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Psychometric testing and the myth of personality types

Over the past few years I have become a podcast enthusiast (some may even say, bore!). I love the fact that I can be driving, running, name it, while learning or being entertained...and often both. One of my favourite podcasts is from the BBC World Service Documentaries, and a while back, I listened to a particularly good 2-part podcast that looked into psychometric testing.

I was very familiar with the concepts and with some of the most popular tests, including the Myers Briggs, which is the main one discussed in this podcast. (You can also read the BBC article here.)

Much of what covered in the documentary reinforced some uneasy feelings I have always had about these types of test. Many tests appear clumsy, where there are 'either/or' decisions to be made without any context, and where you might actually see both answers as relevant to you. They tend to be really long, and can be pretty tedious. Furthermore, if they are being used as part of a recruitment process, they can be 'played'. A person I know very well went for a high powered sales job a couple of years back. He decided almost immediately that he didn't want the job, so had some fun with the psychometric test. He answered all of the questions as he said "as if I were a sociopath". He was called back for a second interview because the company felt he had the drive and the personality they were looking for!!!

There is also the uneasy notion that, while there is a human need to belong and psychometric testing offers a way of being part of a group ("I'm a..., what are you?"), the 'result' also labels us (a point that is explored in the documentary). And, a really scary thing for me was, these tests are being used with high school students. Once a student has a label or box in which to place themselves, who is to say that this won't limit what and how they explore the world going forward - again, eloquently discussed in the documentary.

See what you think...the podcasts did little to allay my fears, and much to reinforce my uneasiness as psychometric tests gain in popularity in all walks of life.

How do people from different companies use psychological assessments in the workplace? podcast part 1:

Lucy Ash asks if personality tests are a journey of discovery.: podcast part 2:


Personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

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