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Few people would object to helping someone gain a better insight into their own personality in a guidance or counselling context, if this would help them to develop as individuals or help them to work better with other people. It, is also easy to understand why large firms need to know about the suitability of an applicant before they employ them. (Butcher p g 4) The use of personality questionnaires in employment could well answer doubts about a persons suitability to do a particular job, while others might argue that ones past record of accomplishment should confirm whether they are suitable to do the job.

Furnham (1997) stated that there were four good reasons why personality tests are useful in assessing candidates suitability for a job. Objective tests are fairer than informal procedures. Tests provide standardised numeric information on individuals so that different people can be compared on the same criteria. Personality tests produce explicit and specific indicators of temperament rather than vague, ambiguous, coded platitudes. By conducting personality tests, a score is provided for assessing the characteristics needed for the job.

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(Furnham & Heaven pg183) The growing amount of research looking at personality and its relation to vocational choice, work motivation, productivity satisfaction, work stress as well as absenteeism and accidents. (Bernadin & Bownas 1985; Lanyon & Goodstein 1997) suggest that these factors are logically related to personality traits. Furnham believed that personality tests are scientific in that they are allegedly supposed to be based upon theoretical and empirical foundations, they are generally reliable and valid and able to discriminate the good from the bad.

Steve Blinkhorn and Charles Johnson argue this point and suggest that the validity of personality tests were at best weak and at there worst totally spurious. They later conducted a study, by which they suggest that there was a lack of good validation research upon personality tests. (Dr Russell Drakeley pg29) Ivan Robertson said in the conference ‘Striking the right balance’ that personality measurement most often involves profiling an individual upon a number of traits.

There have been a number of debates, about the number of traits that are needed to describe personality with any degree of precision. On the issue of staff selection being carried out as a result of personality testing, this enables the management of a company to be able to label an employee to be what ever. The application of personality tests are used in other aspects of our lives, and once more are met with some controversy, the application of personality testing for so called ‘abnormal personality disorders’ have been met with strong criticisms.

Mischel (1973) ; Mischel and Peak (1982) suggest that although the notion that traits exist is nearly as old as the notion of personality itself, it has proved quite difficult to obtain evidence that people are consistent in their dispositions and perceptions across different situations. However, we still use personality tests for clinical applications in diagnosing a problem that may or may not exist, but, because the person may behave, different to the norm they are still used.

Personality assessment is a subject that fascinates many people, so much so that there are thousands of personality tests, hundreds of books and texts have been written about them. Some tests are focal designed to illuminate a single personality attribute, such as anxiety or depression, or uncover some kind of brain damage. Others are omnibus, seeking to describe a larger portion of personality and abnormality. Many tests are unstructured or projective, requiring the client to draw a person or persons or a series of designs, to determine abnormality through careful interviewing.

While others aspire to the same goal through formal structured examinations. (Rosenhan & Seligman pg574) Most psychological testing procedures are relatively standardised. That important fact increases the likelihood that different examiners will obtain similar information from the client: that is that the tests will be reliable. So, if several examiners give an adult the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale to the same client, then the clients score should be approximately the same from one examination to the next. Psychological tests fall into three categories: Psychological inventories such as the MMPI and the MMPI-2.

Projective tests, these include the Rorschach and the TAT. Intelligence tests, such as, the WAIS and the WISC. All of these tests are verbal tests and use words to portray psychological assets and liabilities. Nearly all of us have taken an Objective psychological inventory at one time in our lives, for vocational advice or personal counselling. These tests are highly structured and contain a variety of statement that can be answered ‘true’ or ‘false’. The client is asked if any of the statements can be related to him or her. Assessment can be approached from a variety of angles.

Some inventories examine thought, others focus upon behaviour. Some concentrate on context and situation, others on traits. . (Rosenhan & Seligman pg578) The results of the MMPI are recorded in the form of a profile, the profile tells the clinician more than the individual scores would. The resulting personality assessment is more than the sum of the individuals MMPI scores it is examined against a larger assessment in which inferences from other sources of information that the clinician has obtained, with the goal of noting consistencies and reconciling inconsistencies. . (Rosenhan & Seligman pg562)

Clinicians find this method significantly flawed, perhaps irremediably so, for example the standardisation of the MMPI-2 is larger than the MMPI, thus suggesting that the MMPI is being constantly updated. The representations of this assessment is still biased in the direction of respondents who have more education and higher professional achievements than the population as a whole. More significantly there are two versions of the MMPI can produce two very different results on the MMPI the client can be diagnosed as having severe depression and on the MMPI-2 the client can be said to be in a normal range.

(Adler, 1989) The intelligence tests for example the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wechsler Pre-school and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) are used in relation to education and intelligence. The WAIS was revised in 1981 because it was though to be unfair to minorities groups this is now called the WASI-R . The Wechsler Scales provide a total IQ score for both mental ability and verbal ability.

Intelligence tests play an important role in assessing mental retardation and brain damage, however they are routinely used in schools to determine the kind of education a child will get. The intelligence test have been severely criticised as being limited in what it actually measures. . (Rosenhan & Seligman pg574) Another system of classification designed specifically to diagnose psychological problems is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) this was developed in 1952 and has been constantly updated and now it is called the DSM IV.

When the DSM had been re-standardised to the DSM II the diagnostic categories were premised on psychoanalytic theory, and the diagnoses that arose from that system were heavily influenced by inferred traits. The constant standardisation meant that it met the treaty obligation that the United States has with the World Organisation to maintain terminological consistency with the international Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The DSM IV provides useful information for functional diagnoses for the following axis: Axis I for clinical syndromes such as major depression, and alcohol abuse.

Axis II for personality disorders. Axis III for general medical conditions. Axis IV for psychosocial and environment problems. Axis V for Global Assessment of Functioning. . (Rosenhan & Seligman pg764) All of these assessment devices must be both reliable and valid to be of use to the psychologists. When they are reliable, they generate the same findings on repeated use. When they are valid, they are of use for the purposes, which they were intended. The accuracy and usefulness of a diagnosis may be compromised by the context in which it occurs and the expectations and credibility of the diagnosticians and their informants.

(Butcher pg76) Personality tests may be helpful in evaluating a persons behaviour in certain situations, however, there is strong opposition against personality tests. Dahlstrom (1969) suggests that some personality tests are often confusing to the average person. He also suggested that personality tests were to some extent used as a scapegoat for the public’s concern and anxiety over the development of ‘an increasingly precise psycho-technology. (Assessing Personality pg. 184) Martin Gross (1965) a popular critic states that personality test are inaccurate and immoral.

This can be explained in the situation of the MMPI-2 where on one test a person is perceived as depressed, and on the other, the person is said to be in normal range. This can have huge implications because depending upon the clinical psychologist, the person could be labelled mentally ill when in fact there is nothing wrong with them. The down side of personality testing has long term effects, the child who does not understand the questions in an intelligence test can be labelled as ‘thick’ it does not take into account learning difficulties, dyslexia, or a notion as simple as poor eyesight.

The universal view of all texts studied for this essay is that personality testing does not account for social situations. It has been described as being very limited in categorising certain behaviours and does not take into account other factors that may influence behaviour.


1. Pervin, L. (1997) Personality Theory and Research, Seventh Edition. John Wiley & Sons. CANADA.. 2. Furnham, A. & Heaven, P. (1999) Personality and Social Behaviour. Arnold. LONDON, NEW YORK, SYDNEY, AUCKLAND. 3. Butcher, J. (1972) Objective Personality Assessment. Academic Press. NEW YORK. LONDON.

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