Should you take a Personality Test?

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Pinocchio! Do you think people lie on personality tests?

Personality tests are incredibly popular. You’ve probably seen odd, humorous versions on your Facebook feed asking important questions like ‘Which Muppet are you?‘ or ‘ ‘Which weird fish are you?‘.

You may also have seen personality tests that are intended to be taken much more seriously. You may even have found yourself required to take a test for work.

Personality tests can make their owners a lot of money. The Myers-Briggs Personality Test rakes in about USD 200 million dollars a year.

So are there good reasons to take a personality test or should we avoid them?

‘If I was to recommend a Personality Test it would be the VIA Character Strengths Survey’.

Personality tests can help you start thinking about who you are. They can make it easier to talk about yourself because they give you a list of characteristics that can be the basis of discussion with other people.  They may even give you some ideas of how to promote yourself in a job interview.

However, personality tests can be used in a way that does more harm than good. People sometimes allow the results to restrict them. For example, if the personality test says they are an introvert they may use that as a reason to talk to fewer and fewer people. It’s even worse if a company uses their employee’s personality test results to label their staff and  force them into certain roles.

We shouldn’t let the test dictate who we are. Especially as a personality test is usually only a reflection of the way you have answered a list of questions. On some tests your ‘Personality’ might seem to change depending on your mood when you were answering the questions.

Let’s look at some of the better known Personality Tests

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test is one of the most successful Personality Tests. However, the Myers-Briggs test is very old and most personality researchers will tell you that it has little scientific value.

The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.

It’s also known to be quite unreliable. If you retake the test after only a five-week gap, there’s around a 50% chance that you will fall into a different personality category compared to the first time you took the test.

There’s a fee to take the test. I don’t recommend it but if you’re still interested you can pay to take an online test on the MBTI website.

The Big Five

Personality tests based on ‘The Big Five’ have a lot more scientific backing. According to this model the five key dimensions of people’s personalities are:

  • Openness: Your desire for new experiences.
  • Conscientiousness: The level of care that you take in your life and work. If you score low, you’ll likely be lax and disorganised.
  • Extroversion/Introversion: Your sociability. Are you outgoing or quiet?
  • Agreeableness: How well you get on with other people?
  • Neuroticism: Your ‘Emotional Stability’.

There are a number different tests that use the Big Five. There’s a free, widely used version at Outofservice.com

The main problem with the Big Five is that the results can sound negative. Most of us don’t want to be told that we’re disagreeable or neurotic. Receiving a ‘result’ that seems negative can make you feel worse and it may put you off trying to understand yourself better.

You can find more information about the Big Five here.

VIA Character Strengths Survey

If I was to recommend a Personality Test that’s free, based on good science and likely to encourage a more positive way of thinking then I would put forward the VIA Character Strengths Survey .

This Personality Test comes from Positive Psychology. It helps you consider the top strengths that you have. It may not be entirely accurate because it’s still a self-report measure but it’s a good starting point for a discussion about who you are.

You can take the VIA Character Strengths Survey for free once you register on their website. 

Your thoughts?

What do you think about personality tests? Let me know in the comments section below.

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