Personality Tests

I enjoy taking these, for the process at least as much as the results.
(That’s the kind of question they ask.)

Getting them is a conflicted experience.

I feel a mix of pleasure at not being boxed or fitting their schemes, and the wish to be understood and for greater self knowledge.

I was asked to test one of these for a careers department. I answered honestly and was told “Your answers are not valid”!

I quickly realised how to answer to get a chosen result. I further mocked this fledging programme when it made suggestions for me that I thought way out… though over a decade later, I understood that those career paths were latent in me.

When you take one in a magazine, it’s fun and the people making the test are not claiming to be experts. I often wonder whether the sort in women’s magazines are composed over a liquid lunch amidst much squealing, and how much of an understanding of life the composers have.

But psychologists do take themselves and their tests more seriously, and they expect you the respondent to. I think that means greater responsibility on their half and more caution on that of the test taker, because their analyses can hurt and mislead.
One of them made you take a kind of risk assessment on the potential damage the test could cause!

The academic in me picks holes in their poorly framed questions and easily is bored with repetition. Often I do not feel any of the options presented suits me, at least without a large proviso. When asked if I prefer justice or mercy, it depends on whether I am speaking of wrong done by a huge corporation or a needy individual, and justice can be restorative, not punitive.

One test was a secret megalomaniac finder under the guise of Self Esteem. It asked things like “Would you make a good world leader?”! – I wasn’t sure that position had been created. Of course some people really could answer yes to national leadership (and in comparison to some of our leaders, I think we could feel safe to assert we could do a better job!) It also made you think it was asking if you have a good body image when it was really trying to catch you as an exhibitionist. It asked other questions with loaded answers which often forced you into saying something they took as delusional.

Another was about whether you saw yourself as lazy, and how much you wished to be. Generally we are expected to want to be diligent and hard working and organised and not the opposite. There are traits we are expected to be or desire to be – warm and gregarious being others. I felt there are any presuppositions by the psychologists, reflecting their own values as much as the women’s magazines.

Many tests ask what country, sex and age you are. I amused myself by changing that and found that the results came out differently – eg being seen as less immodest as an American male than a Botswanan woman.

They score you on averages from not only country, sex and age but in comparison to others that took the tests. But people who take the tests already have certain personality traits in common – curiosity, desire for self knowledge and enjoying questions; perhaps too in having some time to spare. I think that undermines the methodology somewhat.

Having preset answers also boxes you and I felt there were aspects of myself not being asked about – for instance, less about kindness and empathy, and lots with leading words about annoyance and selfish sounding behaviours which translated the answers into more emotive and extreme results – eg angry becomes enraged; resentful, bitter. It is not good at nuance or contradiction or variation.

Sometimes I was surprised that they did come out with some accurate and perceptive statements despite not being impressed with the test. But if you do more than one by the same people, you find cut and paste statements which really stand out as being inauthentic.

My favourite are the Jungian ones – not as a fan of him but because I like what it said about me. It generally picked the right careers and interests, said some flattering things, and put me in a rare category which suited me nicely 🙂
And I am apparently in the same one as Nathan the Prophet who clearly took the test in Biblical times, along with some notable Greeks and canonised saints.

The most ridiculous question was how would you react to a friend who claimed his lateness was due to a penguin.

I am right to be critical of the questions and the values portrayed in them. I note that what comes out is the wish to conform and seem nice vs honesty; and also some negative beliefs about myself.

I close with my favourite question – about your reaction to your lover being caught in bed with a dignitary. I shall not share which answer I chose, but its perceptiveness did make me smile!

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