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  • Are you an INFP or an ESTJ?

  • What about your Minnesota Multiphasic results, or how did you do on your Rorschach test?

  • The Big Five?

  • There are dozens of personality tests and assessments with varying degrees of utility.

  • Which tests are backed by science, and which tests are more entertaining than helpful?

  • Let's find out.

  • Dr. Jubbal, MedSchoolInsiders.com.

  • For those who are new here, I earned my MD a few years ago, matched into plastic surgery,

  • and ultimately resigned, but that's a story told on my vlog channel.

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  • While personality assessments and tests have blown up in the past century, they originated

  • for a simple purposehelp with personnel selection in the armed forces.

  • More specifically, the developers of these tests hoped that by studying personality and

  • potential mental health issues, one would be better able to determine which soldiers

  • were better or worse suited to fly military aircraft.

  • Since then, dozens of personality assessments have emerged, each with a different theory

  • on personality and how to best describe it.

  • Our understanding of personality and models to describe and approximate it are purely

  • human inventions, not concrete sciences.

  • Each system has its own language and ideology, theories and philosophies in determining which

  • traits are determinative and how to go about assessing them.

  • How should we categorize traits?

  • Are they binary or plotted along a bell curve?

  • While seemingly based in science, few have truly followed any resemblance of the scientific

  • method.

  • In fact, most assessments were built on the creators' subjective feelings about personality,

  • rather than rigorous scientific protocols.

  • For that reason, most personality tests tell us less about the individuals who take them

  • and more about the individuals who devised them.

  • For example, Hermann Rorschach was the Swiss psychiatrist who turned a parlor game into

  • the iconic inkblot test.

  • Starke Hathaway was a Midwestern psychologist who found it important to ask questions about

  • religious beliefs, sex life, and bathroom habits in his Minnesota Multiphasic Personality

  • Inventory, or MMPI for short.

  • If you've gotten to your psych rotation in medical school, you've likely heard of

  • the MMPI-2.

  • And of course, there's Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs, the mother-daughter housewife

  • duo who studied Carl Jung's texts and were inspired to create a personality test despite

  • having zero background, training, or credentials in anything psych related.

  • Myers and Briggs are credited for creating the all too famous Myers Briggs Type Indicator,

  • or MBTI for short.

  • According to CPP, the publisher of the MBTI, itmeasures four pairs of opposing preferences,

  • which are inborn and value-neutral, to form a person's four-letter type.”

  • The assessment discerns betweenExtraversion (E) or Introversion (I),” “Sensing (S)

  • or Intuition (N),” “Thinking (T) or Feeling (F),” and Judging (J) or Perceiving (P),”

  • resulting in 16 different personality types, like ENFP or ISTJ.

  • A few decades after the birth of the MBTI, a group

  • of scientists began developing what would become the Big 5 Personality Traits, or the

  • 5-Factor Model.

  • Rather than relying on their intuition to select criteria for their test, they compiled

  • every word that could be considered a personality trait and created simple questions about them.

  • For example, on a scale of 1 to 5, would you say you get upset easily?

  • Do you follow a schedule?

  • Based on these answers, the statisticians grouped traits that seemed to cluster together,

  • such as talkative and sociable, in to five basic categories: Extraversion, Conscientiousness,

  • Agreeableness, Neuroticism, and Openness to experience.

  • Chances are that you've heard of Myers Briggs, but maybe you weren't aware of the Big 5

  • or its more recent derivative, the HEXACO test.

  • Why is that?

  • Some suggest its because of the thousands of people who have invested time and money

  • in becoming MBTI-certified trainers and coaches.

  • Others say it's because the test focuses only on the positive and therefore it seduces

  • test takers with an image of their own ideal self.

  • I argue that the biggest reason for its success is the neatly organized and binary manner

  • of the test.

  • There are four categories, each with a binary option.

  • It's easy to comprehend, easy to explain, and you're able to readily identify with

  • one of 16 tribes.

  • As as humans, we love our tribes.

  • Other personality tests, on the other hand, are not binary and are more of a continuum,

  • which is less entertaining, less easily understood, and less sexy.

  • But unfortunately for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, people and their personalities

  • are not binary, but are much more on a continuum.

  • You're not a pure introvert or a pure extrovert, but usually somewhere in the middle.

  • The insights of the MBTI are comparable to tarot cards or palm readingbeing generic

  • enough such that when you read your description, you can certainly identify with parts of it,

  • but it's not a truly accurate and comprehensive depiction of who you really are.

  • When scientists look at such personality tests and assessments, two primary elements come

  • to mindvalidity and reliability.

  • Validity is a measure of how well a test measures what it claims to measure.

  • Within validity, there are different types, such as content validity, criterion-related

  • validity, construct validity, and face validity.

  • Reliability is a measure of whether the test reliably indicates accurate results, meaning

  • you would get the same results if you took the test more than once.

  • Unfortunately for the MBTI, it receives piss poor scores on both fronts.

  • In one study, researchers found that 50 percent of people received different results the second

  • time they took the test, even just five weeks later.

  • Other studies have found similar results ranging from 24-61% of people receiving different

  • results when taking the test multiple times.

  • The MBTI misses the mark in a few other ways, including one key element of personalityemotional

  • stability versus reactivity, meaning the tendency to stay calm and collected under stress or

  • pressure.

  • This is one of the most important predictors of individual and group patterns of thought,

  • feeling, and action.

  • The judging-perceiving scale reflects whether the test taker is more of a planner or the

  • spontaneous type, but it overlooks the industriousness and achievement drive that accompany these

  • characteristics.

  • Together, they form a personality trait called conscientiousness.

  • Lastly, in the binary system of the MBTI, traits are mutually exclusive.

  • For example, under this model, thinking and feeling are on opposite ends of a single spectrum,

  • meaning that if you are drawn to ideas and data, you cannot also have a preference for

  • people and emotions.

  • But research has demonstrated the exact opposite,

  • that people with stronger thinking and reasoning skills usually also demonstrate better emotional

  • intelligence, being able to recognize, understand, and manage emotions.

  • While it's a sad story for MBTI, there's

  • good news for the Big Five.

  • The test was shaped by an empirical process and while not perfect, most studies since

  • have demonstrated more acceptable levels of validity and reproducibility.

  • So far, studies have demonstrated considerable power in predicting job performance and team

  • effectiveness.

  • Some researchers have even mapped the big five to relevant brain regions.

  • And while the Big Five model is far from perfect, there's growing support for a HEXACO model

  • of personality, which is essentially the Big Five with an addition of a sixth trait: honesty-humility.

  • Despite the Big Five being far superior than Myers Briggs from a scientific validity and

  • reproducibility standpoint, I don't think it will catch on, at least for lay people.

  • It's just more catchy and easier to say you're an INTP than saying you're 56%

  • on openness and 35% on neuroticism.

  • People sometimes expect personality tests to tell them some hidden secrets to their

  • character.

  • But the truth is that a personality test can only tell you what you tell it.

  • Accuracy with the test is entirely based on how honest and self-reflective you are with

  • your answers.

  • If I told the test that I'm a super patient and one to readily forgive, it would sure

  • make me feel good, but I would just be lying to myself.

  • But I'd argue there's still utility to personality tests, even if they're all far

  • from perfect.

  • And sure, entertainment should be one of the top reasons.

  • Let's be real, including your Myers Briggs on your online dating profile makes for a

  • good conversation starter.

  • The real utility is in that it facilitates the process of introspection and reflection.

  • Taking a personality assessment helps someone consider some of their strengths and weaknesses,

  • and begin having some important but difficult conversations.

  • The most insightful realizations I've had in my own behavior, in my own ways of possible

  • growth, wasn't from seeing the results of a personality test, but from speaking with

  • close friends and family about areas of improvement.

  • A personality assessment is by no means a prerequisite, but it can definitely help you get started.

  • For those who are newer to self-reflection, personality tests can help you consider possible

  • blindspots.

  • While Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies is far from a perfect model, it helps one consider

  • what external and internal factors motivate them to behave in certain ways.

  • I even made a video applying her model to student life, helping you determine how to

  • understand your personality tendency and use a variety of strategies and hacks to force

  • yourself into being a better student based on that tendency.

  • Now were the four tendencies a scientifically valid and reproducible model?

  • The data is lacking, and I wouldn't put my money on it, but hundreds of comments from

  • students who successfully implemented and improved their performance is good enough

  • for me.

  • Other critics are quick to stay that your personality is fixed and resistance is futile.

  • It's a waste of effort.

  • Why even try to change or improve yourself?

  • Speaking from personal experience, I'd say you have far greater power over your own personality

  • than you'd expect.

  • It's just that most people fail to make any significant changes because they don't

  • put in the proper effort in changing their systems.

  • In fact, a recent meta-analysis demonstrated that approximately 40% of a person's personality

  • is due to genetic influence, while 60% can be attributed to environmental effects.

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