Personalities aren’t defined by tests

Emily Price is a junior psychology major. She is a staff writer for the Newswire from Miamisburg, Ohio.

This past week was registration time for Xavier students spread out all over the world. This time around, I found myself with a difficult decision: push off a requirement till my last semester, which goes against my extreme strategy of working ahead, or take an elective I can already see myself falling in love with called “Theories of Personality.” 

My own personality leans away from risk-taking, toward agreeableness and away from change. I should have chosen to forgo the elective course and take the required one this upcoming semester, rather than my last. That, however, is not the decision I made. I registered for PSYC 464: Theories of Personality. 

Why did I do this? Why did I go against what my personality says I should do? Well, I’ll have to pass that class before I can tell you for certain. For now, I can only say that while personality inventories have shown to be able to predict many things such as the ability to lead, it cannot predict everything. 

One of the most popular personality inventories out there is “The Big Five.” Remembered through acronyms such as OCEAN or CANOE, Big Five personality inventories focus on five aspects of personality that summarize an individual, including behavioral tendencies and general mood dispositions. 

Those five aspects follow the OCEAN acronym: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. However, neuroticism has since been restructured and is instead beginning to be understood as emotional stability. This theory of personality was introduced into the world of personality inventories in the 1970s by several different research teams.

Another popular personality inventory is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This approach to personality takes similar aspects of who a person is into consideration when measuring or labeling their personality. It is made up of eight aspects that combine into 16 different personality types: extrovert and introvert, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling and judging and perceiving. This theory of personality, also very widely used, is a foundation in the world of personality inventories that first came about in the 1950s. 

I have taken each of these inventories several times. For the Big Five inventory, I rate middle to low on openness, very high on conscientiousness, middle to low on extroversion, very high on agreeableness and medium to high on emotional stability. For the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, my type is most often ISFJ, meaning I am an introvert that is sensing, feeling and judging. 

There are so many specifics on each of these approaches, but the main thing to know is that they point out key factors summarizing  someone’s personality. These techniques are frequently used in hiring decisions, on dating websites and in other aspects of our lives. Personality truly fascinates me. It has a lot of bearing on how we interact with the world and each other. I can predict that because I rate low in openness, I am predisposed to like my routine and may feel threatened by big changes. 

If we can predict everything, why don’t we? It’s fairly simple. Actually, we can’t. Although personality is generally stable throughout life and across situations, it may have slight differences based on mood, life stage or situational influences. This may account for the action I took against what my personality said I should have done. 

So, while personality inventories may answer a lot of questions, they aren’t able to answer them all. Being threatened by change doesn’t mean I am incapable of changing or being changed. Personality has a big role to play in our lives but it may not be the only deciding factor.