P.T. Barnum was an American Showman. Now the trick he was most famous for was fortune telling. He could look anyone in the eye and read their personality. His abilities were not unlike the personality tests of today.
The difference is that these test reinforce stereotypes about people that are harmful and limiting.Now, back to Mr. Barnum. You’re probably still wondering how his fortune tellings seemed so accurate. His trick was to be ambiguous and to describe human traits, for example,”Nobody understands you,”or,”You are a nice person.” Whether or not both of those are true about the person was something Barnum never knew.
But, what he knew was that people hate to deny good things about themselves.Bertram Forer was a psychologist who sought an insight into the allure of fortune telling. He set up a personality test for his students. Then, he gave them all the same result to see how gullible they would be. Their “personalized profile” was actually a combination of various astrological readings. He instructed them to rate the accuracy of their “results” on a scale of zero to five.
The average rating was 4.26 out of 5.But, how does this all relate to personality tests nowadays that claim to be accurate? Well, the answer is that they are about as science based as scientology, horoscopes, and astrology. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, also known as the MBTI, is the most widely used personality test to sort out good job applicants from bad ones in the U.S. .
Every year, 2 million people take the test. In the corporate world, the test is seen as a very accurate way to predict job outcomes, but not by psychologists. In the words of Adam Grant, a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania,”The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.(Casswell)”Even though the test is widely used by companies, they did not create it.The Principles of the MBTI were conceptualized by a Swiss psychologist named Carl Jung. When Carl Jung studied psychology, it was an undeveloped field. He did not use the scientific method to test his theories nor did he have any peers to review his work. Jung organized personality traits into 4 different categories, each including 2 different types.
For each of these categories, people are labled as one way or the other. There was no place in between. One thing Jung made clear was that every individual was an exception to the rules. Of course, Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs forgot this part. It was World War Two.
In the U.S., there were many citizens eager to help. The problem was choosing who would get which job. This is where Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs come in. Katherine Briggs had been reading up on Jung’s theories. She thought that it would be a good idea to use the 16 types to determine who had the right personality for any job. They gave each of these types titles, like the Logician, the Director, the Consul, and the Mediator.
The test was created around the fundamental idea that people are all one type or the other type. It reaches that conclusion by asking questions like “You tend to use logical thinking when solving problems”and having only two answers: “I agree” or “I disagree.” The problem is that there are no good reason to support dividing people into these categories. Observing people’s interactions with others, for instance, reveals that pure thinker and pure feelers are nonexistent, and that most people think logically and have a moral compass. All the categories in the MBTI utilize these kinds of gross generalizations, and psychologists say they aren’t a useful way of distinguishing between different personality types.
Even the results Myers-Briggs test show that most people score somewhere in the middle of each category. In fact, 85% of people who take the test get a different score.This is why some psychologists have transitioned from studying about personality traits to personality states and why it’s hard to find an actual psychologist anywhere who uses the Myers-Briggs with patients.Just like Barnum’s performance, this isn’t a test made to accurately categorize people, but rather a test designed to produce flattering results. None of the 16 types are described as gossipy, selfish, angry, or any other negative way to describe. This is one of the reasons the MBTI pervades corporate culture without scientific explanation.While people who take the test don’t benefit from it, the CPP certainly does, making $20 million dollars every year. If private companies want to waste their money on the MBTI, that’s their decision, but, about 200 government programs reportedly use it.
These include but are not limited to the FBI and CIA. That is taxpayer money that has gone down the drain that could’ve been spent on services that improve peoples lives.The test also raises other problems. We don’t need to seperate ourselves into categories to make society function. Race, gender, age and religion already do that too much.
Our society should focus on uniting people regardless of their traits and values, not stereotyping them.