Using Personality Testing For Anything But Party Games Is Unethical

Go ahead: change my mind.

Right on cue, after we were discussing why some elite universities were eschewing standardized test scores (that elite minorities inexplicably don’t tend to perform as well on as whites and Asian-Americans, though nobody can say why, at least out loud) and wondering what criteria schools might resort to instead to let them discriminate on the basis of race (you know, “affirmative action”) without appearing to do so, here comes the New York Times with an article about the growing popularity of so-called “personality tests.”

I should have seen itcoming. At least the report injects some skepticism into the analysis (“Critics are quick to point out that some of the tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which churns out four-letter distillations of personality, are about as reliable at predicting success in a professional endeavor as sorting candidates by astrological signs or Magic 8 Balls”), but what the report doesn’t do is state a simple fact: there is no reliable way whatsoever to measure the accuracy or value of such tests.

An outgrowth of psychology, which might be the most disappointing, unreliable and underachieving pseudo-scientific discipline of them all (if not an outright fraud), these tests purport to reduce the infinite complexity and variety of human behavior to something that can be quantified and measured by a test lasting a couple hours. Bollocks, as our British readers might say.

At best, such tests engage in stereotypes based on Big Data, gross generalities and dubious theories that may evaporate next week. A career consultant once ran me through two full days of personality, aptitude and related tests to advise my parents regarding what colleges their unusual son would be best suited to attend. Two results were reported: my test results were so contradictory and eccentric that no reliable conclusion could be determined, but the consultant was certain that I would be best suited to a small, competitive, liberal arts college where I could be a “big fish in a small pond.” So I went to Harvard.

“Well THAT was a waste of time and money!” my father said at the time.

Quoth the Times:

But personality testing has also gotten more rigorous in recent years. Organizational psychologists have developed assessments that are more fair and grounded in research. Some of these tests use the “Big Five” personality traits, which psychologists have found to be consistent across populations: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

“Human behavior is complex, people are complex, situations are complex,” said Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and executive coach, noting that studying personalities in all their complexity is still helpful for career development. “Psychometrics can help identify what are some potential areas where a person might need coaching or feedback, or where a person might have blind spots.”

And to one whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. There is no way, literally no way, that anyone can prove the value of personality testing except in extremes: yes, I concede that if every ink blot makes a subject think about killing his father, there is a reason to be wary. Other than that…

More from the Times:

And plenty of companies hail their benefits. Nearly one-third of the respondents to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2017 survey of its members said they used personality tests to fill executive roles. At McKinsey & Company, some consultants do “due diligence” when staffing projects, which often means looking at the balance of introverts and extroverts on a team. There’s a running joke that the company is full of people who got E.N.T.J. on Myers-Briggs (the extroverted and organized type of person most likely to run for student council president). College fund-raising offices love the Color Code, which among other things tells you who can best work the phones (yellows).

Well of course they do, because most managers are as bad at assessing human complexities as anyone else, and using “scientific” tests creates the illusion of precision where there is none.Then, if the hire is a bust, the manager can blame the test. Interviews are also lousy devices for deciding who to hire, and interviewers have their own biases that are nearly impossible to separate from their decision-making. It’s far better to use a standard test created by and tainted by the biases of complete strangers….isn’t it?

I never applied for a job that required taking a personality test. If one had been required, I would refuse to take it, and make it very clear why. That would have given the recruiters more insight into my personality than any test.

30 thoughts on “Using Personality Testing For Anything But Party Games Is Unethical

  1. We use personality type testing occasionally at work for our team to help us understand the root of each other’s biase toward certain types of conclusions.

    They have worked better to inform us of each other than people simply defending themselves, but certainly not well enough to predict much of anything.

  2. Thank you for validating a long held opinion of mine regarding such tests. The Meyers Briggs test was routinely used in the 90s at the college I worked for. It was BS then so I assume it is still BS.

    • I don’t. I have taken other tests since then, one every year along with my ethics students at a special training for new state legislators. I didn’t store the name of the test in my memory banks….

      • Well, you are probably way ahead of me then.

        I don’t recall ever having taken a personality test.

        Not sure I would test positive.


    • I spent a “work term” in college at the Stevens Institute of Technology testing the tests and well remember the MMPI. It contained the question “who do you like best, your mother or your father?” which struck me as the epitome of a host of unanswerable and otherwise useless queries. I burst out laughing and was asked to leave the program. Reporting this back to the college with some trepidation – this was a non-resident but graded term – I was asked to write a report on the incident. The school sent a copy of the report to SIT. The copy was sent back with a handwritten thank-you for “contributing to the evaluation” of the test. I never heard if any changes were made.

  3. I know a manager who believes strongly in personality testing, and focuses heavily on the Clifton Strengths profile. He has convinced everyone that it is the way to go and has every one of his employees list their five strengths in order on their work emails, just like some places want preferred pronouns. Everyone I have talked to about this seems totally bought into it. I volunteer here, and thus don’t have to have my Clifton profile done, but when I was introduced to my supervisor (T), he introduced himself as a strategist, which means that he knows how to get from point A to point B in the best possible way, but has a weakness with communication, so we should just all do what he says without question, because he knows better than we do and he doesn’t have time to communicate. If you want someone who is good at communicating, talk to person H. Another of my supervisors (D), introduced herself with her main strength, the ability to think out her problems very well, but as a down side, she must have time to think, so don’t bring her a problem and expect a solution that week. She needs quiet time to work it out.

    This is not a way to introduce yourselves, in my opinion. Frankly, I’d rather be known for who I am and let you determine what you think my strengths and weaknesses are, rather than a self reported test that gives me, however accurately, an assessment of those things I am strong at and tells me to make them stronger. I’d rather work to be a well rounded person. I’d also rather think of myself, not as a combination of personality traits, but as a whole person, a person who may have strengths and weaknesses, but who can work to overcome weaknesses and may let certain strengths flounder as a choice.

    Even if strengths are good things to have, we have to work on our weaknesses too. Frankly, T lets his “strength” in strategizing be an excuse for acting like a controlling jackass. If something doesn’t work perfectly, he blames it all on others, and says we didn’t listen enough. He cannot handle changing conditions, because they throw off his plan, so he gets stressed and pushes people badly. I have nearly quit because of him, but am too stubborn and want the experience for later in life. D uses her “strength” as an excuse to not organize or prepare for anything, all with the excuse that she didn’t have adequate time to think through the problem. If a problem arises needing a quick solution, she shuts down totally, claiming that there is nothing to be done, and won’t accept anyone else’s solution to the problem. We go from about to do our work to completely cancelling our work in moments.

    These personality tests, be they Meyers Briggs, Clifton Strengths, or any other test are, at best, a statement on who you are at the moment. I admit, I have many things in common with the Meyers Briggs ISTJ and I do think of Spock as a kindred spirit. However, I am not a combination of letters or personality traits. I am a human, with strengths and weaknesses, and my responsibility is to cultivate my strengths as I choose and shore up my weaknesses within reason. I wish to be a person who is always changing for the better until the day I die. A personality test can, at best, tell you who I was at the time I took it, but if my goal is to improve myself daily, it cannot tell you who I am now.

    • Sarah B.

      Never heard of Clifton Strengths.

      However, from Wikipedia:

      “ To take the Gallup Test, individuals typically complete an online questionnaire that asks them to rate their level of agreement with a series of statements related to each of the 34 themes. ”

      Now, I know I am truly horrible at rating my agreement with series of statements. To the extent I don’t want to answer arbitrarily, I don’t want to be too mean, or too complimentary.

      Also, I have never taken Meyers-Brigg, but my license plate does start with “NTJ.” If that is not short for “NutJob,” I would need to figure out whether I am an “I” or an “E.” My initial thought is, “it depends.”

      And THAT may be the only value of personality tests: they may spur you on to examine the message of the Delphic Maxim to “Know Thyself.” Unfortunately, the use of personality tests is often to fulfill the maxim to “Know Thee,” which is neither a Delphic Maxim nor something the test is likely to accomplish.

      I also have not taken the MMPI; so, technically, there is no diagnostic evidence that I am a sociopath, so I got that going for me.


      • I’ve taken that Gallup assessment when applied to their organization more than a decade ago.
        Seems appropriate for a polling organization to leverage their competency to screen their workforce. Didn’t get the job, but might as well have as the job I did land assessed us annually via Gallup to measure “engagement”, and to provide “anonymous” feedback to leadership.
        One co-worker was quite annoyed that his direct manager easily deducted the authorship of his complaint.
        About every three years we find a different surveying company to administer these engagement scores. Gotta burn that standard of measure regularly so progress remains enigmatic.

    • A post in and of itself, Sarah. I’d call it a comment of the day, but that’s our esteemed host’s call.

      “Human behavior is complex, people are complex, situations are complex.” And that’s why God created serious fiction! Among the many disappointing courses I took during college (at the urging of my English professor academic advisor who didn’t want me to just take English courses; he thought undergrad was a time to be exposed to as many disciplines as possible) was sociology. God, it was disappointing and awful. I thought it was a study of society, but it was a hapless attempt to call itself a science, and nothing more. Of course, the psychology department was Behaviorist (talk about psychology being a goofy endeavor) because B.F. Skinner had been an undergrad there (as had William Masters of Masters and Johnson fame). Some wag had scrawled some graffiti on the basement wall in the bowels of the stacks in the library: “Life’s a rat race.” –B.F. Skinner.

    • Wow. I just looked at the list of Clifton Strengths and read some of the descriptions, and that is quite the hodgepodge. I can’t tell that whoever compiled this list has any idea of the processes underlying these different skills, or how they relate to each other.

      Applying concepts from the Foundational Toolbox for Life to T’s situation, I’d assert that strategy mindset actually goes quite well with semantics mindset. Semantics is one of the two mindsets marking the ends of the communication axis (the other being empathy mindset). Combining strategy with semantics yields clarification mindset, which among other things ensures robust transmission of information. If T has trouble with clarification mindset, he should work closely with someone who can use it to ensure his plans are understood, and try to pick up a few things.

      However, it actually sounds like he might be decent with organization mindset but not very good with strategy. If he were using strategy mindset effectively, changing conditions wouldn’t disrupt his plan. An easily disrupted plan that gets “from point A to point B in the best possible way” is more of an organization mindset issue, because sometimes “maximum efficiency” isn’t robust against non-ideal conditions. T definitely sounds motivated by control, though, if he assumes that his influence will yield predictable results and should not be interfered with. He may need to learn how strategy mindset really works.

      D sounds like she might be missing organization mindset, strategy mindset, and tactics mindset (all of which help people see paths forward). If she “thinks out her problems very well” it sounds like she’s trying to use another mindset (like analysis) to compensate for those blind spots, but that’s very inefficient. (Or she’s using organization mindset but in a dysfunctional manner; I know how that goes.) I suspect she also have trouble turning observation mindset off, which would limit her ability to make reasonable assumptions and thus further slow down her decision-making process.

      I appreciate that trying to make sure each decision won’t break things is a rare quality in corporate leadership, but she’s taking it far enough that it’s causing a different and un-leaderlike set of problems, not to mention giving conscientiousness a bad name. A effective wielder of strategy mindset can identify a path and proceed with the confidence that nothing important will break and anything that does break can be easily dealt with.

      I concur with your perspective on strengths (and weaknesses) as something to be developed as needed rather than a static set of statistics. I’ve spent my entire adult life learning how to more effectively use organization mindset so that I can stop being like D.

      What baffles me about human civilization is that people like T and D end up in charge of anything, let alone that they graduate from an educational institution with such huge gaps in their foundational skills. I suppose the optimistic viewpoint is that when the public is presented with a viable cure for dysfunctional leadership, there will be no shortage of enthusiastic supporters.

      • EC,

        The problem is not that some of these strengths aren’t intertwined, but that the the upper management is sold on the idea that you have five strengths and you only need to work on those five strengths. The upper management, with whom I do not interact with regularly, tests everyone at a certain level and above and reports those strengths. In other words, they do not test people and then hire them, but test the hires. That is probably the better way to do things, but that means that these people are being told to look at their strengths, work at them and them alone, and to not worry about their deficits. This means that they barely even know what the other 27 strengths are, much less what ones work well together. T has his five and they mean X. D and H (his direct reports) have their main strength that he knows and the other four are…whatever they are. That’s their responsibility to know and work with.

        Why T and D get the exact strengths they get is based on self reporting. They handed people out a sample of the extremely long questionnaire to pique interest. I took that sample quiz quickly, just to see what I could see. This involves a whole bunch of statements requiring answers of gradations of agreement. A statement could be, “I usually plan things well” or “I need time to think through my problems.”

        I believe that the first problem is having everyone take a test that requires that they know themselves. I personally think that T has quite the ego and would state that he plans things well, whether or not he actually does. D, on the other hand, is fairly self effacing in all areas except ones that she is very strong in. Getting her to say that she agrees or disagrees with a statement, unless it involves music, her kids, or her little brother is a process in and of itself. I believe that I could study up on Clifton for a while and then target the test to get whatever score I wanted, but if I went in cold I’d get a hodgepodge of answers that wouldn’t actually describe me well. I tend to answer these questions differently depending on the day, who I dealt with, and what actually happened recently.

        People like T and D get their jobs because they are qualified by other means. They are two of the triumvirate that leads the music branch of a larger organization. They both have PhD’s in music. I’m not sure about T’s exact degree, but D has a PhD in piano performance. They are phenomenal piano players, and T is amazing on the organ as well. They blow my skills out of the water, no question. However, if my opinion means anything, I believe that I am a superior accompanist to either of them, since performance skills are not accompaniment skills and vice versa. They got out of their educational institutions with the mindsets needed to be superior musicians, not leaders. My degree is in engineering, not management. I am a good engineer, but hate managing people. My education is not the fault of that, but if I were to have the ambitious desire to be a manager, I would need to overcome my lack of people skills or be promoted because of my engineering skills because those would be seen as more important.

        This management issue is exactly as Jack has described the potential problem with the new Democratic FAA head. Do you want a manager who is skilled at the subject matter being managed, or someone who is skilled at managing? Each is fraught with problems. Subject matter experts can handle the details and can help when sticky situations come up that requires a great deal of knowledge, but don’t inspire people to work well. Managers can bring out employees’ best work, but if a situation comes up where expertise is needed, cannot handle the problem. Which is better? It is hard to find a subject matter expert who can also manage. In my engineering discipline, we have to have a lot of foundational knowledge and managing people just doesn’t make the grade. Musicians spend all their time alone in practice rooms, so don’t learn to manage often. On the other hand, there often aren’t enough subject matter experts who also got an MBA. Where is the line drawn? I have no answer.

        • If I understand correctly, the idea is that everyone chooses a few things to claim to be skilled at, and everyone else is required to treat them as if they are skilled at those things and accommodate them in everything they said they were not skilled at? There are ways of uniting management skills with subject matter competence, but that doesn’t sound like one of them.

          Perhaps the easiest way, though not necessarily the most efficient, is to have managers who are skilled at managing and support them with subject matter experts who are skilled at explaining the fundamentals of their craft and translating specific situations when they come up. Of course, the manager still has to show they understand what’s at stake when they make judgment calls.

          If someone can be skilled at the technical details and at management, that’s wonderful. Otherwise, the management skills and subject matter skills don’t all need to be in the same head all the time, but everyone should at least understand the foundational principles of what everyone else does. Furthermore, people need to be able to communicate with each other, even if that communication is facilitated by a third person. At least, that’s how my institution mindset suggests to do things. How does that sound?

          • EC,

            First, in an attempt to be fair to the organization I volunteer for as an accompanist, the process isn’t exactly as you point out if someone tries not to game the system. People self-report in a lengthy test their opinions are both opinion and fact based statements. Statements that indicate the strength strategy in this assessment might be:
            I prefer planning to spontaneity. (Agree with a 10)
            When I plan, things never work out the way I want. (Disagree with a 1)
            Along with many others questions for the topic, as well as 31 other topics.

            I personally see this as problematic, as I think that I do well at planning, but today my plan was totally derailed because my happy four-year old turned into a monster the instant I suggested we do something I thought she’d like. If I am someone who likes planning and tends to view my successes more than my failures, I’d answer the second question very differently than someone who focuses on failures equally or more than successes. The self-reporting component, as well as the fact that we all have inherent biases that this test does nothing to alleviate lead to a list of “skills” that we all have to trust people have and accommodate them in things they are not skilled at.

            I agree that this is a failed model of how to manage people. As for your suggested example, I think that it has merit in some instances, but not others. In the organization I volunteer for, that would work out well. Truly, you do not need a genius musician to organize and plan for other musicians. A person who can organize and communicate could run us well, with the amazing musicians taking a secondary role and lesser musicians like myself having the opportunity to chime in when the work load gets a little hard and we need some easier music.

            Conversely, my old job suffered from having managers not be subject matter experts. In certain operations, decisions where money, the environment, and human safety hang in the balance, there isn’t always time to consult with multiple people. A decision has to be made and made quickly. The answer cannot be preserve money at the expense of someone’s life or destroying the environment, but it also cannot be lose tens of millions of dollars to make it 100% safe, or keep the environment clean by harming people and completely wrecking your bottom line. When you take a complicated process worth millions of dollars a day and something goes wrong, you have to know what you are doing to make the right choice.

            As an example, I had a situation that I believed to be a fireball waiting to happen, but a colleague of mine who did not work my exact position argued was totally safe. I then spec’ed out a mitigation plan that involved 4″ pipe for delivery and a 1″ orifice plate for measurement purposes. However, I was unable to be present for installation of my fireball suppression plan as I had fatigued out and OSHA has opinions about that. The manager on site found that it was much simpler to install a 1″ tubing line than a 4″ pipe for a temporary issue, believing my colleague’s statement that this was an unnecessary step, and not knowing the difference between a 1″ plate and a 1″ pipe, called it good. Long story short, we blew a 30 ‘ high fireball in to the sky, nearly destroyed a catalyst servicing truck, and put a half dozen men in deadly danger, forcing them to work at 400F for a day in suits that really weren’t rated for quite that hot. A manager sometimes needs to know the subject matter because they can’t get experts for the decision or they listen to the wrong expert.

            • (In retrospect, I probably should have stayed in this thread, since this is the one most people would be watching for replies on. I only realized afterward that the Comment of the Day posts may not need to generate their own discussion threads as long as they draw attention to the original comment, which other people might not have seen. Sorry for the confusion!)

              Now that you mention it, I realize that the self-reporting approach, while vulnerable to people who are not very self-aware regarding their strengths and weaknesses, has the distinct advantage of being easier to administer than a battery of tests of all kinds of problem-solving skill, especially when some of those skills (according to the CliftonStrengths list, at least) are subtle, long-term, or spontaneous. In that case, the main problem is when people leave no room for the assumptions based on the test to be proven wrong (or at least unhelpful) in practice.

              It makes sense that some jobs would require a person to be prepared to make rapid decisions involving technical and organizational factors. Hopefully those positions are rare enough that we can find enough people who can handle integrating all of those areas of expertise and take the time to equip them with it. However, I aim to help make it easier to educate people on any topic, thereby expanding the pool of candidates for those positions beyond the people who just happen to “have a knack” for everything.

              From your addendum in the COTD thread

              Addendum: which subject matter expert should you listen to? The one with 30 years experience in the field but who has never worked specifically high temperature high pressure hydrogen, or the one with only 3 years experience, but who works high temperature high pressure hydrogen units daily? A managerial type may have trouble answering that question.

              My instinct is to defer to the one who works with high temperature high pressure hydrogen units daily, because their experience is calibrated for the situation at hand. I am also cautious to a fault, but I would also hope the convention when dealing with high temperature high pressure hydrogen units is to defer to the employee who said “these measures are necessary for safety” over the employee saying “these measures are an unnecessary use of time and money”.

              The balance between robustness and efficiency is part of what defines strategy mindset, with the interstitial mindsets of security on one side (higher certainty) and standardization on the other (higher efficiency). When confronted with a new situation, I figure that a manager should be prepared to ask, “What are the conditions under which something could go wrong? What are the odds of those conditions? What are the consequences if something does go wrong? How are we prepared to deal with those consequences? And how did we arrive at these conclusions?” That process can be done fairly rapidly if people are experienced and prepared for it.

              Thanks for the perspective, Sarah! Hearing about people’s experiences with different professional contexts helps with making sure the Foundational Toolbox for Life can readily help people identify constructive approaches in tricky situations.

  4. Myers Briggs is for charlatans, designed by charlatans. MYERS and her daughter Briggs devised it based on their “understanding” of Jungian psychology, although neither studied psychology, psychometrics, or statistical analysis of reliability or validity. The only studies indicating it has any validity are those sponsored by the organization that promotes Myers Briggs. Should be the MYERS Briggs Crock inventory. On the other hand, there have been many peer reviewed studies of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Inconclusive. I faked that unfakeable test in 8th grade to achieve the recommended career path I knew I did not want! I have studied psychology extensively, and statistical analyses probably even more extensively. BS (and we all know what that means), MS (more of the same) but declined to go PhD (piled higher and deeper) and did a side step to JD (just damned).

    • Michael,
      That is interesting, because I expect that most personality tests can be faked with some form of game theory. My impression of the MMPI is that it is harder to faked because of the sheer volume of questions, variations on questions and groups of questions geared to specific things that get spread throughout the list of questions.

      I don’t doubt that it can be fooled; I just suspect that, for a large majority of the population, the test is hard to fake. That’s not to say the test accurately tests what it thinks it tests, just that the taker is not smart enough to dictate the outcome.


  5. I have never put much stock in personality tests, although I completed a number of them in various leadership development courses I attended during my career. Often the results were contradictory, and/or they offered no real insights into anything I with which I wasn’t already aware.
    My state used to have a requirement that candidates for peace officer certification had to be examined by a psychologist or psychiatrist and “found free of mental disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” The MMPI was administered to all candidates along with a lengthy face-to-face interview with the examining professional. Sometime in the mid-1980s, a lawsuit was filed by a candidate who had been rejected on this basis due to a finding that she suffered from some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. At trial, the plaintiff called several mental health professionals who testified that a manageable case of OCD would not prevent a person from performing effectively as a peace officer. She won the case, and state requirements were changed to require that candidates only be found free of any mental disorder that (in the opinion of the examining professional) “would prevent the candidate from adequately performing the duties of a peace officer.” The same testing and examination procedure continued in use. Examination is required upon initial certification and upon every change of employment if more than two years have passed since the most recent prior examination. An agency may require an officer to be retested if there are performance issues that raise questions about the officer’s mental health.
    I went through this initial process twice, once upon coming to work in this state in 1977 and again when I changed agencies in 1987. My first test and evaluation results were apparently unremarkable. The second time, the examining psychologist called me back in for a consultation regarding my test results. He told me that my test results showed a slightly elevated degree of “suspiciousness” as a component of the clinical paranoia scale of the exam. He asked me what I thought would cause that result, and I suggested, “More than a decade in police work?” He laughed and told me that my results were well within normal limits, but that I should be mindful of that tendency as I moved forward in my career. My “suspiciousness” has served me well over the years.

  6. I once had to take part in workplace personality testing. It seemed fairly accurate, if you read it right. There were 2 basic sets of skills. The first basically divided people into people focused on ‘analytical’ skills and ‘social’ skills for one set of personalities.. It had about 30 different types, but you could distill them to those two. The other set broke people into ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’. Now, there was only one ‘leadership’ type, but there were about 15 ‘follower’ types. Only 5 people out of 100 had ‘analytical’ skills and 3 of those were the only ‘leaders’. None of the leaders were in leadership roles. When this was pointed out, all the people in leadership roles stated that those people were unsuited for leadership roles due to their lack of ‘social’ skills. The exercise has not been repeated.

  7. Never had a test imposed on me, as I worked in private law firms. Lawyers don’t need no stinkin’ personality tests. Lawyers know everything about everybody, and the really successful, dominant ones are psychopaths. What else is there to find out?

  8. Meyers-Briggs is pagan clap trap. Ultimately rooted in the Greek concept of the 4 humours it shouldn’t be relied upon for any *in depth* analysis of personality. It may be semi-useful for surface level analysis of people in specific circumstances, but after that, it’s pretty useless.

  9. An outgrowth of psychology, which might be the most disappointing, unreliable and underachieving pseudo-scientific discipline of them all (if not an outright fraud)

    What does this imply for disciplines that are downstream of psychology, like Education? Or interdependent with it, like sociology?

    • You know the answer. Look at the state of education since we began Education as a field (in the ’70’s)? Look at what happened to Detroit when we applied sociology and $1 trillion to ‘improve’ it from the wealthiest city in America with 2 million people.

  10. I found my experience with extensive psychological profiles to be useful and accurate when the results are presented within the limitations of the testing. The results are not so much a Magic 8-ball, but rather a Daily Horoscope. It is all about probable statistical outcomes. They show tendencies not absolutes.

    The results of my testing were not presented as bullet-point lists of strengths and weaknesses. It was a 20-page document filled with graphs that suggested my statistical respond to situations I might encounter as a manager or from my managers, and how to better understand the probable reasons for said response. It was shockingly accurate. Accurate to the point that during the final meeting with the psychologist to review the results, cautioned me not to openly share this information. While the information gathered by this process could be used to improve my performance and those who supervise me, it could also be used to manipulate me. Unfortunately, I shared this information with my wife-at-the-time. Four-years later, during our divorce process (she admitted a few years after the fact) she ruthlessly used this document to great success while negotiating our settlement.

    What concerns me now is not what the statistical accuracy achievable 30- years ago from a day of testing and 90-minutes of psychological evaluation produced, but what the constant collection of our every decision (what do I watch/listen to, what do I read, what foods do I buy and where do I buy them, where do I drive and in what type of vehicle) that is readily available to the hordes who can access it can produce. These data paint personal tendencies, while not necessarily accurate on an individual basis, is likely to be significantly accurate, on a statistical basis, to manipulate the masses adequately enough to get at least 50% … plus one. In a digital democracy, that is all that is needed.

  11. Personality inventories are basically as useless as they come. The Rorschach is a total DreamWorks. The MMPI is at least reasonable. It has a built in lief scale and will generally give you an idea of what you are looking at. In general I would not use them

  12. I have noticed the twin problems of personality tests: a) they are usually mutually exclusive categories without room for nuance, and b) they make statements about strengths and weaknesses without an expectation of growth and development over time.

    That’s why over ten years ago I came up with a model of basic problem-solving mindsets, which has since been refined and expanded into a foundational vocabulary for describing the situations that people are equipped to navigate. Most people have a greater affinity for some mindsets than for others, but it’s good to establish basic competence in all of them. That way one can appreciate the importance of different approaches and recognize when others are using them skillfully (and when they are not).

    I find the concepts I use to be very useful, not only for describing how people see and handle the world but also for helping people expand their capabilities and remove their blind spots. Only by understanding all the values at stake and the skills at hand can we collaborate effectively to unlock human collective potential.

      • Happy to! Here’s the basic mindsets section of the Foundational Toolbox for Life:

        Everything a mind can do, every idea and effort that changes one situation into another, we can describe with some combination of those mindsets. Every skill a person can learn makes use of one or more basic mindsets, calibrated to a particular context.

        For people to learn beyond what they’re taught, we need to make sure they learn not just basic skills but the mindsets underpinning them. That’s what takes education beyond mere memorization and regurgitation of what the teacher wants to hear. A person who has a solid grasp of the basic mindsets can then readily apply those mindsets to learning additional skills in new contexts.

        You’ve probably run into people who tend to view the world through one or two of those mindsets, and that shows up in what they talk about, how they talk about it, and how they approach challenges. Understanding their mindsets helps us appreciate the value they bring, validate their perspectives, and address their concerns, which makes them more amenable to doing the same for us. Not only that, it helps us learn from each other. That’s what make the Foundational Toolbox for Life (and Visionary Vocabularies) a game-changer for humanity.

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