The Truth Behind Personality Tests
This Article was written by Zanelle Awinyo, Year 9
I’m sure you may have heard people talking about their ‘personality types-’ from the extroverted ENFPs to the introverted INTJs; everyone’s personality has different things to offer… but how exactly do people determine these personalities? And just who decided there are 16 different types?
In 1942, a mother-daughter duo, Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed a question that classified people’s personalities into 16 types. They named it the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator- although it’s more commonly known now as ‘MBTI Personality Type.’ Although they did not know it at the time, it would go on to become one of the world's most widely-used personality tests.
Personality testing today is a multi-billion dollar industry used by individuals, schools and companies worldwide. If you didn’t already know, none of these tests actually reveal truths about personality… In fact, it’s often up for debate whether personality is even a measurable feature that can be tested.
The tests are based on a different set of metrics to define personality. The MBTI for example focuses on introversion or extroversion to classify people into their “types”.
The most tricky part of personality tests is that they’re self-reported and like it or not, people subconsciously aim to please.
When asked to agree or disagree with a statement, we may sometimes show a bias towards answering how we think we should be answering, even though it may not necessarily be what we believe to be the answer. Given these design flaws, it’s no surprise that the test results can be inconsistent.
A study once found that nearly half the people that took the MBTI personality test a second time merely five weeks after their first attempt got assigned a different type. In addition to this, another study found that people with very similar scores ended up in completely different categories- suggesting that the strict division between personality types don’t actually reflect in real life situations.
Complicating matters even further, the definition of traits that make up an individual’s personality aren’t actually defined. When the words “introvert” and “extrovert” were first used, an introvert would be described as someone who sticks to their principles regardless of the situation and extroverts would mold themselves according to circumstances. We know that’s not the same definition they have today.
At the end of the day, personality is something that you can change and the tests are usually just for fun either way.