A Good Judge of Personality - Can the Arts Beat Astrology and Psychology?

Philip Fisher
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Inspired by a weekend visit to the Royal Academy, our roving columnist Philip Fisher ponders whether artistic or literary tastes might be the best way to find a new recruit.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is always an extraordinary mixture of the sacred and profane. About 90% of exhibits will leave the average visitor cold but some of the remainder could send them into ecstasies of delight.

The pleasure of such experiences is that each of us will have a different view as to what we regard as a joy and what a monstrosity. This can be seen very clearly from the number of red dots registering sales on pieces that most of us would not even put into the guest's bathroom. Those red dots seem to be much fewer and further between this year, possibly indicating that even the art market is suffering from the recession.

This year, keep an eye out for Exhibit 327 which has a strange quirkiness that may not appeal to anybody but your columnist, not to mention a £4,500 price tag, while the ever impressive Ken Howard and Eileen Cooper will always catch the eye.

Rather than merely presenting a column of second-rate art criticism, it seemed interesting to muse on what our taste in art, books, plays or movies might reveal.

Years ago, on buying a couple of Escher prints from a dealer, he enquired about my profession and sounded secretly satisfied on discovering that the purchaser of these works was an accountant.

Escher: Drawing Hands

Does this mean that those of us who are so keen to hide our profession really give it away by an interest in not only Escher but also in this case Hopper, Renoir and Canaletto?

Renoir : Les Parapluies

August Renoir - Les Parapluies

Similarly, perhaps a fondness for writers such as Salman Rushdie, William Boyd, Anthony Burgess or Italo Calvino amongst the moderns and Dickens, Zola or Shakespeare going further back might be enough to identify a bean counter at 30 paces.

This is actually a methodology that is being taken to extremes by the likes of Amazon and eBay. It is really becoming quite unsettling to use the Internet nowadays and discover that your tastes are being second-guessed by purveyors of books, music, movies and anything else under the sun.

If you innocently seek out the price of a book or DVD, instantly your screen will be filled with complementary products to buy. Depending on your view, this could be seen as either deeply sinister or absolutely fantastic.

Hopper : Nighthawks

Edward Hopper - Nighthawks

In the olden days, astrologers were regarded as the only people in the kingdom who could predict the future. Some still believe that if they were born under a certain star, this will determine their future and even compatibility for friendship and marriage.

A more modern equivalent is the psychological testing and psychometric profiling that so many employers use to decide on whether to recruit a potential rising star. In theory at least, these are perfect guides to personality although in practice, some might regard some of them as little more accurate than the work of stargazers and only a very basic guide to whether a stranger will fit into their organisation.

Perhaps it is time to use the Amazon/eBay route to recruitment. Why not merely ask the person that may quickly become your best friend to list their favourite artists, writers, plays or even sports teams (I'm not employing a Spurs/Arsenal/Man U fan).

If this theory is correct, using careful analytical techniques purchased from whoever writes the software for the big sales sites they give just as high a success rate as any other method currently known to man.

About Philip Fisher


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07th Jun 2012 08:21

Not so sure!

Google Chrome bombards me with Sage advertisements ... and I hate Sage with a passion ... due to bad experiences in the past!

It does a little better in the film and music recommendations though :)

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By pjc55
08th Jun 2012 14:26

Why stop at recruitment?

I wonder whether this approach could contribute to a risk assessment for anti-money laundering purposes. I think I'd tend to be a little more worried about a potential client with "stressy" pictures in his home or office (eg. Munch's Scream) than more peaceful scenes (Constable).

And a predilection for fantasy novels might produce less confidence than realist fiction when you're considering someone's explanations in your audit analytical review.


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11th Jun 2012 10:15

art and astrology...

... so, Mr Fisher, what would a liking for the works of Bosch, Fra Angelico and Picasso (inter alia) denote (as well as nu-metal music, hard sci-fi and astrology)?

Clue: I work with you - which you may or may not find worrying, depending on which psychometrist you trust!!

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11th Jun 2012 13:37

You can't Judge a Goth by its Cover

Looking at the fascinating responses to date, I fear that Slipknot08 may struggle to get a job working with pjc55 but that will be his or her loss (pjc55).

The idea of basing money laundering on literary and artistic preferences sounds far easier than the current process and might even be as effective.

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