The stability of personality - Deepstash

The stability of personality

Most personality tests rely on flawed assumptions about the stability of personality. Scientists have begun to realize and find evidence that personality changes not only throughout one’s lifetime, but even throughout the day.

Depending on the situation you’re in at any given moment, your behavior will reflect your personality differently. In other words, even if you used a highly accurate measure of personality and got a score of top 10% in your “agreeableness” trait, that won’t hold in all situations.

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This is a phenomenon wherein people tend to perceive vague, abstract personality statements to be highly accurate and personally relevant, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

This is why a lot of people, when talking about personality tests results, say "oh, but it sounds so accurate, and it helped me discover who I am!"

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When personality tests rely on flawed theories

The most popular personality tests falsely assume that people can be classified into personality types—a theoretical framework that has been thoroughly discredited. These tests—the Myers-Briggs, the DiSC, the Color Test, and the Enneagram—all attempt to categorize people into contrived types.

Asking someone if they’re an introvert or an extrovert isn’t the right way to approach personality. People don’t fit into neat boxes; they can’t be classified into “entirely introverted” or “entirely extraverted.”

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People can vary in degrees from low to high on a given trait. Currently, the most scientifically supported theory is the Big 5, which identifies the degree to which someone is open to new experiences, conscientious, extraverted, agreeable, and emotionally stable.

But even most Big 5 tests still use a traditional Likert-type scale, which asks participants to rate themselves “on a scale of 1 to 5.” Scientists have been aware for decades that this measurement method is fraught with biases.

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Our personalities can change

Many of us think our personality is fixed and unchangeable.

But according to a recent study, while our early personalities may provide a baseline, they are pliable as we age. People's personality traits may change drastically over time.

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  • Extroversion
  • Agreebleness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness to experience
  • Emotional stability 

These traits reflect the most prominent ways that people differ from each other. To become better at understanding the people around you, start with these five dimensions.

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The Barnum Effect

Astrology, aura reading, fortune telling, cold calling, and some personality tests all exploit the Barnum Effect: Individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them but they don't consider that the descriptions actually applies to everyone.

The term was first coined in 1956 by psychologist Paul Meehl. He compared the vague personality descriptions used in some psychological tests to P.T. Barnum, a famous showman.

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