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The Problem With The Personality Test

Video from Vox.

People love labels and categories. While this preference does help to take a load off the brain, it can lead to stereotyping and first impressions that mislead and mislabel people—including ourselves.

It helps to be able to separate and measure certain aspects of our underlying personality, especially for research purposes. Finding the innate and neurological differences between the more introverted or extraverted, or between the care-free and the structured, can help us illuminate a more well-rounded understanding of human nature.

It’s important to understand the limits, of course, and this is where the Myers-Briggs test has gone awry. As an article on Vox notes:

About 2 million people take it annually, at the behest of corporate HR departments, colleges, and even government agencies. The company that produces and markets the test makes around $20 million off it each year.

The only problem? The test is completely meaningless.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a substantial amount of money being wasted on theories and ideas that lack scientific support. See list of pseudoscience.

… the test was developed in the 1940s based on the totally untested theories of Carl Jung and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality “types” were just rough tendencies he’d observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.

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Published in Behavior

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