|The four temperaments as illustrated by Johann Kaspar Lavater|
A personality test is a questionnaire or other standardized instrument designed to reveal aspects of an individual’s character or psychological makeup. The first personality tests were developed in the 1920′s and were intended to ease the process of personnel selection, particularly in the armed forces. Since these early efforts of these test, a wide variety of personality tests have been developed, notably the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the MMPI, and a number of tests based on the Five Factor Model of personality. Today, personality tests are used in a range of contexts, including individual and relationship counseling, career planning, and employee selection and development.
There are many different types of personality tests. The most common type is the self-report inventory, also commonly referred to as objective personality tests. Self-report inventory tests involve the administration of many questions/items to test-takers who respond by rating the degree to which each item reflects their behaviour and can be scored objectively. The term ‘item’ is used because many test questions are not actually questions; they are typically statements on questionnaires that allow respondents to indicate level of agreement (using a Likert scale or, more accurately, a Likert-type scale). A sample item on a personality test, for example, might ask test-takers to rate the degree to which they agree with the statement “I talk to a lot of different people at parties” by using a scale of 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 5 (“strongly agree”). The most widely used objective tests of personality is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) which was originally designed to distinguish individuals with different psychological problems. Since then, it has become popular as a means of attempting to identify personality characteristics of people in many every-day settings.  In addition to self-report inventories, there are many other methods for assessing personality, including observational measures, peer-report studies, and projective tests (e.g. the TAT and Ink Blots).
The meaning of personality test scores are difficult to interpret in a direct sense. For this reason substantial effort is made by producers of personality tests to produce norms to provide a comparative basis for interpreting a respondent’s test scores. Common formats for these norms include sten scores, and other forms of standardised scores.
A substantial amount of research and thinking has gone into the topic of personality test development. Development of personality tests tends to be an iterative process whereby a test is progressively refined. Test development can proceed on theoretical or statistical grounds. Theoretical strategies can involve taking psychological or other theory to define the content domain and then developing test items that should in principle measure the domain of interest. This can then be accompanied by assessment by experts of the developed items to the defined construct. Statistical strategies are varied. Common strategies involve the use of exploratory Item Response Theory are additional complimentary approaches.
There are several criteria for evaluating a personality test. Fundamentally, a personality test is expected to demonstrate validity.
A respondent’s response is used to compute the analysis. Analysis of data is a long process. Two major theories are used here; Classical test theory (CTT)- used for the observed score (see Lord and Novick, 1968), and item response theory (IRT)- “a family of models for persons’ responses to items” (Mellenbergh, 2008); see Hamleton and Swaminathon (1985) for a full summary of IRT. The two theories focus upon different ‘levels’ of responses and researchers are implored to use both in order to fully appreciate their results.
Firstly, item non-response needs to be addressed. Non-response can either be ‘unit’- where a person gave no response for any of the n items, or ‘item’- i.e., individual question. Unit non-response is generally dealt with exclusion (Mellenbergh, 2008). Item non-response should be handled by imputation- the method used can vary between test and questionnaire items. Literature about the most appropriate method to use and when can be found here (Ader, Mellenbergh & Hand, 2008).
The conventional method of scoring items is to assign ’0′ for an incorrect answer ’1′ for a correct answer. When tests have more response options (e.g. ordinal-polytomous items)- ’0′ when incorrect, ’1′ for being partly correct and ’2′ for being correct (Mellenbergh, 2008). Personality tests can also be scored using a dimensional (normative) or a typological (ipsative) approach. Dimensional approaches such as the Big 5 describe personality as a set of continuous dimensions on which individuals differ. From the item scores, a ‘observed’ score is computed. This is generally found by summing the un-weighted item scores.
Criticism and controversy
Biased test taker interpretation
One problem of a personality test is that the users of the test could only find it accurate because of the subjective validation involved. This is where the person only acknowledges the information that applies to him/her.
Application to non-clinical samples
Critics have raised issues about the ethics of administering personality tests, especially for non-clinical uses. By the 1960s, tests like the MMPI were being given by companies to employees and applicants as often as to psychiatric patients. corporate capitalistic mentality.
In the 60s and 70s some psychologists dismissed the whole idea of personality, considering much behaviour to be context specific. This idea was supported by the fact that personality often does not predict behaviour in specific contexts. However, more extensive research has shown that when behaviour is aggregated across contexts, that personality can be a modest to good predictor of behaviour. Almost all psychologists now acknowledge that both social and individual difference factors (i.e., personality) influence behaviour. The debate is currently more around the relative importance of each of these factors and how these factors interact.
One problem with self-report measures of personality is that respondents are often able to distort their responses. analyzed data of 5,266 applicants who did a personality test based on the big five. At the first application the applicants were rejected. After six months the applicants reapplied and completed the same personality test. The answers on the personality tests were compared and there was no significant difference between the answers. So in practice, most people do not significantly distort. Nevertheless, a researcher has to be prepared for such possibilities. Also, sometimes participants think that tests results are more valid than they really are because they like the results that they get. People want to believe that the positive traits that the test results say they possess are in fact present in their personality. This leads to distorted results of people’s sentiments on the validity of such tests.
Several strategies have been adopted for reducing respondent faking. One strategy involves providing a warning on the test that methods exist for detecting faking and that detection will result in negative consequences for the respondent (e.g., not being considered for the job). Forced choice item formats (Item Response Theory) approaches have been adopted with some success in identifying item response profiles that flag fakers. Other researchers are looking at the timing of responses on electronically administered tests to assess faking. While people can fake in practice they seldom do so to any significant level. To successfully fake means knowing what the ideal answer would be. Even with something as simple as assertiveness people who are unassertive and try to appear assertive often endorse the wrong items. This is because unassertive people confuse assertion with aggression, anger, oppositional behavior, etc.
Personality testing is frequently used in psychological research to test various theories of personality.
Research published by David Dunning of relationship with an individual are better judges of the individual’s relationships and abilities. These workers have studied a large body of investigations into self-evaluation, indicating that individuals may have flawed views about themselves and their social relationships, sometimes leading to decisions that can impact negatively on other persons’ lives and/or their own.
A study by American Management Association reveals that 39 percent of companies surveyed use personality testing as part of their hiring process. However, ipsative personality tests are often misused in recruitment and selection, where they are mistakenly treated as if they were normative measures. More people are using personality testing to evaluate their business partners, their dates and their spouses. Salespeople are using personality testing to better understand the needs of their customers and to gain a competitive edge in the closing of deals. College students have started to use personality testing to evaluate their roommates. Lawyers are beginning to use personality testing for criminal behavior analysis, litigation profiling, witness examination and jury selection.
Dangers of Such Practices
Examples of personality testsIt is easy for personality test participants to become complacent about their own personal uniqueness and instead become dependent on the description associated with them. This can be potentially dangerous with persons who are already suffering from a form of identity disorder or may be a catalyst to instigate particular behaviors in a person who was previously believed to be of sound mental health. The severity of the damage that individuals can sustain to their personal identity was made clear during the case Wilson v Johnson&Johnson in which the plaintiff (Wilson) sued his former employer (Johnson&Johnson) for irreparable damages that resulted from the over abundance of personality tests being administered in the workplace. Wilson argued that repeated questioning and scrutiny of his personality was a cause of strain and eventually breakdown. In this historic case, Wilson was awarded $4.7 million after jurors agreed that excessive testing caused strain and led to unnecessary scrutiny resulting in personal grief. Similar cases have been tried since and won, but none with such magnitude as this first monumental case that won mental health rights for employees.
- The first modern personality test was the shell shock.
- The Rorschach inkblot test was introduced in 1921 as a way to determine personality by the interpretation of abstract inkblots.
- The Thematic Apperception Test was commissioned by the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in the 1930s to identify personalities that might be susceptible to being turned by enemy intelligence.
- The psychopathology in a clinical setting.
- World War II by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs.
- Ernst Kretschmer‘s four types.
- The Raymond Cattell and his colleagues in the 1940s and 1950s in a search to try to discover the basic traits of human personality using scientific methodology. The test was first published in 1949, and is now in its 5th edition, published in 1994. It is used in a wide variety of settings for individual and marital counseling, career counseling and employee development, in educational settings, and for basic research.
- The Five Factor Personality Inventory – Children (FFPI-C) was developed to measure personality traits in children based upon the Five Factor Model (Big Five personality traits).
- The EQSQ Test developed by Professor empathizing-systemizing theory of the male versus the female brain types.
- The Personal Style Indicator (PSI) classifies four aspects of innate behavior by testing a person’s preferences in word associations.
- The Personality and Preference Inventory (PAPI), originally designed by Dr Max Kostick, Professor of Industrial Psychology at Boston State College, in Massachusetts, USA, in the early 1960s evaluates the behaviour and preferred work styles of individuals.
- The Strength Deployment Inventory, developed by Elias Porter, Ph.D. in 1971 and is based on his theory of Relationship Awareness. Porter was the first known psychometrician to use colors (Red, Green and Blue) as shortcuts to communicate the results of a personality test.
- The ProScan Survey is an instrument designed by Professional DynaMetric Programs, Inc. (PDP) to measure the major aspects of self-perception, including an individual’s basic behavior, reaction to environment, and predictable behavior. It was originally developed beginning in 1976 by Dr. Samuel R. Houston, Dr. Dudley Solomon, and Bruce M. Hubby.
- The Newcastle Personality Assessor (NPA), created by Daniel Nettle, is a short questionnaire designed to quantify personality on five dimensions: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientious, Agreeableness, and Openness.
- The DISC assessment is based on the research of William Moulton Marston and later work by John Grier, and identifies four personality types: Dominance; Influence; Steadiness and Conscientiousness. It is used widely in Fortune 500 companies, for-profit and non-profit organizations.
- The Winslow Personality Profile measures 24 traits on a decile scale. It was mentioned in the Disney movie 
- Other personality tests include the Enneagram of Personality.
- Kaplan, R., Saccuzzo, D. (2010). Psychological Testing: Principle, Applications, and Issues. (Eighth Edition) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
- Arendasy, M.; Sommer, Herle, Schutzhofer, Inwanschitz (2011). “Modeling effects of faking on an objective personality test.”. Journal of Individual Differences 32 (4): 210–218.
- Hogan, Joyce. “Personality Measurement, Faking, and Employment Selection”. American Psychological Association. filebox.vt.edu/r/rammu/Research%20Methods%20Articles/Hogan.pdf.
- Blinkhorn, S., Johnson, C., & Wood, R. (1988). Spuriouser and spuriouser:The use of ipsative personality tests.Journal of Occupational. Psychology, 61, 153-162.
- McGhee, R.L., Ehrler, D. & Buckhalt, J. (2008). Manual for the Five Factor Personality Inventory – Children Austin, TX (PRO ED, INC).
- Porter, Elias H. (1971) Strength Deployment Inventory, Pacific Palisades, CA: Personal Strengths Assessment Service.
- Houston, S.R. and Solomon, D., Personal Dynamics Profiles Occupational Survey, Research Monograph, 3, 4, and 5, 1978-1983.
- Nettle, Daniel (2009-03-07). “A test of character”. The Guardian (London). www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/mar/07/personality-test.
- “How to Build the Perfect Batter”. GQ Magazine. www.winslowresearch.com/gq-article.html. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- “Winslow Online Personality Assessment”. www.winslow-assessment.com/personality-assessment/. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- International Personality Item Pool- public domain list of items and scales used in personality tests.
- Employment testing
- Forer effect
- Learning styles
- Objective test
- Projective test
- Psychological testing
- Sexological testing
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article personality tests, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.