I remember being fascinated by personality tests as a kid. I think it all started when I took a test in elementary school about what career I should be in, and from then I was hooked. I discovered other tests that told me about myself based ozsn my favorite color, tests which described my personality based on my food choices, etc. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know anything about mental bias and the Forer effect, it all sounded true to me at the time.
Since then I’ve learned much more about psychology, my personality and various validated psychological tests to determine facets of my personality type.
I always felt like there was something missing from the standard ones I took though, even though they were largely accurate. I’ve recently discovered a test that cleared up some of my personal confusion, and wanted to share it with you – along with some of my other favorite free online personality tests.
The irony of discussing online surveys immediately following my article about not wasting time online is not lost on me =). I don’t believe these are a waste of time though – I’ve tried many surveys, and these are the best ones I’ve found to truly learn more about yourself.
Also, RSS and Email Readers – I’ve included a lot of media in this article. You may need to come view the article on SidSavara.com to see them. I apologize for any inconvenience =)
Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI)
Both gave me similar results, but I highly suggest taking the full one if you have 15-20 minutes.
- (PDF) Putting Time in Perspective: A Valid, Reliable Individual-Differences Metric
- The Time Paradox (Book)
- The Time Paradox (webpage and blog)
I recently discovered this test after watching Dr. Zimbardo present the test and his findings at the Commonweatlh Club. Here’s a short, 2 minute introduction to Zimbardo’s work:
The ZTPI, along with Dr. Zimbardo’s perspective on issues dealing with time are discussed at length in his book, The Time Paradox. Zimbardo contends that all of our significant choices, all our important decisions we make are determined by our perspective on time. After taking the test, and discussing the results some of my friends had when they took the test, I agree. It is the first test where I ever had a result that was an extreme case.
Spoiler Alert: I should warn you, if you’re interested in taking the test you should do so before reading the next paragraph. It contains spoilers about some of the questions on the test and what the answers suggest, which could bias your response based on how you want your results to turn out. To take the test, check out the full ZTPI here. Alternatively, here is a shorter ZTPI from USA Today. Both gave me similar results, but I highly suggest taking the full one if you have 15-20 minutes.
Dr. Zimbardo divides our time perspectives up into 5 main categories, as discussed in his research from 1999 (PDF), Putting Time in Perspective: A Valid, Reliable Individual-Differences Metric:
- Past Negative – This reflects a generally negative view of the past. Items that come into play here are thoughts such as “I think about the bad things have have happened to me in the past.” “I think about the good things that I have missed out on in my life,” and “I often think of what I should have done differently in my life.”
- Past Positive – This reflects a warm, sentimental attitude towards the past. Items that come into play here include thoughts such as: “It gives me pleasure to think about the past,” ”I get nostalgic about my childhood,” and “I enjoy stories about how things used to be in the ‘good old times.’”
- Present Hedonistic – As the name suggests, this factor reflects a hedonistic, risk taking attitude towards time and life. It suggests an orientation toward present pleasure with little concern for future consequences. Typical items include: “I do things impulsively,” ” I often follow my heart more than my head,” and “When listening to my favorite music, I often lose all track of time.”
- Present Fatalistic - This reflects a fatalistic, helpless and hopeless attitude toward the future and life. Typical items include: ”My life is controlled by forces I cannot influence,” “You can’t really plan for the future because things change so much” and “Often luck pays off better than hard work.”
- Future – This factor reflects a general future orientation. Typical items include: ”I am able to resist temptations when I know there is work to be done.,” and “I complete projects on time by making steady progress.”
The Future category is where my result was, quite literally, off their chart. I took it a second time, and had very similar results in all 5 categories – including an extreme result for future orientation.
If you enjoy thinking about time as much as I do, you may enjoy some of my articles on the topic as well:
- More Important than Money – Paying Myself First With My Time
- Time Travel 101 – Techniques For Reliving The Past and Seeing The Future
- Nerdy Productivity: Covey’s Time Management Matrix Illustrated with XKCD Comics
- Multiple tests available at Project Implicit Tests
Many personality tests only work if you answer honestly, and are easy to cheat by answering the way we idealize ourselves to be. That’s why this test fascinates me: it’s based on research by researches at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington to measure implicit biases . Here’s how they describe it:
[M]ost studies available at Project Implicit examine thoughts and feelings that exist either outside of conscious awareness or outside of conscious control. The primary goals of Project Implicit are to provide a safe, secure, and well-designed virtual environment to investigate psychological issues and, at the same time, provide visitors and participants with an experience that is both educational and engaging.
- Background Information about Project Implicit
The experiment involves showing you different sets of words, and asking you to push one key on your keboard if the word is associated with side “A”, and another if the word is associated with side “B”. So for example, Side A might be career, while Side B is family. Then they’ll have you do Side A is Male, Side B Female. Those are fairly straightforward. The interesting part of the experiment comes when they then say Side A is either Male or Career, and B is either Female or Family – and then finally, switch it up (Side A is Male or Family, Side B is Female or Career). Based on the cognitive dissonance provided by your own mental bias, the test shows you what kinds of implicit biases we all hold by looking at your reaction time. The very first time I did it I was surprised at my own results, and noticed even while I was taking the tests that I have implicit biases, because of my slower reaction time.
This video shows Alan Alda discussing the test with some of the researchers, as well as his and their results. What I found especially interesting is the researchers discussing how they have taken the test so many times, and even wrote the questions to test for bias: and their results continue to show their implicit biases!
Jung Topology/Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
I prefer the first one. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II is very limited now in the free version, which I did not like, since they only provide partial results. The one question test is interesting, and fairly accurate.
Arguably the most popular personality test of all. From Wikipedia:
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. These preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories originated by Carl Gustav Jung, as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types (English edition, 1923). [...]
The Myers-Briggs typology model regards personality type as similar to left or right handedness: individuals are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of thinking and acting. The MBTI sorts some of these psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or “dichotomies,” with a resulting 16 possible psychological types. None of these types is “better” or “worse”; however, Briggs and Myers theorized that individuals naturally prefer one overall combination of type differences.[...]
In the same way that writing with the left hand is hard work for a right-hander, so people tend to find using their opposite psychological preferences more difficult, even if they can become more proficient (and therefore behaviorally flexible) with practice and development.
-Myers-Briggs Type Indicator at Wikipedia
Knowing your Myers-Briggs Type (and especially knowing those of your peers) helps you understand what motivates you and your peers. Each type has characteristics that determine how we perceive the world, each other, and the actions of others. Knowing the type of person you are interacting with enables you to see the situation from their point of view, and understand what types of things are most relevant and important to them as stakeholders in a particular situation. It can also help you understand why you find some people frustrating (and I’m sure, why some people find me frustrating =) )
Briefly, there are four different axes that are measured by the MBTI:
From these 4 traits, we can come up with 16 different types (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16) as described below (links take you to type descriptions on Wikipedia):
Here’s a brief introduction to the MBTI, though they do not discuss the 16 types in detail. I mostly just love it for the cool little animations
This is my favorite treatment I found of the 16 MBTI types – Myers-Briggs, explained with The Simpsons. Each type is explained in detail, with an example from The Simpsons (though The Simpsons characters may not be fully representative of what each type is)
If you want to dig in further, the Wikipedia discussion is excellent.
I’ve found some other tests that I found interesting (Big-5 and its variants, RHETI), but ultimately many other personality tests are highly correlated with the MBTI. After trying out a number of them, I felt that the MBTI was the most relevant to me personally. If you’d like to try some of the other ones, here they are:
- Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) over at 9Types is my favorite. The 9 types site includes plenty of background information
- Multiple Tests over at Personality Lab, including Big 5. One of the tests I especially enjoyed on their site was about Life Goals. I didn’t really learn anything new from it, but perhaps others might.
What are your thoughts? Are there any personality tests you have found especially helpful in your personal growth?
P.S. If you enjoy articles about psychology, you may enjoy this one: Mental Bias – Would You Like Fries With Your Warm Fuzzy Platitudes?