Are personality tests a thing of the past?

A Thing of the Past
You might think that personality tests are a thing of the past. I admit that I thought the same. Everyone has undoubtedly heard about Myer-Briggs Indicator, which is based on ideas of Carl Jung who believed that people understood the world through sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking. The test indicates which one of them is most powerful most of the time. It also shows if a person is an introvert or an extrovert. But don’t worry – this article isn’t about Myer-Briggs! So if you are bored of Myer-Briggs and cannot handle the thought of decoding the famous four-letter result codes– I’m with you! If you, like me, are after something more exciting than that, read on!

If not Myer-Briggs then what?
The first piece of good news is that this blog I not about Myer-Briggs! The second piece of good news is that personality tests don’t have to be boring and with complicated to understand results. The great news is that there is a personality test that is informative, useful and is currently very popular. In fact, some academics recommend it as THE test to take if you want to deep dive into your personality traits.

The Big Five
During my recent dissertation, which I wrote as part of my master’s degree undertaken with Said Business School and HEC Paris, I needed to find a personality assessment model suitable for my study. I came across a fascinating one, referred to as ‘The Big Five’. I personally found it to be a much better alternative to Myer-Briggs. You will find out why in just a second.

How Big and Which Five?
‘The Big Five’ personality testing method was developed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae. I really like that they came up with an original name for it – calling it something like Costa-McCrae Test (as in Myer-Briggs) would kill my entire excitement at the spot! But ‘The Big Five’ captured my attention! I wanted to know how big is big and which five is the five! I wanted to see how a complex mechanism, which our personalities certainly are, has been categorised into only five adjectives. Sceptical but curious, I started reading around.

I’ve learnt that ‘The Big Five’ examines five key personality dimensions, which are: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. “It makes sense to me” – I thought. These are five broad “categories” that contain many personality traits underneath them. For example, the dimension of extraversion includes traits like sociability, talkativeness, gregariousness, risk-taking, and happiness. Now I can see how it was possible to come up with only five key personality dimensions.

The Five Traits
We will now look at ‘The Big Five’ traits in more detail, borrowing some of the knowledge from a great website called Personality Assessor. The reason why ‘The Big Five’ test speaks to me far more than Myer-Briggs is because I find the result much easier to understand and remember. It gives me information, which I can take away and actually make some use of as opposed to trying to remember or de-code what the four letters meant! All the four letter abbreviations used for categorising Myer-Briggs results just don’t do the trick for me. Nevertheless, here are the big five dimensions and their practical meanings for those who have high or low scores in each category.

People high in extraversion tend to be talkative, sociable, and love to be around people. They are adventurous, take risks, and generally view life as a playground. In contrast, individuals low in extraversion (i.e. introverts) tend to prefer to withdrawal and spend time alone. They are able to enjoy activities that provide more moderate levels of stimulation and may prefer social situations that allow close conversation with a few friends rather than high-energy situations with many people. They prefer to play it safe and not take too many risks.

An interesting fact: did you know that extroverts tend to experience more positive emotions while introverts may be more even-keeled in their emotions and not experience as many high-highs?

People high in agreeableness are motivated to maintain positive social relationships. They are empathetic, caring, less prejudiced, and may hide their emotions in order to get along better with others. People low in agreeableness don’t place a significant emphasis on maintaining positive relationships with others. Because of this, they may be more blunt and forthcoming with their emotions, as opposed to hiding them for the sake of good relationships.

An interesting fact: did you know that people low in agreeableness may be more likely to express their individuality and are less likely to be taken advantage of by others?

Highly conscientious people are organised, responsible, orderly, and dutiful. They tend to respect authority and follow the rules. People low in conscientiousness can be more careless, spontaneous, and unstructured. They may be seen as more relaxed by their peers.

An interesting fact: did you know that highly conscientious people tend to be more punctual while people low in conscientiousness may have a more difficult time making it to meetings on time?

People high in neuroticism are likely to experience frequent negative emotions, including stress, anxiety, and feelings of low self-worth. On the other hand, individuals high in neuroticism may experience a richer array of emotions. Individuals low in neuroticism tend to be more emotionally stoic. They don’t experience a wide variety of negative emotions and may stay close to their emotional baseline at most times.

An interesting fact: did you know that people high in neuroticism are more vigilant in detecting dangers in their surroundings (both real and imagined)? While those low in neuroticism may be unaware and/or unafraid of legitimate dangers around them.

Openness is what Maslow described as self-actualisation. People who are high in openness tend to love art, music, and literature. They are highly creative, whimsical, and insightful. They tend to be prone to intellectual discussion and processing new ideas. They love new experiences, including visiting new places, trying new food, and hearing new ideas. People low in openness tend to prefer routine. They like familiar situations and may dislike trying new foods or visiting new places. They may feel somewhat confident in their current thoughts, ideas, and beliefs, and may be less likely to consider new ideas and different beliefs. Their lifestyles tend to foster stability and security.

An interesting fact: did you know that highly open people may take more time to reflect on their thoughts and feelings, and as such, may have greater self-insight?

‘The Big Five’ Results
If you were to take the test and find out that you are for example high on extroversion and neuroticism, low on agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness (who would want that kind of a score! Not me for sure!), wouldn’t it be easy to remember it? It certainly was the case for me, and I am able to easily keep it at the back of my mind and use it when I need to. It was somewhat freeing for me to be able to relate to my personality traits without the need to remember a confusing four-letter code, which I could never remember the meaning of.

Your Time to Shine
I encourage you to take ‘The Big Five’ test to see how you score. I recommend this free of charge test here. If you get really excited, you can take a test, which measures both your 4-letter Jungian personality type and your Big Five personality traits in one go. You can find it here. Enjoy!

Sources: [Online. Accessed 10th May 2018] [Online. Accessed 10th May 2018]

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