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Measuring Personality

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Measuring Personality

Have you ever found yourself taking an online quiz to find out what kind of dog you would be? Well, as most of us know these quizzes don't hold any significant meaning, but they do highlight our desire to categorize and understand our individual personalities.

Personality testing is a lot more specific and measurable than those fun online quizzes, and they can offer us some real insight into ourselves and the people around us.

  • How is personality measured?
  • What are different ways of measuring personality?
  • What are problems with measuring personality?

Measuring Personality Traits

Personality is the sum of someone's characteristics, how they think, behave, and feel. Assessing personality can be difficult, as many different people might agree on similar basic self-truths. These self-truths might look like statements such as, "I have the tendency to be self-critical". While many people might agree with this statement, a statement like this would not be an accurate way to measure someone's personality.

Personality is someone's characteristics, how they think, behave, and feel.

In order to assess someone's personality, psychologists can use various standardized testing methods. These tests are designed to be reliable and valid, unlike the self-truth statement mentioned earlier. Reliability has to do with the consistency of the test's measurements. This means that the more times you take the test, the result will be the same.

An example of a reliable test is a weight scale. It will give you the same result each time. Validity refers to the test actually measuring what it is designed to measure. An example of validity is how the same scale is meant to measure weight, and is only able to measure weight. It would not be valid to use a weight scale to measure height.

Reliability has to do with the consistency of the test's measurements. Validity refers to the test actually measuring what it is designed to measure.

Personality assessments are helpful for many things. These assessments can help us learn about ourselves, help us understand our differences with others, figure out the kind of work we might enjoy, and reach a better understanding of human behavior. Taking a personality test is often something that is done for personal understanding, but it can also be something that employers use to make hiring decisions.

Measuring Personality in Organizational Behavior

Lots of major companies use personality tests to make hiring decisions. It is important to use a personality test that is reliable and valid for a purpose like this. Some companies are known to use vague or non-reliable and non-valid questions. Appropriate personality tests will be able to measure something specific. This helps direct the test to be more reliable and valid, as well as help direct an organization towards finding a candidate with a specific trait they are looking for. Even if they use a reliable and valid test, organizations should not make any hiring decisions based entirely on the results of a personality test.

Measuring Personality, organizational behavior as reflected in applicant files, StudySmarterApplicant personality profiles, pixabay.com

Humans are a lot more complex than a single test can reflect, so reviewing an applicant's tests as well as application materials is the best way to get a more accurate idea of the candidate. This is partially due to the fact that personality tests can be reflective of our environment. The results can also be impacted by a bad mood, or poor testing environment. For example, if you take an assessment right after a break-up, you might score differently than if you were not breaking up, or happily single.

Psychometric Measures of Personality

There are several different psychometric measurements of personality. Psychometrics refers to the measurement of psychological characteristics and different traits in a person.

Direct Observation

Direct Observation is a form of personality measurement involving the observation of people by a psychologist who looks for patterns in behavior. This is the type of measurement often used in behavioral assessments. A psychologist may observe a child to assess how many times the child misbehaves in class.

Projective Test

Projective tests focus on using ambiguous stimuli to help uncover and understand a person's unconscious thoughts and feelings. A good example of a projective test is called the Rorschach test, where a client is asked to describe what he or she is seeing based upon an inkblot. The Rorschach test includes 10 white cards with individual inkblots, some in black and grey, and some in color. The way the individual processes the image and thinks of an answer is used to help identify parts of their personality.

Measuring Personality, psychometric measures of personality, a Rorshach inkblot, StudySmarterRorschach inkblot, pixabay.com

Self-reported Tests

Self-reported personality tests are the most common form of psychometric measurement. They involve taking a personal inventory and answering a series of questions about your own experiences and behaviors. Popular self-report tests are the Myers-Briggs type indicator test, the internal-external locus of control scale, and the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2).

MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2) is the most commonly used adult psychometric test to measure personality. The MMPI was originally developed in 1937, and the MMPI-2 was revised and published in 1989, with updates as recent as 2009. It is administered by psychology professionals and used to evaluate various personality and psychiatric traits. It contains 338 questions in the form of self-reported true/false questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Psychology professionals evaluate the test results by the pattern of responses.

Personality Traits, Their Classification, and Measurement

So we know that psychologists and individuals can use psychometric assessments to measure personality traits, but what are the traits that psychologists want to measure?

The Big Five are the top traits in personality testing, and they provide a lot of information about our personalities. These traits are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion.

Conscientiousness is a spectrum from disciplined and goal-oriented to disorganized and unstructured.

Agreeableness is a spectrum from trusting and affectionate to unsympathetic and suspicious.

Neuroticism is a spectrum from calm and stable to moody and emotionally unstable.

Openness is a spectrum from spontaneous and creative to practical and routined.

Extraversion is a spectrum from outgoing and sociable to reserved and preferring solitude.

You can remember the 5 words by thinking of the acronym C.A.N.O.E.

While these traits are somewhat stable over a person's life, they can also change as a person ages. For example, conscientiousness often increases as a person gets older and learns to balance more responsibilities.

The "Big Five" can also be used to predict behaviors. Those who score high on extroversion will likely prefer to talk on the phone, while someone who scores high on introversion might prefer text or email over the phone. Additionally, those who are higher in conscientiousness often get better grades and wake up earlier. Those who score lower on agreeableness might struggle with marital issues.

Issues in Personality Measurement

Finally, issues in personality measurement involve the consideration of racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. Someone's culture can impact the way their personality is measured, and it can impact a person's unconscious personality. People often relate a project test, like the Rorschach test, to their own culture. For example, someone might see an image from cultural mythology, like the bigfoot or the mythological monster Medusa.

Culture can also change direct observation results because it can deeply impact customary behavior. For example, it is not uncommon to sit on the ground on a cushion in Japan to eat dinner, but the same action of sitting on the floor in America would be considered strange. Additionally, culture can impact self-perception or how someone might self-report their own traits on a personality test.

There are several important questions to ask about the validity and reliability of personality measurement. One issue is that our personalities can be influenced by other people or circumstances. This is highlighted in the Person-Situation controversy. This highlights how various behaviors might genuinely change based on our setting. When you are hanging out with a certain person that you really like, you might display a higher level of agreeableness. You might act differently around that person than you would at work around your boss or coworker that you find annoying.

The person-situation controversy describes how some behaviors and traits may change, but it also points out things that are more stable. Often things like music taste, decor preferences, online profiles, and writing style are traits that stay stable and point to our true personalities.

Another issue in personality measurement is the Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne effect is sometimes an issue in direct observational testing. It is when people change their behavior because they know they are being observed. The Hawthorne effect can cause a big issue in the validity of direct observation if those being observed are aware they are being observed and why. If a baby stops playing with toys and stares at the observer as soon as they enter the room, that would be an example of the Hawthorne effect.

The Hawthorne effect is when people change their behavior because they know they are being observed.

Overall, personality measurements can be useful tools to better understand human behavior and ourselves, but it is important to remember that there are limitations to measuring personality as well.

Measuring Personality - Key takeaways

  • Personality is someone's characteristics, how they think, behave, and feel.

  • There are several different psychometric measurements of personality. Psychometrics refers to the measurement of psychological characteristics and different personality traits.

  • Projective tests like the Rorschach test focus on using ambiguous stimuli to help uncover and understand a person's unconscious thoughts and feelings.

  • The Big Five are the top traits in personality testing, and they can provide a lot of information about our personalities. They are Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Extraversion.

  • The Person-Situation controversy highlights how various behaviors may change based on our setting.

  • The Hawthorne effect is when people change their behavior because they know they are being observed, and it is often an issue in direct observational testing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Measuring Personality

Personality assessments are helpful for many things. These assessments can help us learn about ourselves, help us understand our differences with others, figure out the kind of work we might enjoy, and reach a better understanding of human behavior.

  • Self-report tests
  • Direct observation
  • Projective tests
  • Interviews
  • Psycho-analysis

There are several tests that can be used to measure personality, One commonly used test is the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2).

The most common way that personality traits are measured is through self-reported questionnaire testing. 

Final Measuring Personality Quiz

Question

Personality tests are designed to be _____ and _______.

Show answer

Answer

Reliable, valid

Show question

Question

Companies should make hiring decisions based only on personality testing. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

 _______ ________ is a form of personality measurement that involves the observation of people by a psychologist looking for patterns in behavior.


Show answer

Answer

Direct observation

Show question

Question

________ ______ focus on using ambiguous stimuli to help uncover and understand people's unconscious thoughts and feelings.


Show answer

Answer

Projective tests 

Show question

Question

____________ personality tests involve someone taking a personal inventory and answering a series of questions about their own experience and behavior.


Show answer

Answer

Self-reported 

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Question

The Big Five are known as the top traits that can provide a lot of information about our personalities. True or false?

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Answer

True 

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Question

The big five traits are: 


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Answer

Conscientiousness

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Question

The Person-situation controversy is: 


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Answer

How various behaviors might genuinely change based on our setting.

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Question

When people change their behavior because they know they are being observed that is called ______ ______ _______ .


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Answer

the Hawthorn effect 

Show question

Question

Someone's culture can impact the way their personality is measured. True or false?

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of the following is NOT a Big Five personality trait? 

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Answer

Psychoticism 

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Question

Allison is generally a good worker, however, when her supervisors step on the floor, she makes sure to work harder than usual. 

This scenario is an example of what? 

Show answer

Answer

The Hawthorne Effect 

Show question

Question

True or False: 

Psychometrics refers to the measurement of psychological characteristics and different personality traits.

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: Personality is someone's characteristics, how they think, behave, and feel.

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: Validity refers to the test measuring what it is designed to measure. 

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or False: Reliability refers to the test measuring what it is designed to measure.  


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Jackson's parents think that he is gifted; to make a diagnosis, Jackson's doctor asks to watch him complete some puzzles and a test. 

This scenario is an example of a: 

Show answer

Answer

Direct Observation

Show question

Question

When was the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2) published? 

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Answer

In 1989

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Question

How many questions are on the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2)? 

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Answer

338 questions 

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Question

How do psychology professionals evaluate the test results on the MMPI-2 (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2)? 


Show answer

Answer

Psychology professionals evaluate the test results by the pattern of responses. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT an example of a self-reported test? 

Show answer

Answer

The Rorschach Test 


Show question

Question

How many cards are used on the Rorschach test? 

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Answer

10 Cards

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Question

Which if the following is an example of a projective test? 

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Answer

The Rorschach Test

Show question

Question

What type of test is the Rorschach test? 

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Answer

It is a Projective Test

Show question

Question

What is the acronym used to remember the Big Five personality traits? 

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Answer

C.A.N.O.E.

Show question

Question

True or False: Extraversion is a spectrum from outgoing and sociable to reserved and preferring solitude.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or False: Neuroticism is a spectrum from spontaneous and creative to practical and routined. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or False: Openness is a spectrum from calm and stable to moody and emotionally unstable.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or False: Agreeableness is a spectrum from trusting and affectionate to unsympathetic and suspicious.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or False: Conscientiousness is a spectrum from disciplined and goal-oriented to disorganized and unstructured.

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

What does the C in C.A.N.O.E stand for? (Refer to the Big Five)

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Answer

Conscientiousness

Show question

Question

What does the A in C.A.N.O.E stand for? (Refer to the Big Five) 

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Answer

Agreeableness

Show question

Question

What does the N in C.A.N.O.E stand for? (Refer to the Big Five)  

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Answer

Neuroticism 

Show question

Question

What does the O in C.A.N.O.E stand for? (Refer to the Big Five)   


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Answer

Openness 

Show question

Question

What does the E in C.A.N.O.E stand for? (Refer to the Big Five)  

Show answer

Answer

Extraversion 

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