Ok, I admit it. I have a love/hate relationship with personality tests. And sadly, the tests that are most loved are the silly ones like: which Star Wars, Disney princess, or Harry Potter character are you? As a cross between Darth Vader, Tiana (Princess and the Frog), and Dumbledore, I’m not sure if I should be wearing all black, dressy white fur, or a colorful robe. What these characters have in common is unclear, but it is amusing to take the test and imagine.
Then there are the more involved assessments utilized by coaches, career counselors, and employers to discover strengths and weaknesses at the most basic level. Some of these are available online for free or minimal cost. These tests can help avoid poor career choices, offer insight as to strengths, suggest suitable mates, discover ideal environments and identify leadership potential. Some examples include:
- MAPP (Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential) assessment identifies a person’s ideal career path, aptitude, temperament, and ability to relate to others.
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is widely used by employers to determine if a candidate is a good fit for a particular position, categorizing a person within 16 different personality types.
- StrengthsFinder classifies key personality strengths in order to encourage a person to work from their strengths instead of boosting up their weaknesses.
- Enneagram labels nine major types of personality, the worldview, basic desire and basic fear.
- DISC (Dominant, Influential, Steadfast, and Conscience) places a person in one or more of the four main types of personality pinpointing ideal mates, motivations, and vocations.
The obvious downside of these exams is that they are self-administered, which means the test is only as good as the honesty level of the person taking it. If a person lacks self-awareness, these exams can be frustrating, adding to confusion instead of clarity. Even worse is when a person relies on information from a friend or spouse to complete the test, because the nature of their personality is likely to color the responses.
Significantly lacking in all of the above mentioned personality tests are personality disorders. A personality disorder by definition means a person lacks objectivity, has no clear perception of themselves and others, lack of affectivity of mood (either too intense or too flat for the circumstances), poor interpersonal functioning (inability to relate to others well), and significant impulse control in all areas of their life. Of all the things an employer or potential spouse might want to know about another person, this would seem to be high on the list.
Yet there is no good online, easy assessment for personality disorders. Rather there is a lengthy (500+ questions) and expensive version called the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) which is only administered and assessed by a trained psychologist. Once a personality disorder is discovered, all of the above tests can become invalidated because the person taking the exam lacks a clear understanding of how they relate within their world.
This is the part I hate about personality tests. They offer a limited and sometimes inaccurate perspective, especially when a person has a personality disorder. The very thing a test should be utilized for – Is there a personality disorder or not – is the very issue that is not addressed.
So I’ll return to the fun assessments that liken a person to a color, person, flower, or spaceship. At least here, you truly get what you pay for.