Do personality tests work? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do personality tests work?” and explore the concept of personality, personality tests and their validity to help understand the answer. 

Do personality tests work?

Yes, in general, personality tests seem to work. Personality tests can and do claim to be able to assess a wide range of topics, but only those having documented evidence of validity and reliability can do so. 

The following are 3 insights into how personality tests work –

  • The majority of personality tests are based on one of three theoretical frameworks.
  • Each personality test has a somewhat different methodology depending on its conceptual framework. 
  • Reliability and validity. 

What are these 3 insights into how personality tests work?

The majority of personality tests are based on one of three theoretical frameworks.

The temperament or basic wiring of a person is referred to as personality. It influences our ideas, feelings, and actions in extremely predictable ways. Psychologists will have a greater chance of building a personality assessment instrument if they have a solid conceptual framework. 

It’s similar to how a scientist working on climate change mitigation techniques must first comprehend and work within the environment of the Earth’s atmosphere. If the first step is a dud, the rest is a foregone conclusion.

The majority of personality tests are based on one of three theoretical frameworks. 

Psychodynamic theory.

Psychodynamic theory is the first and possibly most well-known of them. It tries to explain the origins of psychopathology using clinical psychology as a guide.

It presupposes that everyone is neurotic in some way and tries to pinpoint the root of the participants’ anxieties. This conceptual paradigm is basically dead now that neuroses are widely dispersed across the population rather than being universal.

Trait theory.

Trait theory is the next conceptual framework, and it is the most extensively used framework in personality study today. It splits personality into recurrent behavioural tendencies and uses the five-factor model to try to assess these features. 

Participants are asked to listen to or read a question, compare it to their own self-perception, and then self-report on the basis of that comparison. While the five-factor model is effective, emerging lower-order factors have been demonstrated to be more accurate in predicting outcomes.

Another difficulty is that this approach implies that participants’ self-reports are a reliable indicator of how they truly feel, think, or act. 

This assumption is suspect since self-reports are likely slanted in the participant’s favour, especially when they are aware that their responses will be used to make a hiring decision. 

Furthermore, this method presupposes that the desire to reflect on one’s behaviour is universal rather than scattered across the population.

Socioanalytic theory.

The final conceptual framework we’ll discuss is socioanalytic theory, which serves as the foundation for Hogan Assessment Systems. According to the notion, everyone lives and works in groups, which are organised into status hierarchies. 

This argues that there are three basic motivations in life: getting along with others, obtaining status, and discovering purpose. People handle these difficulties during their professions, and personality characteristics determine whether they succeed or fail in their jobs. 

This approach is based on pragmatism and considers participant data to be self-presentation rather than self-reporting. Rather than attempting to anticipate why participants say what they say or whether their statements are truthful, this approach focuses solely on how answers predict behaviour and performance.

Each personality test has a somewhat different methodology depending on its conceptual framework. 

The data from the personality test is then scored. Each personality test has a somewhat different methodology depending on its conceptual framework. 

For example, in Hogan’s assessments, we distinguish between participants’ identities and reputations based on socioanalytic theory. While identity refers to how people feel themselves and cannot be quantified scientifically, reputation refers to how others perceive them and can be measured. 

As a result, in order to assess participants’ reputations, we rate their data from the perspective of the observer.

This implies that when we score a participant’s response to the question “I read 10 books a year,” we aren’t truly looking at whether the person considers himself or herself a reader. 

Rather, we want to know if the participant presents himself to observers as a reader. Participants’ responses to this question will be translated into reputational data on how observers see them, which has career implications. 

Because we have reputational data for millions of participants in local and worldwide populations who have already answered these questions in similar ways, we can estimate the participant’s reputational status. 

These are known as norms, and they show how individuals compare to the general population in their area and throughout the world.

In a nutshell, the scoring method measures reputation by interviewing individuals about themselves and determining the statistical link between matched groups and observer descriptions. 

The ratings anticipate trends and suggest likely workplace reputation by organising reputational descriptions. It’s vital to remember that these patterns represent likelihood rather than certainty, which leads us to the following argument.

Reliability and validity. 

The fourth, and perhaps most crucial, factor is how tools verify that they are measuring the items they claim to be analysing properly and consistently. 

Personality tests can and do claim to be able to assess a wide range of topics, but only those having documented evidence of validity and reliability can do so.

Personality tests that are well-validated and reliable do not discriminate based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity, but unvalidated and unreliable tests can have negative consequences, so employers should check the validity and reliability of personality tests when shopping around.

Personality tests that are well-constructed are effective. Strong theoretical foundations, a good scoring system, demonstrated validity and reliability, and the capacity to evaluate human universals across geographic borders are all strengths of objective psychometric tests. 

Some people believe personality tests are problematic because personality is subjective and may change over time. They have, on the other hand, weathered the test of time and have offered many individuals useful views and insights into the inner workings of themselves and others.

Extraversion, dominance, conscientiousness, and agreeableness are measured in tests like the Myers-Briggs type indicator and DISC to group people into certain personality types. People can gain significant insights into their personalities by joining these groups.

Personality tests are becoming more prominent in both professional and personal situations. While some may doubt the accuracy of a personality test, much research has been conducted to prove its dependability. 

Personality tests have been used for hundreds of years and have continuously given test-takers a better understanding of their personalities, behaviours, and characteristics. 

The model reliabilities are in the good-to-excellent range, with a median coefficient alpha of.87 and a median test-retest reliability of.86, according to evaluations of the validity and reliability of DISC. 

A dependability score of.70 or greater is considered good reliability, with higher being preferable. This contributes to the validity of personality assessments.

What are Personality Tests?

A personality test is a technique for determining a person’s personality. Personality testing and evaluation are approaches for determining the patterns of qualities that people display in a variety of settings. 

Personality tests can aid in the clarification of a clinical diagnosis, the direction of therapeutic interventions, and the prediction of how people would react in certain situations.

Every day, we examine and characterise our personalities informally. We regularly refer to distinct aspects of an individual’s personality when we talk about ourselves and others. Psychologists judge personality in a similar way, but on a more methodical and scientific level.

Types of Personality Tests.

There are two basic types of personality tests: self-report inventories and projective tests – 

  • Test-takers read questions and then assess how well the question or statement pertains to them in self-report questionnaires. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is one of the most widely used self-report assessments (MMPI).
  • Projective tests entail presenting the test-taker with an ambiguous scene, object, or situation and asking them to interpret the test item. The Rorschach Inkblot Test is a well-known example of a projective test.

The most significant advantage of self-report inventories is that they can be standardised and used with pre-determined standards. Self-inventory is also a lot easier to use than projective testing, and it has a lot more reliability and validity. 

In contrast, projective tests are most commonly employed in psychotherapy settings and allow therapists to swiftly obtain a large amount of information about a client.

A therapist, for example, might consider not only a person’s reaction to a specific test question but also other qualitative information such as voice tone and body language. As people move through therapy sessions, all of this may be discussed in greater depth.

Uses of Personality Tests.

Personality tests are used for a variety of reasons, including the following –

  • Evaluating theories
  • Determining the efficacy of treatment
  • Identifying and diagnosing psychological issues
  • Observing personality changes
  • Examining job applicants

In forensic contexts, personality tests are occasionally used to conduct risk assessments, demonstrate competency, and resolve child custody issues. 

Personality testing is also utilised in school psychology, career and vocational counselling, relationship counselling, clinical psychology, and employment testing, among other areas.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do personality tests work?” and reviewed the concept of personality, personality tests and their validity to help determine if personality tests work. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

How Do Personality Tests Work? Hogan Assessments. (2021, August 31). Retrieved from https://www.hoganassessments.com/blog/how-do-personality-tests-work/#:~:text=Personality%20tests%20can%20and%20do,can%20make%20equitable%20employment%20decisions.

Meinert, D. What Do Personality Tests Really Reveal? (2015, June 1). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0615-personality-tests.aspx

Grabianowski, E. How Personality Tests Work. (n.d.)Retrieved from https://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/tests-treatment/personality-tests.htm

Cherry, K. What Is a Personality Test? (2022, February 14). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-personality-testing-2795420

Chen, A. How Accurate Are Personality Tests? (2018, October 10). Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-accurate-are-personality-tests/

Personality Tests Don’t Work, Here’s Why and The Alternatives. NOBL. (2019, March 13). Retrieved from https://academy.nobl.io/personality-tests-dont-work-heres-why-and-alternatives/

Gail, C. How Accurate Are Personality Tests & Are They Reliable for Employment? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.crystalknows.com/blog/are-personality-tests-accurate

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