Taking the person out of the personality tests
Personality tests. You sit there answering question after question, whether you’re soul-searching or just trying to pass the time. Once the last inquiry is completed, you look at the results in surprise and think to yourself, “Wow, that’s so accurate!”
This incident is a common occurrence, known as the Forer effect or Barnum effect, where people see descriptions of themselves and think it’s completely accurate to their personality, when in fact, the descriptions are rather general. Truth is, that same test is most likely “accurate” for plenty of other people as well. The results for such tests are too broad to fit just one particular personality, and tests with prewritten outcomes can only provide you with whatever result most closely matches the answers submitted. The personality tests are fun, but should not always be taken to heart. There’s no need to define yourself according to what a computer program tells you.
Still, being applicable to a wide range of people doesn’t necessarily mean that the personality test is entirely wrong–some of the aspects they describe may very well be true to your character. But as everyone originates from different backgrounds, no two personalities develop in exactly the same way. Because of this, personality tests lack the finer details, such as any idiosyncrasies we might have. They have to capture a general scope in order to be successful so that, chances are, you can identify with at least something.
As a group, people like to place themselves and others into categories; it’s the way we’re wired to create order in our societies. Even with the diversity in our natures, we find ways to associate ourselves with others so that we feel like we belong and that someone understands us. Personality tests that classify people into certain groups, such as the Meyers-Briggs test, are a valid example of this phenomenon. Though this test provides a wide range of results to increase its accuracy, the grouping is not completely perfect. In the end, even misfits and outcasts are grouped together for the sake of categorizing.
Our personalities are largely formed by personal experiences and upbringing, which is why it’s difficult to find a personality test that considers the entirety of your character. However, this lack of precision is why the personality tests are so applicable to us. We can make educated guesses by linking current behavior to a number of possible experiences, but the result will not be specifically “you.”
While they aren’t a complete waste of time, personality tests should be taken with a little bit of skepticism. The most accurate judgment of your personality ultimately comes from you and the people with whom you spend your time. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to a selection of results that were made to apply to us in one way or another. It’s up to us to decide who we are.
By Gabrielle Manuit, Copy editor