidentially, though, I'll give you a tip. Don't spend money foolishly until you know what you're spending it for. Psychiatrists and so on could cost you thousands. You'd buy anything they said because you know little about the mind. So why don't you take an Anatomy Course and learn something about the mind. That's just a tip. It's cheap and you'll be wiser about what to do about yourself. The person over there is in the Service Department. Ask him.' [...] If the Incomer walks out without buying, the PrR man (even if he is interviewing someone else and even if Incomer has not approached him) rushes over and gives Incomer a copy of Problems of Work and Dianetics, Evolution of a Science, and says 'Here are two books that might help you,' and without waiting for an answer goes back to his desk. The above routine is at this time a set, fixed activity. As it works further it may be improved.
It evidently did work, as it was reformulated in even greater detail only ten weeks later.

Judging from the documents I have cited and from my own experience, it seems evident that the Personality Test is, to put it bluntly, a rather nasty con trick. However, it plainly does work. 'What Is Scientology?' (1992 edition) states that 18 percent of current Scientologists joined as a result of taking the OCA. Even if one uses the much lower figures for Scientology membership cited by critics, that still means that since the introduction of the OCA, several hundred thousand people have been recruited by that means. It is virtually certain that few, if any, knew at the time what lies behind the image of the smiling recruiter handing out leaflets inviting you to "Find out about yourself".