Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's Your Five?

In another class of mine I'm currently taking, my professor gave out a take-home test to be returned earlier today. It wasn't for a grade and, more than anything, this was an opportunity to prove a point postulated just a few decades ago.

Psychology and personality go together like peanut butter and jelly. Psychology is literally the study of the mind, and personality is the inner character that drives people to do what they do. It's difficult, if not impossible, to isolate the two without acknowledging that both play a role in each other's development of the self. But because much of the science of psychology is subjectively theorized, the chance of accurately predicting one's personality was once thought of as slim to none.

Then along came Robert McCrae and Paul Costa Jr.

For those without a psychological background, McCrae and Costa are most notable for developing a five factor model to represent the core of personality. (Another fellow, Hans Eysenck, proposed a broader model on three personality dimensions that preceded their work, but is still relevant today.) Most of McCrae and Costa's research was developed throughout the 1980s, and by the following decade, their findings became the standard for categorizing one's basic behavior via personality tests.

Essentially, they concluded that personality is consistent and perpetuates itself over time. For instance, an aggressive 20-year old is bound to become an aggressive 40-year old and later an aggressive 80-year old. Barring a serious injury/disease or the loss of a close loved one, most people won't change even the slightest thing about themselves once they hit adulthood.

Unlike other traditional psychologists, McCrae and Costa didn't seek to diagnose individuals for mental disturbances. And instead of psychoanalysis and professional counseling, they relied on factor analysis to quantify their subjects. This groups certain individuals closer together than others based on their answers, and it ranks their score relative to the rest of the sample.

And for those of y'all that have read on, you can try out this classic experiment on yourself, too.

The test at the bottom of this post "grades" your personality based on the OCEAN acronym devised by McCrae and Costa, which stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. It's only 41 questions, but it asks of you to objectively categorize yourself. That's the most important point to keep in mind. After answering some additional personal questions (but nothing too personal), your results are shown on the following page.

Now, this isn't some wishy-washy personality test you find by clicking on some suspicious link on Google or Bing. This particular test is maintained by Dr. Tom Buchanan, a psychology professor at the University of Westminster. Not only does he teach the subject at the university, but it's in the United Kingdom, so you know it's legit.

As far as yours truly is concerned, I scored a 29 on Openness, a 47 on Conscientiousness, a 25 on Extraversion, a 32 on Agreeableness, and a 10 on Neuroticism. Needless to say, I'm not surprised.

And if you answer truthfully, neither should you.

Click here to take the test.

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