Type-based personality tests are junk “science”

Dr. Michael Wilmot, an I-O Psychologist who studies the theoretical structure of personality assessments, stated, “The thing about personality types is that they’re very interesting to talk about and they have been an object of public fascination for ages. But with modern, more robust research methods, most of these older typological claims are turning out to be spurious.”

“Personality” is far more nuanced and complex than an overly simplified generalization or category. It’s not an isolated trait uninfluenced by context, culture, behavior, and a thousand other factors. Of this, Dr. Katherine Rogers, a personality psychologist, said, “We know that personality doesn’t work in types. . . . I wouldn’t trust the Myers and Briggs to tell me any more about my personality than I would trust my horoscope.”

In an analysis on the conceptual structure of personality tests, Michael Wilmot, Jingyuan Tian, Nick Haslam, and Deniz Ones show that structuring personality into “types,” although fun, is false. There is no such thing as a personality “type.”

According to the Big Five theory, “personality” is not viewed as a “type,” but rather, as five factors (Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience) in which an individual has a percentile rank against the general population. Research shows that wherever you “score” on each of the five factors will change throughout your life

This same analysis by Wilmot, Tian, Haslam, and Ones also shows that wherever you rank on any of the five factors has a great deal to do with the season of life you’re in, and is also predicted by the particular roles you’re in (e.g., if a role requires higher conscientiousness then you’ll see that until you leave that role). Singapore Management University found that work environment and culture can change your personality.

Nathan Hudson and Chris Fraley shows that approximately 90% of the population want to change at least some aspect of their personality for the better. Nathan Hudson and Brent Roberts found that through goal setting and effort, that you can make intentional changes to your personality (e.g., if you want to become more organized, you can do so). Christopher J. Soto shows that if you believe your life is meaningful, then making changes to your personality can come easier.

An article by Mirjam Stieger, Sandro Wepfer, Dominick Ruegger, Tobias Kowatsch, and Brent Roberts discusses how you can make some degree of change in even a two-week intervention targeting a specific aspect of your personality. Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson show over a 10-year period of time, your personality will change a great deal. However, even when people can see the difference between their former and current selves, people often under-predict the level of change they’ll experience in the future (i.e., end of history illusion).

Type-based personality tests like Myers-Briggs, DISC, and Enneagram are junk science. There is no such thing as a personality “type.” That’s a gross oversimplification and stereotype that leads to mindlessness, both about yourself and other people.

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