Monday, September 29, 2014

What's wrong with personality tests?

The Myers/Briggs personality test is suddenly popular again on FaceBook and it made me think about what bothers me about those sorts of test.
  • I hate dividing people up into categories. At least Myers Briggs gives you 16 and not just the either/or of extrovert/introvert. But still.
  • It's easy to write a single personality description that nearly everyone will see as applying to them, especially if it's nice and general. I think this is because we mostly remember the bits that apply and ignore those that don't.  Tests that do this are meaningless.
  • The worst personality tests divide the world up into bits and then force you into a mould - everyone fits into one or the other personality type by definition. This tells you more about the author of the test than about you.
  • The best personality tests ask you questions, then take your answers and feed them back to you in paraphrased format. So you're getting back what you put in and it feels eerily accurate but it's not actually telling you anything you didn't know. Except that the author's underlying beliefs about how to divide up the world usually end up shining through anyway.
But I have to admit that personality tests can be fun. I think I prefer the ones with colours, or elves, or "which Sherlock villain are you?" because at least they don't take themselves seriously.


Lexi said...

I whizzed through the test, making snap decisions on the 'it depends' questions, and my four traits are all 'slight' or 'moderate'. I didn't feel I'd gained any insight into my character.

Either I'm a bit wishy washy or Myers and Briggs failed to pin me down. Like you, I prefer more frivolous tests. Got any of those?

fairyhedgehog said...

Lexi, I had three "slight" preferences and one "moderate". The personality write up is very upbeat and also vague in places, so it's easy to read more into it than is actually there. That's in spite having given it a whole lot of information to process!

Mind you, the information it's working on isn't very accurate. It forces a lot of choices between options where I'd have chosen, "sometimes one, sometimes the other" or even "both" or "neither".

I need to google for a personality test that tells you what kind of elf you are. If you find one before I do, please let me know!

Simon Kewin said...

Must admit I avoid them! But I can see they can be fun, as long as you don't really believe what they say.

I'd hope for High Elf myself...

fairyhedgehog said...

Simon, Myers-Briggs really should have High Elf as one of their personality types, and if they did I'm sure you would be it!

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