Personality Inventory

Since we all seem interested in how personalities are formed and can be assessed, I thought I’d provide a link to The Big Five Inventory from the Berkeley Personality Lab where they have developed “a self-report inventory designed to measure the Big Five dimensions” of personality. As you’ll see from the reference, they have tried to take into account much of the research in the field for the past 30 years. The Big Five factors are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

The primary research at Berkeley has been done by Oliver P. John whose website gives you more information about him. You will also find a link to the short test you can take to see how your personality turns out. I did it and it took no more than 10 minutes and was quite interesting. You really just find out where you land on a continuum.

I’m guessing that Martin and Louisa would have markedly different results. Whether that would have any bearing on if they can be happy together, this test cannot determine. Any comments about this test and its uses are welcome.

Originally posted 2014-08-10 08:51:58.

18 thoughts on “Personality Inventory

  1. Mary F.

    Okay, I couldn’t get through the whole article as it was mostly over my head so I rushed ahead and took the test (I love these kinds of tests!) and found it interesting but also rather puzzling….what do they mean by reversing some of the scores labeled “R”? (Please don’t tell me to go back and finish the article!)

    I really think they should have Martin and Louisa take some sort of written test before counseling…especially Martin. A written test with subsequent analysis might garner more respect from him than allowing a therapist to verbally peel away his defenses.

  2. Post author

    Mary, you are brave to decide to read the whole article. Most of it was a rundown of how they came up with the Big Five and what difficulties they encountered. The graphs put their research into a statistical form that some social scientists might like to see. I included it for anyone who wondered how these markers were developed. Toward the end there are a few relevant sections, e.g. p. 30 where they discuss “Links to Social Outcomes in Relationship and Group Contexts.” Much of the article addresses the challenges of assigning certain words to the categories.

    My explanation for what the “R” means is that it denotes those behaviors that are opposite of what someone with a high score in this section would exhibit. If, for example, the test taker scores high in Neuroticism but their behavior displays an ability to accept things without complaining or a capacity for relaxing even under trying circumstances, that person’s behavior is negatively correlated with the domain. That person’s behavior would be contrary to what was expected based on the score in that category.

    I can see how giving Martin a personality test could be a great idea. As you say, he would probably be more receptive to a test, although he might still be skeptical of its usefulness. (I know many doctors and scientists do not consider psychology a science and look askance at any of these tests.) But I can imagine how they could use it for its comedic value. He certainly wasn’t very forthcoming when he went for counseling the first time. Would he be more willing with Louisa there? Not likely. If they found a really good therapist, that person might be able to use his reticence as a good starting point. We’ll find out in a few months…

  3. Mary F.

    Thanks, I feel a little less dumb now, that article was a monster. And the test score explanation helps too, so thank you again!
    I too am wondering how he will hold up during counseling, will they be going together or apart? He may be more forthcoming if Louisa is sitting beside him. I think the whole thing will be hilarious. A good counselor will end a session on an upbeat note so you feel like you are getting a handle on things … and a bit closer to understanding your partner. It would be just grand to see them leave together a bit more sensitive to each other than before.

  4. Carol

    I really hope they do some sort of personality test. I do think it has tremendous opportunity for humor, but more importantly, can help to educate the viewers as to how helpful it is to understand where your partner is with these issues. Then you can often just chalk up irritating behavior to your new understanding of your partner. I am so grateful that my husband and I did a Meyers-Briggs “fun” test not long after we got married. We were together with a bunch of friends and everyone was doing it. But for me, it opened my eyes very early to things that later could have caused terrible problems but didn’t because I understood where they “came from.”

    My guess is that Louisa would quickly find out that, if they used Meyers-Briggs for instance, Martin fits the personality that the lowest percentage of people have, and will therefore always require a large amount of tolerance as his reactions to others are so unlike that of most people. Interestingly, my husband is an engineer and he and his whole group took this test once and almost all of them had the exact, or almost exact, same personality type. And it was the type least found in people in the US. Hilarious, but it makes for some good engineers and scientists.

  5. Maria

    I took the Myers Briggs quite a while ago and found it positively life-altering in the way I started understanding both myself and others. It was a revelation to me that other people perceive and do things the way they do because that is how they are wired, it works for them, and they don’t need me to set them straight on the “right” way to do things. :). Being the type that I am, I’ve spent some enjoyable hours speculating on Martin and Louisa’s types (his is easier to decide, I think).

    I was also familiar with the Big Five and have done that as well. I found it interesting that the test at the link Karen provided encourages the reader to rate other people. But would that person answer the questions the same way for him/herself? For instance, Martin deflects praise and would probably not consider himself “…helpful and unselfish with others”, yet we have seen that he is. A person might end up with a different profile of themselves than others see them. That is interesting in itself, but doesn’t help the person realize that’s the case unless they also have others rate them. I am having trouble clearly explaining what I mean here… Maybe it doesn’t matter, since, as Karen said, the results aren’t absolute but rather tell the person where they are on a continuum. Still, it seems that the accuracy of the results does depend in part on how well the rater knows him/herself to begin with.

  6. Post author

    Both Carol and Maria have learned a lot about themselves through taking personality tests. Maybe that’s the most important way they help us. If it can open our eyes to how we see ourselves or what sorts of interpersonal behavior we engage in, perhaps we are more sensitive to others and more tolerant too. Here’s an idea: Martin could rate Louisa and vice versa. That could get dicey!!

  7. Mary F.

    Maria, I was thinking that also, that unless you can be perfectly honest and look at yourself objectively, it might be difficult to get accurate test results. It might be better to have someone who knows you very well, like a sibling, take the test. Though Martin doesn’t have a sibling, Aunt Ruth could do a good job. She knows him better than anyone. (Don’t we just love her?!! )

  8. Barb

    I took the test for my husband and me. hahaha. It came out about how I would expect. I’m introvert, and he is extrovert. I enjoy spending quiet time alone, and he is quite social. I am organized, and he has a messy desk. I am tempted to have him take it for both of us, and see what the results would be… I’m thinking they would be exactly the same. I’ll think about it.

    I would like very much it they had Martin and Louisa take the test, but I’m pretty sure I already know what the outcome would be. hahaha. If they did each other, I don’t know. I think it’s mostly because Martin doesn’t know himself very well, or maybe because so much of his mind is hidden.

  9. Maria

    “So much of his mind is hidden” – that is a great way to put it, Barb.

    I like Mary’s idea of having Aunt Ruth rate Martin. She knows Martin well and has some insight into those hidden parts of his mind, but she could do it objectively and would be very well suited from her training. Louisa would be tougher. I don’t think we know anyone that knows her well enough, since the test doesn’t just ask about behaviors that are easily observed by others but about attitudes, beliefs and feelings that are not obvious to the outsider. I think she would certainly try to take it seriously and be objective, but she has some blind spots as well. Of course it is really hard for just about anyone to see oneself objectively!

    This is sort of an irony of this and other tests – the more objectively the person can see him/herself, the more accurate the analysis. But the more objectively the person can see him/herself, the less they need the test, in a way. Or let’s say, the less revelatory the test would be? In any case, I’ve always found the topic of personality tests and assessments intensely interesting.

  10. Barb

    I enjoyed reading your post Maria. It gave me things to think about. I had not thought about how Louisa sees herself. I only thought about what I know about her from her actions. You are right… she also has blind spots. How could she not with the upbringing she had. I see her as being too independent and not outspoken enough about her feelings. She tends to wait until she pretty much feels she can’t take anymore, and then she blows up.

    I like to think that I know myself very well, but you’ve made me reconsider. hahahaha. I will say that I really want to do something, and yet I make little effort to do it. I’ve been wondering why, so there are areas about me that I don’t understand. I’m working on it.

  11. Carol

    Karen, After that last reply, and after all that has been going on about Robin Williams these last few days, I have to say that it is great that we all have this show to help us look at ourselves and hopefully find help for things that bother us before they get too overwhelming. I think this just proves the importance of a show like Doc Martin. They probably didn’t really set out to do a show like that, but it has certainly turned out that way, thanks to everyone involved with it. But it gets thoughtful people talking and mulling things over in postive ways.

    Also, we know from the Doc that anger can mask many undercurrents, and from Mr. Williams that humor can too. May he rest in peace.

  12. Post author

    Nice sentiment Carol. So many posts on various Facebook pages have mentioned how suicide may have been the immediate cause of Robin Williams’ death, but depression was actually the serious problem/disease. It’s so utterly horrible to know that nothing seemed to lift his depression. What a terrible condition and loss of a brilliant man.

  13. Carol

    I read the article and found it interesting. However, I think that the problem with MBTI comes when people don’t understand two things: one, that MBTI is not a test, it is a type indicator – no one type is better or worse than the others and two, that when taken seriously, it should be noted that individuals normally lie on a continuum, rarely all the way on one side or the other. But knowing your own type and sometimes that of others close to you can, in my opinion, be a great tool in communication, especially when the two are very opposite on the way they do certain things. For instance, I know that my spouse is very much interested in logic and decision-making based on logic, so I always try to keep that in mind as we are making a decision together. Makes for many less misunderstandings I can tell you from experience.

    Helpful as I think it can be however, I can’t understand why any HR person would use MBTI alone as a reason to hire/not hire someone. That just tells me that the HR person doesn’t really understand the instrument. I could see that it might be partially helpful, but surely not as the only basis for hiring. For instance, I could imagine that someone hiring engineers might know that engineers typically fall into 1, 2 or 3 of the categories, but if someone did not fall into one of those, I would think they would want to know why and then base their hiring decision on whether or not the particular gifts this person would bring would add value to the team for which they were hiring.

  14. Maria

    Great comments, Carol. I also read the article by Joseph Stromberg that the NYT piece was based on ( I am no expert on the MBTI, but I found the article to be rather simplistic and thus misleading. It also contains some clear errors, for instance the claim that so-called “perceivers” “could be further split into people who prefer sensing and others who prefer intuiting, while “[judgers”] could be split into thinkers and feelers”. In fact, the relationship between the various functions and interpretation of each type is far more nuanced and complicated (this is well-explained in a book by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter Myers called Gifts Differing, among other places).

    I do agree that unfortunately the MBTI is being marketed and used in ways it was never originally intended to be. Stromberg quotes an organizational psychologist as saying that “The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage..” That is absolutely correct, because that is not the MBTI’s purpose, so to base hiring decisions and the like on it is undoubtedly ineffective and in my view irresponsible. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of psychology sites that take exactly this approach. To liken it a “personality quiz”, as the author of the NYT article does a great disservice and illustrates either a lack of understanding or maybe just a desire to be provocative.. Myers and Briggs purposely did not call or consider it a “test” but a “type indicator” (as Stromberg does note), which is quite a different thing.

    It’s also interesting that Stromberg says that the Big Five fest focuses on ‘entirely different categories’ than the MBTI, as if this is accepted fact. I don’t think that is the case, as other researchers have researched and found correlations between the two.

    p.s. Carol, I sent you a message on fanfiction (at least I think it got sent).

  15. Post author
      As often happens, there are two sides to this story. CPP, the company that supplies the MBTI, responded to Stromberg’s article. Here is their response
      I know they would have self-interest in defending their product, but I see that they are particularly clear that the most important purpose of the assessment is self-awareness (that is how Carol and Maria have used the test) and they note: “The MBTI tool is not, and was never intended to be predictive of performance or aptitude, and CPP strongly opposes using it in selective capacities, such as screening applicants.” Significantly for me, they state:”Furthermore, as the MBTI instrument was designed to exclusively measure personality in normal, healthy adults and teens, it would not make sense to use it in a clinical setting that focused on dysfunction or pathology.” I’m sure CPP makes a lot of money from their test being used incorrectly for both screening applicants as well as for treating pathology; nevertheless, they at least acknowledge those uses are not appropriate.

      I also thought a little background info on how the test originated might be helpful. Here’s one site that gives an historical summary

      The whole idea of where someone lands on a continuum is really what all of this is about and we should take that as the most important consideration.

  16. Chai

    I found your blog today and can’t stop reading. It’s a delight to see such well thought out analytics on Doc Martin, the characters in the series and the actors who play their parts so convincingly with Martin Clunes standing head and shoulders (sic) above them all. Thank you so much for putting forth the time and effort to discuss different aspects of the program; many I never even thought of, such as the use of the kitchen and, in particular, the kitchen table as the fulcrum of many situations and interactions among the characters.
    I have much more to say and think about, but I wonder if you mind a question? Have you discussed Mrs. Tishell and her affection/obsession for Doc Martin in any of your posts? I would love to read your thoughts and insights on her.

  17. Post author

    Thank you for joining our discussion! I have to say that I haven’t gone into much detailed analysis of Mrs. T’s obsession with ME. I’ve mentioned her in various posts, including one about doctors and stalkers, but never more than that. You might want to search for the post called “Doctors,patients, and stalkers.” Is there something in particular you’re wondering about?

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