Personality Tests And Their Flaws – Syarifah Zafirah Syed Azman

Human personality is highly contextual, and highly dependent on the individual’s situation, conditions, and experiences. 

Personality tests supposedly assess human personality traits and characteristics across different situations. Psychologists may use personality tests to guide clinical diagnosis and intervention planning, and predict the individual’s response.

Currently, most millennials use the personality test to find out who they are, guide their decision-making, and look for intimate guides. Similarly, parents voluntarily pay others to conduct personality assessments to better understand their children.

However, using personality tests for personal decision making can be flawed, as the validity of personality tests will be tainted when used for different reasons. This article will discuss the issues surrounding personality, tests and why they are not suitable for personal use.

The first personality test was designed to assess mental health problems among military personnel during World War One. This test created the foundations on which future tests are based.

The science and practicality of personality assessments have grown and expanded beyond the usage of mental health assessments. Now, corporations and educational institutions use personality assessments to scout for new talents and determine the compatibility of the individual.

In the context of talent recruitment, personality tests would be appropriate as the test could help show recruiters the candidate’s behavioural tendencies, job performance, and attitude.

Also, in recruitment contexts, personality tests are not the sole determining factor for acceptance in companies and institutions. Therefore, it is safe to say that personality tests are valid and reliable for the screening new hires or students. However, it has to be paired with face-to-face interviews and knowledge assessments.

Why Is It Not Valid For Personal Usage?

Most online personality tests are not credible enough to tell you who you, your children, or your partners are. Personality tests can be invalid because:

  • Our personality changes depending on our situation. For example, if you take a personality test when you are feeling down, the result may reflect that you are a sensitive person who dislikes socialising and is not good under pressure. 
  • Lacking scientific support. For example, the Myers-Briggs personality tests are unreliable as the same individual can get different results after retaking the test.
  • it oversimplifies human personalities. Human personality should not be divided into “either-or”. We cannot be categorised into either extroverts or introverts only. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, and they are neither extroverts nor introverts. There are times when we are extroverted, and other times when we are introverted.

But Why Does It Make So Much Sense? 

Personality tests make sense to everyone because we tend to look for ourselves in the descriptions. The psychological effect, such as the Barnum effect, may explain why such general information presented in the result of the personality tests appear as though they are describing us accurately.

The Barnum effect also explains why the horoscope makes so much sense. We tend to believe that the information in the description describes our personality or experiences. The fact of the matter is that the explanation given is general, and could apply to anyone. 

These personality tests do not define your choices or experiences, and certainly do not define who you are. One should be careful about the types of personality tests they take, and be mindful of what the personality tests are saying about themselves.

Remember to take any personality test with a pinch of salt, and be clear about why you are taking it in the first place. If you take the test to guide in the making of important decisions in your life such as marriage and friendship, that would be too much.

Human personality is highly contextual, and highly dependent on the individual’s situation, conditions, and experiences. 

Syarifah Zafirah Syed Azman is a postgraduate student in developmental psychology at International Islamic University Malaysia.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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