First of all, you have to know I have a complicated relationship with psychometrics, the field of psychological measurement. The use of psychological tests became more frequent and popular during World War I and II, because they were seen as a practical and cost-effective way to assess intelligence among troops, facilitate the selection of candidates and predict success in officer training schools. From here onwards, making use of psychological tests to measure people’s aptitudes and abilities became the standard way of assessing and labelling people not only in the Army but also in Education and working settings.
In Portugal, vocational tests are usually offered to 9th graders before they make a decision on what to do next. I went through that experience when I was 15 and I don’t have anything positive to say about it. The problem I have with psychometrics is not entirely related with the testing process in itself but with how psychological measurements and their results can be blindly used to make decisions about people. According to the school’s psychologist, my tests indicated that I could be a good dentist, but making surgeries to people’s mouths doesn’t really sound like me, does it?
I think psychological measures are useful as a way to gather information and facilitate reflection on a person’s traits, patterns and tendencies, but never as an isolated tool to make decisions. The map is not the territory, and the results we obtain through a psychological test are not the person. Instead, they are just proxies and it is dangerous to base an important decision such as what is your vocation. I find this approach rather insulting and one of the reasons I take psychometrics with a grain of salt. Another reason is that I have worked closely with testing and I know how rare it is to find a psychology researcher who is good at math modelling and who masters psychological theory at the same time.
Having made these remarks, in this blog post I bring you three of my favourite psychological measures for personal development. Now, I’m not going to extend myself here on whether these tests have been validated, or on how reliable they are. My point here is to share three tools which I find particularly interesting as they have always offered me much food for thought. I hope they can offer you a similar experience and that you can gather more information about yourself by using them in your favour.
VIA Survey of Character Strengths
The Values in Action (VIA) survey of character strengths will take you about 25 minutes to complete. In total, there are 240 items measuring the extent to which you endorse the 24 strengths of character included in the VIA classification. Knowing your strengths is incredibly important, since using on a daily basis increases our overall confidence and self-esteem (two important ingredients of wellbeing!). You can use this tool for free here.
The Myers Briggs personality test is based on the theory of psychological types of Carl G. Jung. The result will help you with identifying your basic preferences, how you usually make decisions, and how you interact with reality. You can use this tool for free here and it will take you about 12 minutes to complete. I have also talked about the INFP personality type here.
The Career Explorer
This is a Career Test I found out very recently and it helped me to understand a little bit more about what types of jobs are actually a good fit for me. For instances, I love learning as showed by my VIA results, but working as an academic wasn’t exactly the best option for me. So thanks to this test, I became even more confident about my decision to leave academia behind, at least for now, and I also found out that blogger was the first career option that came up. How cool is that? You can also take this test for free here.
Finally, I would like to leave again the reminder that these tests can’t be labelled as scientific evidence of who you are. No psychological test can do that, even those who have been said to be validated and reliable. You are the best judge to know who you are, so your intuition is key here. Use these tools as references and opportunities to explore and discover more about you, not as rigid conceptions about yourself. Having a sense of identity is very important for our wellbeing, but you should only take what makes sense with you and leave what doesn’t behind. Imagine if I had became a dentist. Uh! Let me know also your results in the comments, it will be fun to know more about you!