Being self-aware about who you are and how you behave is a critical life skill that can be utilized in a number of different aspects whether it be in your work-life, relationships, or just day-to-day interactions you may encounter.
Some would argue that one of life’s biggest challenge is finding yourself. In other words, discovering who we are as an individual, what makes us us, and how we act or react to certain situations throughout life. One way of gaining a better understanding of yourself is through personality tests.
While you shouldn’t fully define yourself based on one type of personality or believe you are a certain way because of a personality test you completed online --- it is certainly important to note that these tests can and will be fairly accurate. A starting point, if you will, into your journey of self-discovery.
Before we delve into the early and modern history of personality testing as well as the various forms of tests you can take, let's talk about what you can gain from understanding your personality and the accuracy of these tests.
Benefits of Personality Tests
While the pros list can go on and on, we decided to stick to 5 key reasons why taking a personality test can be beneficial for you.
1) It allows you to take time for self-reflection.
By physically taking time out of your day to respond to a series of questions or perform various other tests, you must reflect (honestly) on who you are as a person and answer the questions as true as they relate to you.
2) It provides you with the opportunity for self-awareness.
You are given the opportunity to understand more fully your goals, aspirations, beliefs, values, and so on. Knowing such things about your self allows you to be aware of who you are and how you may come off to other people.
3) It provides you with the opportunity for self-improvement.
By seeing the results of your test, you may see some results that make you unhappy or even shocked. Knowing that your personality may be shifted more to one way than another allows for improvement. Something we should all strive for each day; improving what we don’t like about ourselves!
4) It can help you react, manage, and deal with various relationships.
By understanding that you are for example, more of an introverted person, you can utilize tools and practices to maybe break out of your shell more and interact with people. Or say you tend to be irritated more easily, knowing this and trying to manage it can certainly improve daily interactions as well as more serious relationships.
5) It can help you identify meaningful goals and aspirations.
By understanding what makes you tick as well as certain skills that you are exceptionally great at, you can set and identify meaningful, reachable goals. Often times these tests can be used for upcoming college kids for what they want to study in school or even those looking for a future career.
Before we examine the numerous different types of personalities and the tests used alongside, let’s discuss the history.
Personality Psychology: Ancient Times
Personality psychology can be dated as far back as Ancient Greece where prominent philosophers began challenging the minds of the greatest thinkers at the time to discover the answer to a not so simple question --- what is it that makes us us?
One of the earliest philosophers, Hippocrates, proposed that there were two key pillars of temperament (hot/cold, wet/dry) leading to the conclusion of four fluids of the body referred to as “humours”. These “humours” led to your persona --- personality.
- Choleric Temperament: Hot and dry (yellow bile from the liver).
- Melancholic Temperament: Cold and dry (black bile from the kidney).
- Sanguine Temperament: Hot and wet (red blood from the heart).
- Phlegmatic Temperament: Cold and wet (white phlegm from the lungs).
Many centuries later a Greek physician and philosopher built off these findings to suggest that these temperament and imbalances in fluids (“humors”) could be used to explain disease and personality difference.
So, these findings led to the conclusion that you could be considered as such based on your temperament…
- Chloric Temperament: passionate, ambitious, and bold.
- Melancholic Temperament: reserved, anxious, and unhappy.
- Sanguine Temperament: joyful, eager, and optimistic.
- Phlegmatic Temperament: calm, reliable, and thoughtful.
Galen’s theory was prevalent for over 1,000 years served as a cornerstone for personality testing in the Middle Ages.
Personality Psychology: More Modern Times
Building off Galen’s theory, researchers in the 18th century began further developing and trying to understand these four different temperament types. Two important philosophers to note: Immanuel Kant and William Wundt (“Father of Experimental Psychology”).
Kant was a German Philosopher known for being very influential during the Age of Enlightenment (1685-1815). Immanuel Kant supported and agreed with Galen’s theory but contrasted it in believing that these temperaments could not overlap. In other words, you could only be described as having one of these (chloric, melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic) versus being a combination of one or more. Kant developed a list of descriptive personality traits aligned to each of the four temperaments (see below).
Similarly, Wundt believed in the idea of four temperaments but with the addition of two axes - emotionally unstable/stable and unchangeable/changeable. So, Wundt suggested that these two axes be added to Kant’s list of personality traits (see below).
William Wundt became one of the first people to separate psychology from philosophy and biology creating the distinction from the human body to his theories on human personality. Wundt would test how people reacted to certain sensations/perceptions and developed the experimental method that can be referred to as structuralism. He would test and analyze how people responded to certain images, events, stimuli and so on as well as how long it took to respond (the longer it took to respond equaled the more mental processes involved). Lastly, he developed a process known as introspection which refers to how the individual came to the conclusion that they did, or the nature of the process used.
Personality Psychology: Psychodynamic Approach
The founder of the psychodynamic approach is none other than Sigmund Freud, arguably one of the most famous names in psychology. Sigmund Freud argued that people were driven by innate needs. This approach has influenced and led to one of the most drastic ways that people view personality types. Freud is famous for his very held belief that a person’s childhood shapes the rest of their future (and personality).
Freud believed the mind had three unique and different consciousness. Please refer to the picture below for further explanation.
Source: historicair [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Conscious - the small amount of mental activity that we are aware of.
- Preconscious - unconscious thoughts at a particular moment, but not repressed.
- Unconscious - things we are not aware of and can not become aware of.
- Superego - part of your mind that acts as a self-critical conscience - reflecting the values and morals of society.
- Ego - the part of the id that has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.
- Id - the primitive and unconscious part of the mind.
Carl Jung is known for being extremely influential in the realm of actual personality testing, a subject in which will be the main focus of this article. Jung believed there to be four key personality preference descriptors in which influence an individual: sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling. This proposed theory beginning in the 1900’s would pave the way for personality tests.
Carl Jung also proposed and founded the idea that a person has four main archetypes that contribute to the entirety of their personality: the Self, the Persona, the Shadow, and the Anima/Animus. These archetypes provide a model for we behave and act the way we do. Jung suggested that in order to develop a healthy and well-rounded personality all archetypes must be addressed and “worked though”. Doing such will lead to spiritual development and a fulfilled life. Please refer to the image below and the description below to understand the four Jungian archetypes better.
- The Self: all aspects on an individual; combines the conscious and unconsciousness; self-actualization
- The Persona: the different social “masks” worn in different settings; a form of protection.
- The Shadow: the dark side of the psyche: repressed memories/emotions/ideas, weaknesses, represents chaos and the unknown.
- The Anima/Animus: the Anima is the feminine qualities of a man’s unconscious while the Animus is vice versa. Due to societal norms and standards, integrating both energies is a challenge but necessary to be full.
Free Personality Tests
Since the 1900’s personality tests, assessments, and theories have increased dramatically. Let’s discuss and review some of the more popular online personality tests.
Inspired by Carl Jung’s theories on personality, specifically his ideology on the four descriptors (sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling), the Myer-Briggs Personality tests were written and designed by mother and daughter duo Katharine and Isabel Myer-Briggs.
In essence, the test works by understanding that we as individuals all have specific preferences in the way we interpret our experiences, and these interpretations suggest our underlying interests, needs, values, motivations, etc.
How it works is the test separates people into 16 “categories” of personalities, providing each person with a four-letter acronym. Let’s discuss the letters and what they mean.
Extraversion (E) / Introversion (I)
Extraverts tend to be more “outward-turning”, enjoy frequent social interactions, are comfortable speaking out in a group, as well as action-oriented. Introverts are considered “inward-turning”, enjoy meaningful social interactions vs. frequent, and are thought-oriented. Most people tend to identify with one or the other, but it is not uncommon to exhibit characteristics of both.
Sensing (S) / Intuition (N)
This scale focuses on how people gather information from the world around them. Those who prefer sensing pay attention in great detail about what they can gather from their own personal senses. They look at the reality of situations, focus on facts, and prefer getting “hands-on” with things. Those that prefer the intuition side of things focus on patterns and impressions. They think about the future, possibilities, and abstract ideas.
Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)
This scale focuses on how people make their decisions based on how they gathered information (sensing or intuition?). Thinking people tend to consider the logistics of things: facts, tangible observations, reality. Feeling people consider the emotions of both themselves and others when trying to arrive at a conclusion.
Judging (J) / Perceiving (P)
The final scale focuses on Judging vs Perceiving. Those who prefer judging are more firm and rigid in their decisions. Those who perceive are more flexible and adaptable in their decision making.
Now let’s get into how the test actually is taken.
The test takes less than 12 minutes to complete and works by asking you a series of questions in which you respond (honestly!) on a scale ranging from agree to disagree (with several levels in between gauging on how much you agree or disagree with the statement as it holds true to you). Please see the example below.
After completing the test, you will get your personality results (16 possible results). They can range from any of the following based on the 4-letter acronym:
- ISTJ - The Inspector
- ISTP - The Crafter
- ISFJ - The Protector
- ISFP - The Artist
- INFJ - The Advocate
- INFP - The Mediator
- INTJ - The Architect
- INTP - The Thinker
- ESTP - The Persuader
- ESTJ - The Director
- ESFP - The Performer
- ESFJ - The Caregiver
- ENFP - The Campaigner
- ENFJ - The Giver
- ENTP - The Debater
- ENTJ - The Commander
The website then describes your personality and how it affects aspects of your life from your strengths and weaknesses, friendships, relationships, career path, work life habits, and parenthood.
Overall, this test is fairly accurate and provides a detailed explanation and analysis of your personality. Very recommended.
The DiSC is a behavioral assessment test based on the theory of William Moulton Marston that centers on four unique personality traits: dominance, influence, steadfastness, and consciousness.
The DiSC is particularly useful in understanding how you respond to certain challenges, as well as your behaviors to those around you and in everyday life.
When talking the test, you are asked to respond to a simple questionnaire about your own behaviors. The test will contain 28 groups of 4 statements. It should only take about 5 to 10 minutes if answering honestly and spontaneously. For each group of decisions, you should have one that is most like you and one that is least like you. See example below.
After completing the questionnaire, you are given a pie chart that exhibits how much of each factor can be related to you. You are provided with a brief description of your personality as well as patterns or profiles that relate to you. Here is a couple of examples.
Surprisingly accurate, TestColor asks you two simple questions: “Click on the colors you like most” and “Click on the colors you like least”. While you may be wondering how on earth are choosing some colors going to tell me who I am… we have the answer. Verified by clinical psychologists and mathematicians worldwide, TestColor measures your emotional intelligence, creativity and imagination, social skills, and even work style and organization skills.
With over 12 million tests already taken and the possibility for over 50 million uniquely generated results this test only takes a few minutes to complete, the results are shockingly accurate.
Here’s an example of what your results could look like:
Facial expressions are the universal language of the world! This fun and easy test was developed by Berkeley and asks you to recognize the facial expression from 20 different images. This test measures how well you are able to read people as well as your awareness of the emotions of those around you. This test is a direct measure of your emotional intelligence – a key factor in managing and mitigating relationships in your life (serious or non).
This test is harder than it looks!
Interpersonal Skills often referred to as “people skills” and are essentially a form of social skills that showcase how well you communicate and work with others. Some good interpersonal skills include active listening, dependability, leadership, flexibility, motivation, patience, and so on.
Knowing how well you communicate and work with others is a very necessary skill in both daily interactions and especially in the workplace. This test allows you to find some self-awareness and turn it into some possible self-correction.
Here’s how the test works.
This image focuses on active listening. You will be prompted to answer honestly in regard to several other interpersonal skills. This assessment is great for self-reflection and awareness.
Also referred to as the “Rorschach” test, this test is often what comes to mind when we picture psychiatrists sitting with a patient forcing them to see images in a series of different ink blots. While quirky and somewhat unusual this test can be fairly accurate and is one of the most widely used method in the United States.
Responses are scored by with reference to their vagueness or synthesis of multiple images within the blot, the location of the response, which of a variety of determinants is used to produce the response. For example, what makes the inkblot look like what it is said to resemble? Other determinants include form quality of the response (how accurate is the response to what the actual inkblot looks like), the contents of the response (what the responder sees), and the degree and number of mental processes that the responder uses to come to the conclusion that they do.
During the test you will be shown a series of ink blot images. Look at each for a moment and then select the response or responses that you see best fit. At the end of the assessment your responses are analyzed and then scored. You will be provided with a summary of the test evaluation.
This assessment is a measure of the six personality dimensions:
- Honesty/Humility: high scores in this facet feel a strong need to avoid manipulation and will not “step” on others to reach their goals or get what they want. These individuals feel little temptation to break rules, do not care about elevated social status, or living a lavish life. Low scorers are the exact opposite. They will break rules, squander others to get to what they want, are motivated by material things, and typically have large egos.
- Emotionality: those with high scores on this scale experience an increased fear of physical dangers, stress/anxiety dealing with life’s obstacles, feel a need for emotional support from others and are able to emphasize easily. Those with a low score on this scale, do not fear physical danger, are not easily stressed out in “stressful” situations, and are more emotionally detached.
- Extraversion: high scorers feel comfortable about themselves, have no trouble being a voice in a large group, and enjoy social interactions and gatherings. Low scorers may feel awkward or uncomfortable in social situations or when they are the center of attention. They typically come across as less lively in public settings.
- Agreeableness (vs. anger): in short, high scorers are more apt to forgive, do not hold grudges, can easily control their temper, and are willing to compromise or cooperate with others. Low scorers find it hard to forgive and hold long drawn-out grudges. They are typically very stubborn and are quick to anger when they sense mistreatment.
- Conscientiousness: high scorers find it necessary to organize their time and surroundings to complete a goal or get work done. These high scorers are more disciplined and strive for accuracy and perfection when making a decision. Low scorers are unconcerned with an organized work setting, find work to be acceptable even with errors, and do not choose to go after especially challenging or risky tasks.
- Openness to Experience: high scorers find themselves lost in the beauty of art and nature. They are curious about the meaning of life and use their imagination freely and without fear of judgement. They take an interest to unusual people and ideas. People with low scores are uninterested about works of art, feel little to no curiosity about emotionally deep ideas, and find radical or unconventional people/ideas very unattractive.
Taking the test takes about 15 to 20 minutes and consists of 100 questions. While you are completing the inventory, you will be shown a statement such as “I would be quite bored by a visit to an art gallery” in which you will be prompted to give your answer on a scale from strongly disagree to neutral to strongly agree. You even have the option of filling out an “Observer-report” in which you can fill out the questionnaire for someone else.
8. Personality Assessment System (PAS)
Developed by John W. Gittinger, this assessment test has been used by scientists studying personality as well as clinicians. There are two distinguishable features of this test that separate it from other. The first being an objective test and the second being a developmental model in which the description of the personality includes the development through adolescence.
The test is based on the idea that behavior is determined from both heredity and environmental factors. The theory also hypothesizes that gender and age help reach the final personality description.
Gittinger’s original formulation for the assessment defines three primitive dimensions that also lead to the totality of your personality:
- Internalizer-Externalizer: the ability to manipulate internal stimuli without being distracted by the external world.
- Rigid-Flexible: the rigid individual becomes more fixated on details and has trouble seeing “the big picture”. They are more procedurally oriented and has a high sensory threshold (satisfied less often). The flexible individual stays away from step-by-step procedures and is involved more fully in relationships.
- Role Adaptable-Role Uniform: refers to a person’s skill in meeting demands asked of them. A role adaptable is typically more charming, makes great first impressions, and plays a variety of roles. The role uniform individual can only handle a few social roles and is thought to be more socially “inept”.
This test uses the Wechsler Scales subtests to decide a person’s intelligence and skills. The test works by taking three subtests. Here is an example.
While there is no free online way to take this test, it is a great test to take if you ever get the opportunity!
The Enneagram test helps you find your basic personality. The Enneagram can be seen as a set of nine distinct personalities. It can be common to find yourself relating in a small way to all nine types however one should fit you best. Here are the nine personality types.
This test is one of the best for personal growth and seeing yourself with fresh eyes. Taking just 5 minutes out of your day to complete the test, this one is very recommended!
10. California Psychological Inventory (CPI)
The CPI was specifically designed to assess the everyday “folk-concepts” that ordinary people use to describe the behavior of those around them. Created by Harrison Gough this test is made up of 434 true/false questions. So, while this test takes more time (about 45 minutes to an hour), it can be worth it.
The test is comprised of 20 scales: dominance, capacity for status, sociability, social presence, self-acceptance, independence, empathy, responsibility, socialization, self-control, good impression, communality, sense of well-being, tolerance, achievement via independence, achievement via conformance, intellectual efficiency, psychological-mindedness, flexibility, femininity-masculinity.
While that seems like a lot… it certainly increases the validity and reliability of the test for providing a well-rounded analysis of your personality.
This test unfortunately is not free online but if you ever get the chance to take it or are willing to pay for it, it will be well worth it.
Personality Tests Summary
We covered a lot of information. From the beginning of personality testing to the theories that changed the way psychology would be studied in modern times, a lot of ground was covered. 10 personality tests were discovered (many of them free, with the exception of a couple!)
It is hoped that you can see the endless possibilities of benefits that you can gain from these tests. Knowing who you are and how you appear to others can be one of the greatest self-awareness tools you can have. We encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day to take some of the tests we discussed above. Many of these sites provide an in-depth description of your results that you can hang onto for future reference.
We encourage you not to box yourself into just one personality or become hooked on one result because many times your personality is a mixture of many personalities. We hope this article was useful to you and hopefully you can learn something new about yourself!