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Explaining SD in the Graves Scores

July 3, 2015
Jaap Hollander

Several people have asked me to explain once more how to read the standard deviations (SD) in the average Graves scores. And I am happy to oblige.

Where are these scores?
First of all, where are the scores we are talking about? Let’s have a look at the profile. The arrows point to the Graves scores. The red arrow points to the score of the respondent, the blue arrow indicates the average score. The top three Graves scores are repeated in the sonar diagram.

Uitleg Graves 2015-4





In the average score, shown in the bottom row – averaged over all respondent and all contexts – you see a line in the middle. The distance between that inner line and the outer contour is the standard deviation. So the thicker the ‘peel’ of the ball is, the higher the standard deviation is and the more the score varies over different people. Please note that this is an average, statistical score. It is unrelated to the individual score of the respondent.

What does that ‘peel’ mean?
Have a look at these diagrams:


The red arrow here indicates the average (the mean) of all people who have filled out MindSonar. If you want to know exactly who this group consists of, their attributes are described on the last pages of the MindSonar report. Now have a look at this diagram.


The little red arrow in this second diagram shows the standard deviation for the average score. Remember: the standard deviation is the average distance to the mean. Imagine a math professor asking each score: ‘How far away are you from the mean?’ And after all the scores have answered, he calculates the average of those distances. If the scores vary a lot, the standard deviation value will be high. If the scores are all pretty much the same, the standard deviation value will be small. Bottom line: High SD means the scores vary a lot, low SD means they only vary a little.

When is this important?
The standard deviation of the Graves score is not a measurement that is being used often in the interpretation of individual MindSonar profiles. Team profiles are a different story (that I will tell some other time). In individual interpretations, the SD of the Graves score becomes useful mostly in those two cases:

  1. Someone has a specific question about communication with others,
  2. We are looking for a specific benchmark profile, say in the process of selecting candidates for a job.

In those cases the standard deviation can deliver important information.

For instance, say my score on the red Graves drive is a lot higher than the average and I need coaching concerning my relationship with people in general. That high red score means that I will be more power oriented than the average person I meet. ‘Who was that average person again?’ you may wonder, ‘I don’t membered meeting them…’ So to put it differently: with my much-higher-than-average red Graves score, I have a big chance that someone I meet will be less power oriented than I am.

Now enter the standard deviation. If the standard deviation in the average red Graves score is high, that means that the average distance to the mean is high, which in turn means that the scores are spread out widely. So I still have a big chance of meeting people who are less power oriented than I am, but it varies a lot. I will meet some people who are even more power oriented than I am, and others who are a lot less power orientated. Whereas if the standard deviation were very small on the other hand, just about everyone I met would be less power oriented than me.

Selection based on benchmark profile
In the case of selecting candidates for a job, I am usually looking for people with a profile as close as possible to a specific benchmark profile. How easy or hard is it going to be to find these people? Say my benchmark has Graves drives with a much lower than average score, and this average score has a very small SD, looking like this:


And this is the person I want to find:

Uitleg Graves 2015-5
From the low standard deviation (the thin ‘peel’ around the ball), I can conclude that most people will have a higher score than the one I am looking for, so it will be relatively difficult to find a person like that.

If the average score looked like this, however:


I would see that the SD was quite large (the thick ‘peel’ around the ball), so people vary a lot when it comes to that score. Therefore it would be relatively easy to find a person like that.

I hope this clarifies the interpretation of the inner circle in the average Graves scores.

Happy Profiling!

About the author 

Jaap Hollander

Psychologist, living in the Netherlands. Founded MindSonar in 1995. Directs MindSonar Global, which manages the ICT development, applications and the curriculum of the MS Certification Trainings. Working part time as a trainer, writer and coach as well as being an expressionist painter (artist name JAAPH, see jaaph.com). Has written 10 books on NLP and Provocative Coaching.

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