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The Problem with Personality and Reasoning Tests

I underwent a personality test today as part of a job interview. The questions looked about like this:

M   L
_   _    Reliable, Dependable
_   _    Easy-Going, Good-Natured
_   _    Driven, Motivated
_   _    Persuasive, Convincing

40 or so of these questions existed, and in each case you have to mark two Xs - one in the "M" column for "most like me" and one in the "L" column for "least like me."

The problem I have with questions like this is one of context: I'm all of those things, depending on the context. I act differently when I'm buying a car than I do when I'm hanging out at a baseball game with friends. Or working with a team versus working for myself. I did choose "Easily Adapts" as an "M" in one of the series of choices, but… for the most part, I spent the time scratching my head. I could take the same test tomorrow and answer completely differently depending on how I interpreted the questions and to what situation I applied them in my mind.

Another series of questions in a different test asked things like this: "Which of these words is not like the others: frog, fox, bear, fish, flock?" I chose "flock" in such instances, because the word describes a group instead of a single entity. But I spent a lot of time really trying to determine whether I chose correctly, because "bear" is the only word that starts with something other than "f," for example. "Bear" is also the only word with two vowels. You could probably list twenty such differences, and with only the minimal directions provided, who knows what the right answer is. That being said, I'm fairly confident I chose the "correct" answer.

3 Responses to "The Problem with Personality and Reasoning Tests"

  1. Oh man, you did it. You just showed them, that you've a perfect serial killer profile !


    jokes aside, you're taking this stuff way too serious. Relax. You did good. I don't belive anybody really belives into that crap, unless you really come out matching a psycho profile...

  2. Any _half intelligent_ interviewer also thinks the results are absolute and uses them as a guide to frame relevant questions when he speaks to you.

    Good luck, anyway.

  3. My guess on the frog, fox, bear, fish, flock question is that they use the answer you choose to try and determine something about you rather than saying one of the choices is absolutely correct. For instance if you choose flock it means you based your decision on the meaning of the words and you might be someone who looks at a problem in depth and doesn't take things strictly at face value. Whereas if you chose "bear" they might assume you don't read into things and just analyze a problem by using information directly in front of you. I'm not saying making those assumptions is accurate or the right thing to do, but it seems like a good explanation for that type of question.