My Problem With Personality Tests

I would wager that astrology has suffered a big drop in its number of believers over the last few decades.  Some people still undoubtedly read their horoscopes now and again, but few would take it seriously if the prophetic paragraph typed in the flimsy pages of their morning newspaper told them to avoid going outdoors because doom will be awaiting them.  It’s easy enough to point to examples that call into question the rational basis of astrology (like pointing out how it can be that people born on the same date, at the same time, emerging from the exact same womb, can still go on to have completely different futures, and even personalities?) that much of the practice has been reduced to something of a passive interest for most of its practitioners, and is rarely avowed amongst new acquaintances.

For many millennials the idea of orienting their personality based on what astrological sign they were born under seems silly, however, at the same time many within this same generation seem to accept alternative personality groupings, like the Myers-Briggs Personality Test as something more concrete.  While the Test purports to indicate psychological preferences on how a person perceives the world, and makes her/his decisions as a result, it’s reliability, practical utility, and scientific validity leave much to be desired.

The problem with Myers-Briggs is the same as the problem with all personality tests, in that it is self-administered and reflect a self-selected view of one’s personality, failing to take into account the fact that how you see yourself in your inner dialogue might not be how you come across in your external interactions with others, all of which goes considerably into influencing the perceptions and decisions you form and make on a daily basis.  This is fueled by an inevitable personal bias innate to personality tests, making it damn near impossible to be objective when the subject matter in question is, in fact, yourself.

The reason I compare such personality tests to a horoscope is that when I read through the various personality summaries of each astrological sign, there is not a single one that will not reflect some basic component of my personality and character that I can choose to focus on, if it happens to please me to do so.  And when I read through the descriptions of each personality type on the Myers-Briggs scale (or any other personality test), I can also see ways in which every category listed could apply to me if I just focused on different aspects of my personality.

I get that having a ready made list of attributes makes it easier for many of us to interact with and make decisions about other people (as well as how we choose to view and carry ourselves, personally).  But something as fluid and adaptable as a “personality type” comes across to me as much too situation-specific to be neatly labeled by any one, two, three, or seven scale tests, anymore than reading celestial patterns to determine one’s lucky/unlucky days.  I find that actually talking with each other is much more affective at gauging another person’s personality, just like having an honest dialogue with oneself goes much further in helping us figure out what makes us who we are deep down.

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