People walk around every day assessing the personalities of other people, deciding whether their personality compatible with others or not. This is relevant in situations such as new relationships, employers screening applicants for grad schemes or open positions and schools trying to find out a child’s optimum way of learning in order to achieve the best results. The fact that we have different personalities suit us to different things.
Funder (1997) believed that personality refers to our individual patterns of behaviours, thoughts and emotions as well as the psychological mechanisms which cause these patterns. Although Feist and Feist (2009) argued that no one definition of personality is acceptable for all personality psychologists, but what can be agreed on is that personality is a pattern of traits and unique characteristics that cause a person’s behaviour to be both consistent and individual.
However, I would argue along the same vein as Eysenck (2004) who believed that personality comes from within and can be affected by the individual and each individual has a different personality in the same social situation for no two people have the exact personality, because we are all (apart from twins) genetically unique and have all had different life experiences, however small the difference.
However, this essay discusses more formal types of personality test, not those which we use for to make friends or those which can be found online, but those which would be in a research setting. In this case discussing both projective and self-report personality tests in terms of their reliability and validity in a social context. These tests are extremely useful in multiple ways such as calculating future behaviour and recognizing future behaviours according to Plotnik (2002).
There are so many personality tests available for use but this essay will discuss the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2, the Rorschach Inkblot test and the Thematic Apperception Test. These personality tests are used by various people in society such as researchers, doctors and employers, because it allows them to analyse someone’s personality and draw conclusions relative to their area. Although the extent to which each test is accurate can be disputed.
Before the tests can be discussed in terms of their reliability and validity we must first understand how each of them test for personality. One way which we can test for personality is to use self-report inventories. These tests are conducted by giving the participant a series of statements which they then rate according to how relevant the statement is to them, the questions can directly refer to symptoms or behaviours which can be indicative of personality disorders.
They are used in multiple contexts of life, for instance in employability tests and in market research. The reason that these tests can be useful to predict future behaviour is because they study our historical and present behaviour as well asking about hypothetical situations in order to gain an understanding of how one’s personality has developed throughout their life and then try and predict how our personalities will develop.
The most widely used self-report inventory test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2 (MMPI-2). This is now the second version of this test after it was revised in 1989. The test is made for people who are 18 or older and consists of more than 500 statements which the participant will rate as true or false, the test lasts around 90 minutes. The types of statements which are used in this inventory test relate to a multitude of different areas including relationships, religion and sexual attitudes.
The other type of test discussed in this essay is projective testing. In this case the participant would be given words and images which they must interpret, this is supposed to reveal hidden emotions and internal conflicts. The reasoning behind this test is that it measures parts of your unconscious mind, for instance your fears, doubts and attitudes. The results can be used in a multitude of settings including employers trying to see whether you will fit in their working environment (Fournier 2010).
Rose, Kaser-Boyd & Maloney (2001) believe in projective tests because they look at the unconscious parts of our personality, meaning that one can get a whole impression the individual not just a few surface characteristics, The most widely used type of projective test is the Rorschach Inkblot test. In this test the participant is shown 10 inkblots of varying shape and pattern, and are asked to interpret the image. The answers given are interpreted and analysed in order to create an individual’s personality.
Furthermore, the way in which participants answer and the time taken for them to give an answer is taken into account. One of the controversial aspects of this test is that psychologists can have different coding schemes which means that one person can take the inkblot test and give the same answers in the same way, but can get different results depending the person analysing the results. Another widely used form of projective testing is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).
This test was designed to reveal the inner dynamics of an individual’s personality, which includes their inner drives, interests and motives as well assessing aspects like their need for achievement, power, intimacy and the problem solving abilities of the participant. The TAT requires participants to look at 31 different pictures, which show a variety of situations which are of a social and interpersonal nature, and tell a story about each picture. 10 of the pictures are gender specific and the others can involve any combination of gender or aged subjects (children and adults).
Turning now to discuss the validity and reliability of these forms of testing, the MMPI-2 has been shown to have a high level of reliability (Butcher 1990). Although one could argue that the results are only reliable in portraying the result of the combination of a participant’s mood and personality. Therefore, the MMPI-2 would have low test retest reliability because the participants may answer questions differently depending on the situation they are in when answering the questions (Foa, Cashman, Jaycox & Perry 1997).