4.2 Personality Tests

As you learned in the crash course video “Measuring Personality” in topic 4.1, the different approaches to personality use different measures to assess people’s personalities. For an overview of the various types of tests that personality psychology typically uses, please read the following reading on personality assessment:

Personality Assessment

Understanding their own behaviours, beliefs, values, attitudes, etc. is critically important for conflict practitioners. Therefore, this chapter provides some opportunities for you to learn both about a particular branch of psychology as well as about yourself. You will be introduced to some personality tests and may choose to complete some of them yourself. A collection of tests that personality psychologists typically use to assess people’s personalities can be viewed online.

While the tests listed on the website linked above reflect typical assessments used in personality psychology studies, it is important to highlight that there are some issues associated with personality tests. These issues not only apply to the above-noted personality tests, but also relate to tests that are commonly used to assess people’s conflict styles (avoiding, yielding, competing, collaborating and compromising), most notably the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Questionnaire or revised versions of it. Seeing that self-report tests are also used in the field of conflict management (and you may have come across many more such assessments in your professional life, e.g. tests that assess different management styles) it is worth exploring some of the issues with these assessment methods here. We will focus on issues with personality tests, but they can be transferred to methods assessing concepts directly relevant to conflict management, such as the previously mentioned conflict styles.

Issues with Personality Tests

It is important that people conducting self-report tests understand that these tests do not actually measure the person’s behaviour, but what people think how they typically behave. It is possible that people are biased when it comes to their own behaviour and that they view themselves in a better light than others would. Furthermore, test results may be skewed because of a phenomenon called the “social desirability bias”, which refers to people presenting themselves in a favourable light, for example when undertaking a test in the presence of others, like during a workshop with other work colleagues.

Another major point of critique refers to the limitations of personality assessment when these are used to assess people from different cultures. These limitations may also apply to assessments relating to conflict or management style. Conflict situations frequently involve parties with different cultural backgrounds and learning more about the applicability of tests to people from different cultures is important for anyone working with people in conflict. Firstly, it needs to be acknowledged that many conceptualisations of personality are based on Western ideologies and not all of them may apply to other cultures (De Raad et al., 2010; Gurven et al., 2013; Shweder & Bourne, 1984). Similarly, the conflict style model was developed in a Western context by American professors (who are both white and male) and may not be transferrable to other cultures.

Secondly, not only the theoretical concepts but also the assessment tools that are typically used to assess personality (and those that are typically used to assess conflict styles) around the world were developed in Western contexts. Those that are used to measure personality have been criticised for being limited in assessing personality in non-Western settings (Cheung & Fetvadjiev, 2016; Hill et al., 2010).

An Example: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Perhaps you have previously heard about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test and have undertaken it in a workshop or just out of interest. According to Lisa Barrett Feldman (2020), the MBTI and various other personality tests “have no more scientific value than horoscopes” (p. 130).

You might want to watch this video [3:36] to learn about some issues specific to this popular personality assessment tool: Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless:


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Neuroscience, Psychology and Conflict Management Copyright © 2024 by Judith Rafferty is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.