Psychological selection of Antarctic personnel: the “SOAP” instrument

INTRODUCTION: The potential advantage of including a psychological test battery in the selection process for service in the Antarctic was examined in 348 applicants for employment in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). METHODS: Applicants were screened with the Selection of Antarctic Personnel battery (SOAP) consisting of nine well-known psychological instruments. The SOAP scores were not revealed to the BAS selection panel members, who based the selection on operational criteria, interview, and a general medical examination. The SOAP scores of those selected (n = 177) were further compared with station commanders' reports of winter adaptation (n = 140), and subjective health complaints (SHC) (n = 86). RESULTS: There were no significant agreements between SOAP scores (n = 348) and those actually selected by the BAS panel (121 accepted, 227 not accepted) (Cohen's Kappas for inter-rater agreement < 0.20). Participants characterized as exceptionally well adapted by the station commanders had higher scores on Openness on the NEO-FFI (the "Big Five" personality inventory) [Odds Ratio (OR) = 5.2], and higher levels of Emotion-Focused Coping (OR = 2.7) and fewer SHC (OR = 0.3). Participants rated by station commanders as "poor" had higher levels of Defensive Hostility (OR = 4.2), and lower levels of Emotion-Focused Coping (OR = 0.3). Women had higher rates of success in service than men, but were less likely to be selected. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Adding a psychological test battery would improve the odds of selecting good performers, and reduce the odds of selecting poor performers.


Publication status:
Authors: Grant, Iain, Eriksen, Hege R., Marquis, Peter, Orre, Ingrid J., Palinkas, Lawrence A., Suedfeld, Peter, Svensen, Erling, Ursin, Holger

1 January, 2007
Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine / 78