I hate being typecast.
Woody Allen caught my sentiment best in a quote from his film Annie Hall: "I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype," which of course means the exact opposite.
However, most of us enjoy playing games and sorting our friends into different personality pigeonholes. She’s an ogre, he’s a coward, she’s warmhearted, and so on. It is even more enjoyable when the person being typecast is someone like John Kerry or George Bush.
All would be well were it not for a fact that so many people take personality typing too dead seriously, and use it to determine future careers, marriages, and even potential travel destinations. Indeed some 15 million people are tested on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) each year in the USA alone. Furthermore, 89 companies in the Fortune 100 use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to ascertain which job applicants would be most suitable for employment.
With such profligate use (or misuse) of personality assessments, it is not surprising that these tests are coming under intense fire. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) once said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
Are personality tests the genuine article with some basic integrity, albeit flawed? Or are they one grand hoax fooling millions of unsuspecting suckers worldwide, worse than any corporate scam ever perpetrated?
Let us look at the criticisms leveled against these tests. One such attack is made by Walter Mischel (1956- ). He found that the results of personality tests, such as the MBTI, are not consistent. Up to 47% of testers end up with a different personality type when retested. He argued that if there is reasonable stability in personality traits, then the wild fluctuations in typing must be due to a flawed test.
Defenders of the MBTI test claim that people with more emotional personality traits, like aggression, are naturally prone to considerable fluctuations, depending upon the circumstances. There is nothing wrong with the test. Indeed it is great that it is sensitive enough to reflect a person’s changes in personality. After all, we behave differently when we are at school, in our office, in a party, with our parents, or at home, don’t we? The problem is not in the test, but that people get bored with repeated tests, that they become rather capricious with such tests, and some may even sabotage them. Conscious and unconscious factors which can affect the expression of different aspects of personality, especially during testing, are not taken into account with these studies.