I grew up in South Carolina, USA, and I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. I am well versed in religion, various cultures, and world politics.
Searching For Understanding
If there is one thing we are preoccupied with in life, it is ourselves. Learning more and more about what makes us click is part of life's journey, but are we a bit too obsessed?
For centuries, humanity has tried to grasp life's meaning through various means. Fortune tellers, psychics, prophets, hand readers, and numerous other figures serve in ways to guide us and tell us what may be on the horizon. Things like horoscopes and astrology try to define our character, who we can and cannot connect well with, as well as attempt to predict the future.
But what about personality tests? Aren't they more legit than shady things like fortune tellers and horoscopes? Aren't they backed up by science and research?
The unfortunate answer is both yes and no.
Personality tests are questionnaires backed by pseudoscience to attempt to box you into a very particular personality grouping. They help guide you, define your character, and even tell you who you can and cannot connect well with. Many companies and organizations around the world even require their employees to take certain personality tests so that the leadership can know how to better utilize their workers.
In many ways, personality tests have become the universally accepted horoscope. Although the science is unreliable, we still put a lot of trust and a lot of money into these tests to help us to learn more about ourselves and the world around us, because deep down, we don't like the fact that human beings are incredibly complicated.
It's easier to understand things when they are simple, but the fact of the matter is;
Human beings are not simple.
The Facts About Personality Tests
Let us set the records straight. Personality assessments/tests are not scientific. They are actually based on pseudoscience, which is a collection of beliefs and practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific methods.
However, we apply them to our lives with such confidence, even boldly claiming what personality types we are, but therein lies a problem.
An Introspective Exam
One major problem with personality tests is that the mass majority of them are introspective. The test results are purely subjective, meaning that the test taker is in full control and can exploit the test however they want.
A self-reported questionnaire leaves plenty of room for skepticism. If someone needed to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for a work application, for example, and they could benefit from a certain personality type, it is very easy for this applicant to lie during the questionnaire process and manipulate their results.
Another major problem with the test taking is environment. Where you are taking the test and the people you are taking it with can heavily influence your test results. Due to the subjective nature of the test taking, a personality can change drastically from one place to another.
If someone takes the DISC assessment at home alone compared to at a strict work environment surrounded by coworkers, studies have shown that personalities can almost flip entirely.
In The Workplace
The use of personality tests in the workplace can also communicate poorly from one job to the next. The reality is that one's work environment plays a major role in determining performance, and unfortunately, not all environments are created equal.
Another major problem of using personality tests in the workplace is that the results may be influenced by a person's mood, and good potential employees may be neglected because of responses that reflected that mood. For example, if a potential employee's father passed away just one week ago, that person's mood will be down and the test results will report falsely in many areas.
It Is Okay To Be a Skeptic
"You should be skeptical."
Simine Vazire, a personality researcher at the University of California, Davis, once said.
“Until we test [personality assessments] scientifically, we can’t tell the difference between that and pseudoscience like astrology.”
Like most things in life, we need to accept the results of personality tests with a grain of salt. We cannot just simply let them define us. It's also okay to find and point out apparent flaws.
At any personality test's core, there are two major concerns that should raise red flags;
- Making A Massive Profit
- Putting People Into Boxes
Making A Massive Profit
Although the science behind personality tests is lacking, that is not stopping companies from milking their pseudoscience for all that it is worth.
Tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator charge anywhere between $15-$40USD per person, despite the fact that many psychologists believe the test is unreliable, even reportedly referring to it as "one of the worst personality tests in existence for a wide range of reasons."
The personality assessment industry in the US alone is worth an estimated $4 billion. When these companies are making that kind of money with zero accountability, no wonder they keep shoving more and more of these personality tests down our throats.
Putting People Into Boxes
Personally, this is the most concerning point and a flaw that I think needs to be pointed out more often.
When we put people into boxes, we immediately devalue them. An extrovert is not expected to receive energy when they are alone. A thinker does not feel. Sensory people aren't allowed to be intuitive.
In our hearts, we know this is absolutely not true, and yet, this is exactly what these personality tests teach us. They assign you a letter, a number, or some other label that defines you. They seemingly claim certain personalities as stronger and certain ones as weaker, and this creates an immediate environment of judgement and labeling.
You can no longer be the complicated and unique individual that you truly are. You are put into a box alongside thousands of others who are "just like you".
You are no longer you, but you have become the you that they want you to be.
Personality Tests and Horoscopes
As Simine Vazire said, until we can test personality assessments scientifically, we need to treat them like we would a horoscope or an astrology reading. We should not allow them to dictate who we are or what we do.
Instead, we should not give them any power at all, because they do not deserve it. Those personality assessment companies do not deserve your money, because they are selling you an unfinished product. Those companies and tests cannot control you, so break out of that box and free yourself.
From this day forward, take and read a personality test with the same mind you would when you read a daily horoscope. Simply read it and move on. It does not deserve a whole lot more time than that.
© 2019 Jason Reid Capp
Mark Richardson from Utah on October 09, 2020:
Good points. It didn't realize they had changed. I see what you mean about boxes. Something to consider is that people want to be accepted and your type, such as ENFP for me, is a tribe. People like to be part of a group. Many try to appeal to their MBTI group directly with videos.
I'm big on metaphors...I think people are like computers... We're programmed a certain way. We CAN change, but it isn't easy.
We're also like trees... Much more flexible when we're young. But we get set in our ways. Tree roots forcing concrete to crack doesn't happen overnight.
As mentioned, MBTI had helped me to know that I am just different than my in-laws and I have been able to improve by working on my weaknesses.
But good points and good article.
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Tokyo, Japan on October 08, 2020:
Understanding yourself is important, and I allude to this at the beginning of the article. There is nothing wrong with taking a personality test. I mean, I wrote the article, and I have taken every single test out there, even paying for many of them. Call me the hypocritical skeptic. haha.
But it is the dependency that we put into these tests that is truly problematic. I compared it to horoscopes and astrology, because people genuinely label themselves. "I am a Capricorn!" and "I am an ENTJ!" are synonymous with poor labeling.
I am aware that the MBTI has tried to combat this a bit by being more flexible with the letters, and the Enneagram has wings to other numbers instead of being one numbers. However, the point is still the same. It is putting us into boxes.
Since I was 20 years old, my MBTI has changed 13 times. THIRTEEN TIMES. That is not a joke at all. Just different stages of my life and different moods I was in, but wildly different results that wouldn't make sense to people married to the idea.
Like I said, we are complicated. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. If we try to simplify ourselves, we actually do a disservice to us, no? That's all I was trying to say.
Mark Richardson from Utah on October 08, 2020:
I see what you are saying (these tests put people in boxes). I have a friend that would agree. However, my MBTI has helped me to understand myself, to help me focus on tendencies (why I think or feel the way I do) so that I can improve upon my strengths and weaknesses. My wife's family are all very similar, so years ago, I thought there was something wrong with me because I was so different. However, using personality tests (like DISC & MBTI), I realized that I am just different than they are.
My horoscope doesn't match me, so I have no interest in that.