Personality profiles are a wonderfully entertaining way to while away some idle time. Perhaps more accurate than a horoscope and less exacting than a complete psychological workup, they have the almost uncanny ability to identify some very general characteristics based on a few simple questions. Some are created purely for entertainment and others claim to have their origins firmly rooted in scientific evidence. I don’t think the conclusions drawn by these “serious” profiles are necessarily accurate and where they dictate or “suggest” direction, or portend to indicate the predisposition of one’s career potential (or personal relationships), they can actually be acting irresponsibly.
It is clear that countless variables affect the outcome of these assessments. These factors could be as uncontrollable as age and maturity or as fleeting as a specific - and often situational - emotional state. Furthermore, even subtle and perhaps unnoticed changes in these and other factors can produce considerable changes in the outcome of these surveys from day to day or even hour to hour. In short, I don’t put much faith in the results. Presented as evidence, however inconclusive (due to this project’s limited scope), are my results from different personality profile tests and the contradictions between not only different types of tests, but also between remarkably similar tests. Additionally, as luck would have it, I have results from one of these surveys that I took just about one year ago and can compare it to the same test taken just several days ago.
One of the most thorough tests I have ever taken was called the “SDS,” or Self-Directed Search. Sub-titled “A Guide to Educational and Career Planning,” this assessment was portrayed as the “state of the art” in career assessment guides. Of course there is a disclaimer of sorts. The section entitled Next Steps states, “Remember: no one but you can make your vocational decision. Our knowledge of careers is too limited to provide you with a single, exact choice, but we can help you focus on some of the more likely possibilities.” Fair enough, but consider the wide-eyed teenager who is just trying to find a fit.
The test asks questions about various skills and catalogs the results in six areas. Based on the three highest scoring categories, career possibilities are recommended. Although space does not permit elaborating on each of the six categories, one does demand attention. I scored lowest in the artistic (A) category. Because I can’t draw or play music or do any of the other things considered by many to be “art,” it was not recommended that I entertain careers that were considered artistic. However, all careers that had anything to do with writing or journalism had an (A) designator. Apparently, to be considered a writer, one must possess other artistic talents as well. My 19-year-old self would have been steered away from what turned out to be my passion due to an interpretive flaw and consequent deference to “expert” opinion. Fortunately, my 40-year-old self was not so easily taken.
The most recent profiling tool I used was one that draws some very specific conclusions based on minimal input. In fact, as the instructions were given, there were two options; one ostensibly would produce more “accurate” results while the other less time consuming option would return more general results. “True Colors” also had the added benefit of foretelling how others might view some of my “qualities” as anything but. My results two weeks ago returned a “true color” of green. However, when I took the same profile through the Tickle web site only a little more than one year ago, I was a “blue.” Although I can’t be absolutely sure of how my specific circumstances have changed in one year’s time, I do know that no major changes in my life have occurred in the last year. The results, therefore, should have been the same.
Lastly, I took the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II. After paying $19.95 for the complete report, I discovered I am an ISTP. Perhaps the “S” stands for sucker. Nevertheless, with my pockets $20 lighter I was pleased to discover that I am highly introverted (I), moderately sensatory (S), a little more thinking (T) than feeling and more perceptive (P) than judgmental. Nice. Then I took the Jung Typology Test and found it to be nearly identical to the Keirsey. It even used the same standard code for the resulting personality type. Imagine my surprise to find out I had another personality lurking in the background. Jung results: INTP. However, the weighted percentages in each of the four areas were not as close as the code would lead us to believe. For example, Jung had me as a borderline introvert whereas Keirsey pegged me as a veritable recluse. These two tests were taken minutes apart.
Like fortune telling and horoscopes, the characteristics given for many of these profiles are broad and ambiguous; virtually anyone could be squeezed into any category. If the fit seems a stretch, just wait a little while or slightly change the wording of the questions. Some of these profilers proclaim remarkable consistency and repeatability. This has not been my experience - ever, and I’ve been around a while. The tests are fun, they are interesting and offer some insights that can be useful, but to take them as seriously as their creators would have us - disclaimers and caveats aside - is irresponsible bordering on dangerous. Imagine making major life decisions based on some faceless clinician’s diagnosis disguised as a personality assessment. The best way to find out what we’re made of is by real-world experience - not Scantron psychoanalysis.