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Monday, May 28, 2007

Online Personality Tests: New Uses, New Possibilities


For the first time ever, users can take the complete Myers-Briggs personality type assessment, verify their types, and receive a high-quality interpretation at one place, completely online through CPP, Inc, at While personality tests have been widely available on the Internet for years, some of the more complicated, more statistically valid ones, have been costly, or have required one to hire an expensive service for evaluation of the results.

For decades, individuals, corporations, the military, and other organizations have used personality tests, usually in the form of questionnaires, or “inventories,” to determine an individual’s personality profile. Matching a personality profile with a job can result in a better “fit” between the tasks and an individual’s interests. Creating teams with individuals who have complementary personality traits can lead to enhanced productivity. Finally, supervisors and fellow team members can begin to understand, and have more tolerance for, trait differences.

Perhaps the most widely known and commonly used personality type indicator is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was developed years ago by a mother and daughter team of psychologists. It has been used to help individuals better understand themselves and others, communicate more effectively, and lead more fulfilling personal and professional lives.

While there is no doubt that the MBTI has had enormous positive impact on the workplace, and has improved efficiency, morale, team-building, and even conflict resolution, it is useful to take a step back and ask a few questions:

1. Can an instrument based on self-reporting ever lead to real self-awareness? Will the individual ever be able to advance past the level of self-awareness they had at the moment they took the inventory?

2. Is there built-in bias due to assumptions about personality that are culturally biased? For example, does a test-taker from one culture understand introversion to be something different than a person from a different culture?

3. Can using inventory results lead to labeling and stereotyping, which could result in individuals getting “stuck” in a role or a label?

4. Are we restricting ourselves unnecessarily with the MBTI? Are there yet undiscovered “off-label” uses that could help organizations and individuals with conflict resolution, career programming, training, education, marketing, and distributed project management? With the availability of the inventory, and the ability to take it online and receive a high-quality interpretation quickly, the possibilities have been expanded.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of personality type indicators is that they can lead to enhanced self-awareness. Self-awareness is always desirable, because without it, it is difficult to develop cognitive strategies for change. Further, without self-awareness, it is difficult to understand differences in responses, and it is difficult to establish empathic relations.

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