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Personality Testing




Personalitytesting refers to a standardized instrument such as a questionnairecreated to evaluate characteristics of a person’s psychological orcharacter composition. The initial personality test was designed, in1920s, to assist in determining suitability of armed forces recruitinto the profession. Since then, a variety of other tests such as theMMPI, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and Five Factor Modelof personality have become popular. The industry is worth over $2billion. The personality tests are applicable in a variety of fieldsincluding career counseling, relationship counseling, customerinteraction management, occupational health and safety, as well asemployment testing.

Personalitytesting concepts focus on improving communications, motivation,relationships, and management efficiency in a business environment.They accomplish the objective through helping individuals tounderstand themselves and others inside out (Cisson, 2009).Behaviorists claim that a good understanding of people’s characteris critical to unleashing elusive human qualities such as empathy,leadership, and motivation (Aamodt, 2013).


TheBenziger’s theory is one of the key philosophies describing naturalbrain thinking, working styles, preferences, and personalityassessment approach. Katherine Benziger’s emphasizes on appropriateand ethical application and development of personality review ininternational business environment. Her theory is based on thedetermination of brain function and energy utilization in the brain.Eric Berne`s Transactional Analysis is another personality theoryemployers and managers use to improve the work environment(Muchinsky, 2009). The philosophy is also known as the “parentadult child’ theory, and it is still under development. The mainapplications of the philosophy are in fields such as relationships,personal behavior, communications, management and personaldevelopment, which are essential to facilitate improvement ofemployees. The Abraham Maslow created the Maslow theory, which isbased on the Hierarchy of Needs Model (Aamodt, 2013). The philosophyis relevant in modern business environment as it is crucial forunderstanding management training, personal development, and humanmotivation required to achieve self-actualization. Lastly, JohnStacey Adams developed the equity theory, which focuses on factorsthat enhance job motivation. The philosophy expands beyond personalmotivation to include influence and comparison with other individuals(Kasmer, 2004).

Researchmethods and development

Personalitytesting theories are developed using various research techniques anddevelopment. However, the self-report inventory is the most widelyused tests. The tests involve giving the test-takers severalquestions, which is respond by indicating the extent at which eachitem influences them (Muchinsky, 2009). The tests are designed in theform of a questionnaire. The observational measure is anotherresearch method used to develop personality tests. Researchersinteract with the research participants in their regular workenvironment so that they can observe their characters (Kasmer, 2004).This qualitative approach to data collection helps researchers toacquire reliable information, especially if the subjects are notaware they are being evaluated. The peer-report studies are anothercommon research group and personality test development procedure thatinvolves analyses of an individual’s behavior based on thecharacteristics of people in assorted work environments. Theprojective tests such as the Ink Blots and TAT are other generalexamination strategies. Currently, the Minnesota MultiphasicPersonality Inventory (MMPI) is the most common objective researchdesign and development used in the development of personality testing(Aamodt, 2013).

Theoreticalor deductive methods involve acquiring a previously developedpsychological or other philosophy to describe domain content, andthen creating test items that match the main measure in the field oninterest. The test items are then continuously eliminated based onthe result of the most powerful internal eligibility for the scale(Boyle et al., 2008).

Researchersdo also apply diverse statistical methods such as the confirmatoryand exploratory factor analyses to confirm that components that arelisted in one group are empirically suitable to be classified in thesame category. The Item Response and Reliability analysis theoriesare other complementary statistical approaches (Butcher, 1971). Theinductive research technique begins by analyzing a big group ofcomponents that have no theoretical relationship, then associating itwith a large group of individuals that enable researchers to evaluatenatural association between the variables. The “Five Factor Modelof personality” is based on this strategy (Advances in experimentalsocial psychology, 2011)

Keyresearchers and research groups

Someof the key researchers in the personality testing include ErnestTupes and Raymond Christali who developed the “Five Factor Model”(FFM), which investigates diverse research groups based onconsciousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion(CANOE) (Advances in experimental social psychology, 2011)

CharlesSpearman is a major researcher and is accredited for developing thefactor analysis research method. This research technique mainlyaddresses variable groups that influence and determine humancognitive performance (Butcher, 1971).

DoctorKatherine Benziger, the developer of Benziger’s theory, is anotherkey researcher. Her research groups were based on personalityassessment, natural brain preferences, working and thinking styles ofdifferent persons. Her test is based on qualitative research methodsince it is more of an assessment of human behaviors. Her researchtechnique differs from the ‘personality testing’ since personalinterests of research participants are a priority. In “personalitytests,” the interests of the organization are instead given apriority (Butcher, 1971).

EricBerne’s “Transactional Analysis” is another common researchtechnique. The philosophy has vast applications in therapeutic,clinical, personal, and organizational development, behavior,management, relationships, and personality related studies. The modelis effective in helping individuals in understanding themselves, aswell as other people (Aamodt, 2013).

Criticismand controversy

Accordingto Paul (2004), the “biased test taker interpretation” ismisleading since researchers only find tests precise depending on thevalidation procedure used. In addition, the researchers have toassume that the responses participants give during such testsrepresent the personality of the respondents, and this might not betrue. Butcher (1971) adds that the researcher has to assume that thepersonality is a constant and reliable component of the humanbehavior or mind.

Theapplication of the personality tests in non-clinical environmentsraised controversy on corporate ethics. Back in the 1960s, severalcompanies gave the MMPI tests to the employees on several occasions,just as they were doing on psychiatric patients (Paul, 2004).However, sociologists such as the William Whyte criticized the testssince they were nurturing the domineering groupthink that led to thedevelopment of the mid-twentieth century “Organization Man(Butcher, 1971).”

From1960s to 1970s, many psychologists dismissed the entire personalityidea since they assumed that behaviors are dependent on givencontexts. The researchers supported the idea through the fact thatindividual behaviors in some contexts do not predict one’spersonality. However, further research in personality behaviors haverevealed that when individual behaviors are compiled in diversecontexts can help to define a person’s personality (Butcher, 1971).

Lastly,the personality tests are not 100% efficient considering thatrespondents can fake information to give their desired impression.The emotional responses are, especially, the most affected sincerespondents pick answers that are based on their ideal person insteadof the actual person (Aamodt, 2013).

Inconsistenciesin research and future research paths

Personalityinconsistency has become a critical consideration amongpersonologists to the extent many researchers consider it as anindependent predisposition in a study. Kasmer (2004) asserts that theBig Five model is quite stable and adds to the prognostic legitimacyof personality determinants. This suggests that inconsistency can becategorized as an attribute, and indexed to suit psychological models(Paul, 2004).

Accordingto Craig (1999), a recent study indicated that research participantscould deliberately distort the information they acquire frompersonality tests. The researcher observed data of 5,266 applicantswho failed to qualify for jobs in a given company based on theirpersonality test, which was designed using the big five model. Thefirst time, the applicants were found ineligible (Craig, 1999).However, six months later they resubmitted the same test, butmanipulating some sections of the test to give it higher credibility.The applicants passed the test, although they had given informationthat could suit the characters the company required. Amazingly, theinconsistencies between persons who gave true information and themembers that faked the information were insignificant. This suggeststhat distorted information is a major source of inconsistency inpersonality tests (Paul, 2004).

Inorder to overcome the inconsistency problem in future studies, Janda(2001) proposes application of statistical techniques that are moreeffective and accurate. One of the reliable statistical researchtechniques includes the theoretical and deductive research method,which begins with taking previously developed research information.The researcher then chooses data that can suit his or her domain ofinterest when applying the principles set by the previous study. Inaddition, the empirical research is another method that can help tocontrol inconsistencies as the deductions are based on confirmabledata (Janda, 2001).


Aamodt,M.G. (2013). ApplyingPsychology to Work.Wadsworth Incorporated Fulfillment.

Paul,A.M (2004). TheCult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us toMiseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and MisunderstandOurselves.Simon and Schuster.

Butcher,J. N. (1971). Objectivepersonality assessment.New York: General Learning Press.

Kasmer,P. M. (2004). Responseinconsistency and inference accuracy on the Revision Form Children`sPersonality Questionnaire.

Craig,R. J. (1999). Interpretingpersonality tests: A clinical manual for the MMPI-2, MCMI-III, CPI-R,and 16PF.New York: J. Wiley &amp Sons.

Advancesin experimental social psychology.(2011). London: Academic Elsevier.

Janda,L. H. (2001). Thepsychologist`s book of personality tests: Twenty-four revealing teststo identify and overcome your personal barriers to a better life.New York: Wiley.

Boyle,G. J., Matthews, G., &amp Saklofske, D. H. (2008). TheSAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment: Vol. 2.London: SAGE Publications.

Muchinsky,P. M. (2009). Psychologyapplied to work: An introduction to industrial and organizationalpsychology.Summerfield, NC: Hypergraphic Press.

Cisson,R. H. (2009). Atreatment of selected criticisms of personality testing: A researchreport presented to the faculty of the Graduate School, TennesseeTechnological University.Cookeville, Tenn: s.n..