The promise of an in-depth personality evaluation is the main selling point of any dating site. eHarmony, EliteSingles and Chemistry.com all proudly boast their personality quizzes, which are based on the decade-long research of big name psychologists like Dr. Neil Clark, Robert McCrae and Paul Costa. But are these personality tests accurate enough to reveal the inner self of millions of unique individuals or are they just smoke and mirrors to bewilder naive singles into subscribing to the service? In order to determine the reliability of these quizzes, we should first take a look at the mother of all personality tests and how this craze began.
Myers-Briggs Test: The Most Popular Personality Evaluation
Are you a talkative person who likes to focus on reality, values fairness and above all else seeks to settle things on your own? Then you have an ESTJ type personality – Extroversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judgement – or in other words, you are an ‘Executive’. This is how the Myers-Briggs test works in a nutshell. Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabell Briggs Myers based their theory on the works of 20th Century psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who stated that humans are either perceivers or judgers. He then extended the categorization by adding further traits, such as thinkers or feelers and sensing or intuition. Jung also suggested that outside of these eight categories people can be extroverts or introverts too.
Twenty years later the Briggs family dusted off the psychoanalyst’s observations and combined the loosely connected personality traits into one larger theory that had 16 potential outcomes. They also described each of the categories with an easily understandable label such as ‘Mediator’, ‘Adventurer’ or ‘Entrepreneur’. The Myers-Briggs test has quickly gained popularity and it’s widely used when it comes to career coaching, employee screening and even for judging the compatibility of a couple. There is only one problem with the theory: it’s completely inaccurate.
The Issue With Categorizing Human Nature
Let’s be clear, the Myers-Briggs test has zero empiric research behind it. The original thesis comes from the sheer observations of Jung who himself admitted that there is no such thing as a pure extrovert, and most people actually strike a balance between the two extremes. It’s also worth noting that the two Briggs weren’t women of science either as they got all their knowledge of creating tests from a bank’s HR manager.
When looking at the test with critical eyes the flaws become apparent. Our personalities are in constant flux, dictated by our emotional state, long- or short-term goals and life experiences. It’s a proven fact that half of the test’s subjects receive a completely different evaluation after taking the test a second time. This is due to the nature of the quiz, as two-choice questions aren’t sufficient for measuring someone’s personality. Not to mention the test actually prompts people to give answers based on how they perceive their own ideal self and perhaps not the truth of the situation, therefore participants end up with a conclusion that makes them happy regardless of how precise their choices are.
Should I Trust the Personality Test on a Dating Site?
It goes without saying that not every dating site uses the Myers-Briggs test and instead asks questions based on assistance from relationship experts and psychologists to come up with their own evaluations. Nevertheless, is it still better to take personality quizzes with a grain of salt. Treat them as a fun distraction while looking for a date and use the results as an ice-breaker when contacting your partner. It pays off in the long run if you remain open-minded and don’t turn down a promising date just because the compatibility index isn’t high enough. At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with enjoying these personality tests so long as they’re treated with the same level of skepticism as horoscopes. And remember that the human soul is far more complex and cannot be fully explained by just four letters.
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