As it’s the Easter weekend you might have a few minutes for quiet contemplation. If so then try doing a personality test. This one is based around what psychologists call “The Big Five“. These are the main five traits that have been found to best describe people’s behaviour.
This particular test also gives you the sub-divisions within each trait. You may already know that you’re an extrovert for example, but how do you compare to others in gregariousness, cheerfulness or assertiveness?
There’s 120 questions in this one but it doesn’t take that long to complete. Go on, you just might learn something. The Test
A new series on Radio 4 presented by Judith Hann provides a good introduction to the biology of personality. In particular it focusses on and explains some aspects of the widely used five-factor model of personality. The programme also addresses the biological basis of depression and its links with personality.
One applications of these personality tests is in job selection and career guidance. Jane Howard, author of The Owner’s Manual For Personality At Work, suggests that as many as 25% of people are in the wrong job. Perhaps personality testing can help people understand their own capabilities and limitations a little better.
It’s good to hear some critical notes sounded about self-report measures of personality. Matt Ridley points out that they may only be measuring people’s self-perception. Perhaps more dangerous is the element of political correctness in the way the results are presented. One of the scales is called ‘neuroticism’, a generally well understood word. This is often translated to ’emotional stability’, a more neutral phrase that actually obscures the meaning.
There is no supporting website for this programme but you can hear the audio stream online for 7 days after the broadcast. The first programme is now available online, so listen now while you can. BBC RealAudio stream [via Mind Hacks]
The assertiveness of hyenas, the emotionalality of rats, the timidity of mice, the sociability of yellow-bellied marmots, the anxiousness of pigs, the agitatedness of cows, the obduracy of donkeys (well what else?), the fearfulness of rhinoceri, the confidence of zebra finches, and, of course, the randiness of newts.
Research into the ‘personalities’ of a variety of different animals has been going on for a century. It wasn’t until recently, however, that psychologists began to ask whether this research might illuminate the study of human personality traits.
The criticisms of this line of thinking are all too obvious. Hyenas can’t talk (only laugh), pigs are don’t have to work in open-plan offices (although they may prefer it to their current lot) and newts can’t repeatedly forget important anniversaries. So what exactly can any of these species tell us about the human personality if they don’t have to deal with human problems?
Science has always been keen to understand human kind through the study of simpler creatures. Whether we like it or not, many medical breakthroughs have been made through experimentation on animals – and let’s face it, we humans are nothing more than the third chimpanzee.