Personality test supplements traditional tests of intelligence

Oliver Goldsmith sagely penned, “Both wit and understanding are trifles without integrity. The ignorant peasant without fault is greater than the philosopher with many. What is genius or courage without a heart?”  American graduate and professional schools and many major American corporations have begun applying Goldsmith’s wisdom to their applicants, testing candidates’ personalities as well as their intellects.

“Medical schools, law schools, and big corporations have no objection to lovable nerds,” explains Kymberleigh Cox, an industrial psychologist at Advanced Industrial Research, “but they want reasonable assurance that their most intelligent applicants are not raving sociopaths.”  Cox credits the medical school at the University of Notre Dame with starting this trend in the late 1990’s.  “They found that many candidates with exemplary academic records and spectacular test scores had the personalities of canned sardines,” Dr. Cox reports.  “Because bedside manner influences patient care at least as much as bio-chemistry, the Notre Dame medical school started screening applicants for their human qualities as well as their IQ’s. Most of the best medical schools now do similar personality screening.  Many law schools also recommend some kind of pre-admission personality test.”

The value of personality testing
By far the most popular and practical personality test currently in widespread use, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gives reliable information about how people think, choose, and act.  Derived from the work of Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs “inventory” challenges people to choose between thinking and feeling, sensing and intuition, extraversion and introversion, and judging or perceiving.  When they have completed the Myers-Briggs personality test, people land in one of sixteen categories or personality “types,” and the types largely determine what kinds of work and work environments allow people to perform at their best.

Kymberleigh Cox assures, “The personality test is not foolproof.  No one claims perfect correspondence between a personality type and a job description, but the inventories do give strong indications of people’s outstanding attributes and glaring weaknesses.”  Pointing to the greatest advantage immanent in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Dr. Cox emphasizes, “The personality test especially indicates how people will perform under pressure.  HR professionals give credence to the personality test as they assess candidates’ fitness for exceptionally high-stress positions—ER physicians, public defenders, and psychiatric social workers.”  Dr. Cox says the personality test also helpa recruiters determine which applicants will contribute most to ensemble working groups and which will work best on their own.

Personality testing well beyond the workplace
“If it works at work, it probably works at home, too,” Kymberleigh Cox smiles.  “Personality testing has had a huge impact on courtship and marriage, and the most successful online dating sites have built their reputations on reasonably careful matching of compatible characters.”

For relationship purposes, “personality” is a combination of traits, emotions, expectations, and values — by no means the same as the Jungian categories.  According to Dr. Cox, “Compatibility results from good balance between what we used to call ‘character’.  Values and emotions play a greater role in compatibility tests than they do in occupational tests, because what we want and what we feel determine how we behave with our loved ones.”  

Dr. Cox strongly advocates self-testing, and she points to online testing sites as great sources for both tests and interpretive guides.  “Often, personality tests confirm what we always have known about ourselves,” agrees Cox, “but the surprises in the test results often yield the greatest personal breakthroughs.”  Dr. Cox suggests that people curious about what a personality test might reveal about their character and integrity should visit  “ lets you choose a personality test well-suited to your interests and needs,” she says.

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