4 Minute read
Chances are that at some point in your life, you’ve been exposed to a type of personality assessment. Whether your work team collectively took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment in hopes of being able to better understand and interact with one another, or you came across a quiz online to see which Harry Potter or Game of Thrones character your personality most closely resembles. The intention underlying these assessments is largely the same: to shed light on the unique characteristics and tendencies that make you, you (and in the latter case, those that you may also share with your beloved fictional characters). Below we address some of the most frequent questions we receive with respect to personality assessments.
What exactly is personality?
Personality traits reflect consistencies in the way we think, feel and act across situations and over time. This is not to say that humans act in a manner that is 100 percent consistent across all situations, as we know this is not the case. However, people do tend to have patterns to their behaviours, and these patterns can reflect our personalities. In terms of how our personality develops, the answer is similar to that of most concepts in psychology: both nature and nurture. In fact, research suggests that approximately 40 to 50 percent of variability in personality is attributable to genetic influences.
Can my personality change or is it fixed?
While personality traits inherently necessitate some degree of stability across situations and time, there are some exceptions. For instance, there is substantial evidence suggesting that personality can and does change over the lifespan. You are probably not the exact same person as you were when you were a teenager. However, the good news is that these changes are somewhat predictable. For example, people tend to become more agreeable (i.e. cooperative, forgiving, good-natured and tolerant) with age, and this tends to be true across the board. Other emerging research also suggests that major life events such as changes in marital status and unemployment, can also lead to changes in one’s tendencies and behaviors.
There are so many personality assessments, aren’t they all the same?
Personality assessments are not created equally — some do a poor job of telling you accurate and reliable information about yourself. If you are going to spend time and energy completing a personality assessment, you want to ensure that the information you receive is accurate.
A few things to look out for are whether a scale is reliable, valid, and comprehensive. Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant does a great job of defining these concepts while also using them to dissect the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the popular MBTI assessment. Other popular but not so great assessments include Color Code, and DiSC. As Grant suggests, assessments derived from research, such as the Big Five and the HEXACO models of personality, are better alternatives to some of their more well-marketed but less evidence-based counterparts.
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This work has been funded by Viewpoint Foundation.