Let’s get quizzical
Danielle Darrah weighs in on the reliability of personality quizzes and their growing popularity
Personality tests are everywhere – in job interviews, franchises and even entire books have been written on them, with the likes of Gretchen Rubin, a critically acclaimed author, writing The Four Tendencies. They date back to pre-Socratic Greece, with Hippocrates discovering the ways in which different types of bodily fluids affect human behaviour. However, it poses the questions as to what it is that appeals to us about being placed into a conventional ‘type’ and whether or not these kinds of tests are accurate enough to be defining us.
Some individuals may find the explanations of the ‘science’ behind their behaviour reassuring and illuminating. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, discussed the matter, stating “people like confirmation of their qualities, particularly strengths. In spite of the frivolity, we all have an existential craving to be validated and seen”. This craving to receive substantiation for ourselves about traits that are seen to be honourable or desired may give us an insight to why these tests are appealing – as an example, understanding the reason as to why everyone wants to be sorted into the ‘brave’ house, Gryffindor, when taking the Sorting Hat test.
However, where the Pottermore quiz is seen as harmless fun, this craving for self-analysis is slowly seeping into our occupational lives, with some companies asking potential employees to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. Made up of 16 different personality types, that draw on aspects such as introversion, intuition and instincts, the MBTI test has approximately 1.5 million participants, despite psychologists criticising the aim of personality tests.
The excitement of understanding where certain traits and behaviours are drawn from, intrigued me enough to get involved. After having taken the MBTI test myself – receiving the result of The Giver (ENFJ) – I realised the traits that the test assesses are very broad, making it easy to believe that this is an accurate test. In addition to this, Scientific American adds “it is unreliable because a person’s type may change from day to day”, which rings true. It is almost impossible that an individual’s organisational skills or confidence won’t change periodically, meaning that it is hard to imagine that after completing the test once, those results are final.
Whether they are accurate enough to restrict an individual to a specific personality based on a few badly worded questions, is highly debatable
Similarly, the Enneagram test judges personalities using numbers one to nine, each number correlating to a different personality type. However, whether we could consider a test developed in 5th century based around “Christian myths that aid spiritual growth” to be anything more than a work of pseudoscience is extremely questionable. Ultimately, personality tests, like horoscopes or astrological definitions, are harmless indicators providing a temporary buzz and harmless excitement for individuals taking part. Nevertheless, whether they are accurate enough to restrict an individual to a specific personality based on a few badly worded questions, is highly debatable. Today approximately 30% of employers are utilising personality tests as a hiring tool, making me wonder whether we are emerging into a society where companies feel as though they will find the ‘perfect’ candidate through the means of a technological development, rather than the traditional face-to-face questions.