People like to take personality tests

Personality tests : Who do you think you are actually?

“I'm not easy to worry”, “I like to have lots of people around me in my free time”, “I often feel sad or lonely” - questions like these are part of personality tests that are not only the basis for dating agencies, but also play a role in recruitment tests, career counseling, and even psychotherapy. Researchers are now criticizing the fact that the current situation and mood of a test person helps determine how they answer the questions on the usual scale from “I fully agree” to “I strongly disagree”. This makes a general assessment of personality impossible or at least falsified.

The "Big Five" of personality

The scientific basis of personality tests is based on the questioning of five personality traits: compatibility, conscientiousness and openness to experience; in addition, the extraversion, i.e. sociability and extroversion, and finally the neuroticism of a person are assessed in the question-and-answer game. This factor indicates the emotional stability, i.e. how easy it is to irritate a person in their feelings, how much the ups and downs of everyday life throw them off course. These characteristics, also known under the catchphrase "The Big Five", form the most widely accepted personality model in psychology.

The basic assumption of the concept, without which the test result would say little about the personality of the test person, is: People are fundamentally stable in their personality. The psychologist Jan Querengässer doubts that. In a study he took a closer look at the personality model. "When a person is in a bad mood, they are no longer the same," says the psychologist about the motivation for his study. “This experience has not yet reached research.” And certainly not with the users of personality tests in assessment centers, career counseling or dating agencies.

Tested sometimes in a good mood, sometimes in a bad mood

At the University of Konstanz, Querengässer examined the influence of sadness and joy on the results of a personality test. Together with his colleague Sebastian Schindler, he tested around 100 subjects using a personality test that is established in psychology, the so-called NEO five-factor inventory (NEO FFI), consisting of 60 questions, twelve for each personality dimension.

The study participants were tested twice. The first time without any special features. The second time, a few weeks later, the psychologists split the group. In one half they induced a feeling of joy, in the other half a feeling of sadness: Mozart's “A Little Night Music”, excerpts from a TV soap about family reunification and a film about the fall of the Berlin Wall served as cheers.

The mood killers in the other group, however, were Samuel Barber's Adagio and the film “Philadelphia” about an AIDS patient. "And we asked the test subjects to remember the moment when they found out that someone close to them had died," says Querengässer. "Finally, we asked the test subjects whether they felt sad - which they usually answered in the affirmative."

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