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NFL prospects such as former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert will be asked to take a new psychological exam this weekend.

NFL introduces new psychometric exam

by Paul Glavic
Feb 21, 2013

Sample Wonderlic questions

Paper sells for 21 cents per pad. What will 4 pads cost?

A train travels 20 feet in 1/5 second. At this same speed, how many feet will it travel in three seconds?

Which number in the following group of numbers represents the smallest amount? 7, .8, 31, .33, 2

A boy is 17 years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23 years old, what will be the age of his sister?
Prospective professional football players who flock to Indianapolis for this weekend’s NFL Combine will be asked to not only complete 40-yard dashes and vertical leaps but also a new hour-long psychological exam that reveals their “learning type.”

The NFL Player Assessment Tool is a 60-minute test developed by Harold Goldstein, a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at Baruch College in New York, and Cyrus Mehri , an attorney with the racial equality advocacy organization Fritz Pollard Alliance. It will supplement the 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic Personnel Test, which the NFL has used since the 1970s to evaluate the intelligence of prospects.

While the NFL has not revealed plans to remove the Wonderlic, the sudden inclusion of an additional test reflects some level of discontent with the league’s long-time metric. Some psychologists have accused intelligence assessments of containing bias against minorities, and Mehri’s role in the construction of the Player Assessment Tool raises the question of whether there is race-related discontent with the Wonderlic. Mehri did not respond to requests for comment.

The Wonderlic’s shortcomings are no surprise to Brian Lyons, a professor of management at Wright State University in Ohio. Lyons belongs to a team of industrial psychology researchers that published a series of papers demonstrating that Wonderlic results do not accurately forecast the success of NFL players.

“Here’s the huge factor: You’ve got to show that it matters,” Lyons said. “If you can’t demonstrate that it matters — well, that’s the core issue.”

The NFL framed the Player Assessment Tool as both an intelligence exam and a personality test in a press release earlier this week.

“This new test measures a wide range of competencies, including learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, responding to pressure or unexpected stimuli, and core intellect,” the release said.

Every NFL team will receive a one-page profile for each player who completes the new exam. The profile will assess a player’s learning type and personality and suggest ideal coaching styles to instruct the athlete. Goldstein and Mehri declined to provide examples of learning and personality “types” indicated by their test.

“By giving clubs new and more relevant information, it offers additional information to supplement your decision-making in the draft,” the NFL said in its release. “One of the most interesting aspects is that new information on player learning styles can potentially help our coaches work more effectively with young players.”

Lyons believes NFL teams should put more stock in a player’s ability to retain football-specific information in career-simulating situations — for instance, their performance at all-star games such as the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl — but not their ability to complete a general education exam.

“It shouldn’t matter. It should matter in corporate America, but it shouldn’t matter in the NFL,” Lyons said. “If you’re performing well in college, you can probably learn a playbook.”

But can the NFL Player Assessment Tool do what the Wonderlic has not — demonstrate a measurable impact on players’ ability to succeed in the NFL?

“It should relate to outcome — years in the league, effectiveness, off-field deviances,” Lyons said.

Lyons said that while NFL teams continue to evaluate intelligence, it is the behavioral psychological evaluation of a player that more greatly influences if and when a prospect is drafted. Lyons and his team found the Wonderlic useful in this regard. They are in the process of publishing research about the test’s ability to predict “off-duty deviance” among NFL players and other employees in other industries across corporate America.