The Pseudo-Science of Personality Tests

Personality Tests are very popular as of late. They’re in magazines and on the internet in every shape and form. They claim to be able to find your true love, your ideal career and uncover the true you. Most of the ones on the internet are 40-100 questions long. Personality tests in magazines can be as short as 5 or 10 questions. Sometimes personality tests are used by psychiatrists but these are usually have about 600 questions. Psychiatrists use these tests with discretion because they are aware of the pit falls of putting people into boxes.

I have no problems with people taking little personality quizzes as long as they’re treated as something you do to kill five minutes. But they have been appearing in school and they take them seriously. They are just a little higher quality than the ones in magazines but are just as ridiculous in the claims they make.  They all have figured out the perfect equation for putting people into their idle roles in the work place, society and life. They all aim to be used in every office in every school. And they all want to change the way we see ourselves.

I have taken four  personality tests. Two at a summer camp I attended last year and two through public school. They were all exactly the same. The only differences were the guy with letters after his name changed and the four or five magic categories that every person on the entire planet fit into had different names.

At the summer camp mentioned above I spent a exhausting five hours taking two personality tests. The first was a career assessment. I confirmed what I already knew. I’m into science and art. The second was a personality assessment. It aimed to find out whether we draw energy internally or externally. A bit of woo-esque  phraseology that boils down to do we like to spend the evening alone or with friends. The test itself made me want to laugh out loud. Once you remove the changes in scenarios all the questions went something like this: “Do you like to spend the evening alone or with friends?”

I call personality tests a pseudo-science not because the question do not tease out the true us with subtle psychoanalysis, as they claim to, but, to anyone paying attention, are as obvious as a blow to the head. They are another form a quackery because, like the cure all drugs of snake oil salesmen, they have a simple answer to a overarching question/problem with hundreds or thousands of different variables. The 600 question tests used by psychiatrists are backed by science but the 40 question tests given to me by my teachers have low to no evidence to support them. Other than their sole developer has a PhD in something. I don’t even know if it’s in psychology.

They’re a fun thing to do in your free time but I don’t believe personality tests have a place in public school. I think one-on-one time with a counselor, even if it is just for ten minutes, would do a world more good. Let’s put the person back in personality.

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Lyra Lynx

Lyra Lynx


  1. the Green Onion
    June 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm —

    Couldn’t agree more. Ten minutes one-on-one time with a counselor, or just striking up a conversation with that strange kid in homeroom, are simple steps towards a world where people have enough self-confidence to trust themselves and not personality tests.

  2. im_robertb
    July 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm —

    I’m finishing a BA in psychology. I was attracted by the article’s title, preparing to post a rebuttal. But I agree with everything said in this article; the title just paints with a bit too broad of a brush.

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