MindSonar presents the respondent on the internet with seventy-five questions and two tasks (criteria sorting and criteria categorization). It also registers the time it takes the respondent to finish each test item. The English text is 95% “Globish” (a simplified international version of English).

Audio explanation
The program starts by explaining (in text and audio) how the system works, what the respondent may expect, and the importance of answering the questions based on how they think rather than how they would like to think or ought to think. Next, the program asks the respondent to identify the context in which he or she wants their meta-profile to be measured. Alternatively, this context may be predefined by the professional using the system, in which case the program simply states the context.

Once the context has been defined, the respondent is asked to concentrate on that context for a few moments while a piece of music is played. This process is repeated twice later on, thereby anchoring awareness of the context to that particular piece of music. The respondent can change the music if they wish. A wide range of music styles is offered to choose from. Later on during the questionnaire, the program will play the same music (“fire” the anchor) to stimulate continued awareness of the context.

Next, the program asks for identifying and demographic information: name, birth date, educational level, work area, work function level, and marital status.

Then the program asks the respondent to define four things they find important in the chosen context (four criteria) and then to order their criteria from most to least important (hierarchy of criteria). He or she is then shown the four criteria and asked to define the opposites (e.g., the opposite of “vigour” might be “weakness” for a given respondent). Different respondents will define different opposites for the same criteria, thereby clarifying the meaning (complex equivalence) of that criterion.

The hierarchy (top two positions) is tested in the following way. The respondent is asked whether or not he or she would accept a small loss of criterion #2 in return for a large gain in criterion #1. For example, say someone has defined as their top criterion: ‘creativity’ and they have defined the opposite as ‘dullness’. Their second criteria-opposite pair is connectedness – loneliness. Now they are offered the following deal:  are they willing to accept a little loneliness (opposite #2) in return for a lot of creativity (criterion #1)? If creativity is really more important to them than connectedness, they will accept the offer. If the respondent does not accept the offer, they are directed back to their list of criteria and encouraged to make changes. Sometimes criteria are either components of or conditions for other criteria. MindSonar resolves this by encouraging respondents to combine criteria. For instance, if a respondent believes that they can only be creative together with other people, they cannot accept some loneliness to get a lot more creativity, because the loneliness will then in turn decrease their creativity. The respondent is then advised to combine “creativity” and “connectedness” into one new criterion (for instance: “creative communication”). This enables them to create a “clean” set of criteria (without direct dependencies) which can then be sorted.

Graves (Spiral Dynamics)
Next, the respondent is shown one criterion and seven groups of two words representing seven Graves categories. After doing the Graves categorization, the respondent is presented with seventy-six questions related to meta-programs. The number of questions per meta-program varies between four and seven, depending on how many questions are needed to achieve the desired statistical reliability (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.7 or higher).

Six types of test items for meta-programs

  1. Identification items:Photographs showing people thinking different things (in text balloons). The respondents indicate which person thinks most like them.
  2. Symbolic items:The respondent chooses from a set of symbols.
  3. Avoidance items: An avoidance question is asked (“What do you want to prevent?”).
  4. Key word items:The respondent chooses from different key word combinations.
  5. Proverb items: The respondent chooses from two or three proverbs.
  6. Straightforward items: The respondent is asked directly about the meta-program in question (“Do you think more like this or more like this?”).

Reponse times
MPA MindSonar also measures response times (i.e., how long it takes the respondent to answer the questions). Response times are taken to be indicative of the extent to which the respondent is certain about their answer.