An Overview of Personality Testing

My field of study is the psychology behind personality testing.  It is so widely used by the public and professionals that an understanding of various aspects of the tests is vital.  I aim to decrease misuse of the tests and educate the public on how the test results are fabricated.  Elaboration might also be helpful on the benefits of test typing and ways in which it can be improved upon for more professional use. It falls under personality psychology, and is a sub field of psychology, which is the study of the mind.


History of Personality Tests

Personality testing has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates categorized peoples’ temperaments based on the four different bodily fluids, blood, mucus, black bile, and yellow bile, according to a Colorcode article. This study is called Humorism.  Personality psychology then expanded broadly in the 20th century.  The first accepted testing instrument developed, the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet, by Robert S. Woodworth, was created in 1917 to test potential soldiers for mental disorders.  Further personality tests were created from there by psychologists such as Rorschach, Freud, and Jung.  Jung’s test, Psychological Types, categorized people into four functions; sensing, thinking, feeling, and intuition.  Later on, Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers expanded on Jung’s test to create the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).


Value of Personality Tests

Many of these tests made their way to the public and professionals alike. But, why are they so valued? Many theories are available on why personality tests are popular.  Jordan Shapiro wrote in a Forbes article, “My theory is that it is a collective manifestation of a psychological function that Sigmund Freud called displacement.” Sociologist Christine Whelan believes that people love talking about themselves, or answering personal questions. Lindsay Holmes wrote in a Huffington Post article,” The more insight you have into how you operate, the easier it is to determine what your best and worst traits are.” This theory may give someone an insight on how to make their next decision.  Others, such as Avery Hurt in a Mental Floss article, believe that the tests are so popular because you cannot fail it.

Professional Uses

As mentioned previously, personality testing is occasionally being used by some professionals to type their employees and their applicants.  Occupational psychology is common in large corporations to help their employees, and to help find qualified applicants. According to Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 29% of employers use one or more forms of psychological measurement or assessment. These tests are sometimes used to do so. Personality typing is also used in dating websites to find more compatible matches.


This post is just a summary of the history of personality testing and its current popularity.  Personality typing is an ongoing topic of discussion in the realm of personality psychology currently, with new opinions coming out continuously.

Have you taken a personality test? What were your results? How accurate was the test? Would you use it in your company?


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