Have you ever clicked on a link like “What does your favorite animal say about you?” wondering what your love of hedgehogs reveals about your psyche? Or filled out a personality assessment to gain new understanding into whether you’re an introverted or extroverted “type”? People love turning to these kinds of personality quizzes and tests on the hunt for deep insights into themselves. People tend to believe they have a “true” and revealing self hidden somewhere deep within, so it’s natural that assessments claiming to unveil it will be appealing.
As psychologists, we noticed something striking about assessments that claim to uncover people’s “true type.” Many of the questions are poorly constructed—their wording can be ambiguous and they often contain forced choices between options that are not opposites. This can be true of BuzzFeed-type quizzes as well as more seemingly sober assessments.
On the other hand, assessments created by trained personality psychologists use questions that are more straightforward to interpret. The most notable example is probably the well-respected Big Five Inventory. Rather than sorting people into “types,” it scores people on the established psychological dimensions of openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. This simplicity is by design; psychology researchers know that the more respondents struggle to understand the question, the worse the question is.