Personality test

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A personality test is a psychological test procedure to determine dispositional personality traits . It can be constructed projectively or psychometrically and is usually based on assessments or judgments . In contrast, performance tests record cognitive performance as "maximum" or modal behavior.


Personality tests are used wherever characteristics of the personality are to be included for an examination goal or a diagnostic decision-making.

In clinical psychology , one of the oldest areas of application (e.g. MMPI ), accentuation or personality disorders are recorded with it. The better coordination of therapeutic interventions to the personality of the client or the measurement of success (have the desired improvements occurred?) Are important areas of application.

They are used in personnel selection and development in order to assess the suitability of candidates.

Basic psychological research uses personality tests to determine new insights into inter-individual differences in experience and behavior.

In practice, personality tests do not provide an absolute (generalized) description of a person's personality, but merely information that must be corroborated by further procedures such as interviews. They serve to objectify subjective (individual) experience.


As in any psychological test, the test in a personality test provokes a subject's behavior, which is recorded. The test takes place under standardized conditions, i. This means that disruptive situational influences are eliminated as far as possible and that the instructions are precisely prescribed. The test person usually answers questions (self-assessments, external assessments) or evaluates ambiguous stimulus material (objective personality tests, if the connection between the answer and the interpretation is indirect). The survey and evaluation can be done manually (paper-pencil tests) or computer-assisted ( online assessments ). The latter offer the possibility of overcoming large distances and reducing the test effort through automation.


In the case of unqualified personality tests for the selection of employees and executives, the problem arises that test subjects see through the results and thus manipulate them. Questions sometimes reveal which character traits your answer should conclude and which of them are rated positively for the position to be awarded.

Even if skillful control questions attempt to ensure the coherence (inner consistency) of the response behavior, the problem remains. The mere fact that the test person believes that he can manipulate the test result in his own way leads to a falsification of the results. Studies have shown that test subjects who were asked to manipulate results were also able to do so. (Viswesvaran & Ones, 1999; Martin, Bowen & Hunt, 2002)

On the other hand, it is argued that people can behave appropriately in different roles. The ability to recognize the need for adjustment and then to act accordingly (or to show the response behavior) can also be counted as a test result. In some tests, a “consistency index” and the recording of the response behavior allow the test result to be interpreted at this level as well.

Types of personality tests

Psychometric tests are differentiated from projective tests. Psychometric tests are mostly questionnaires by means of which the personality traits of a test person are compared with the average values ​​of a norm sample. In contrast, in some projective tests, the subject is asked to interpret weakly structured stimulus material; From the interpretation, conclusions are drawn about the personality, intrapsychic conflicts or relationship structures through a primarily qualitative evaluation. Another form of projective tests lets the test person produce material himself, which is then interpreted by the test leader or together with the test person. Here are some character tests and the graphological font analysis.

Another distinction is made between direct and indirect personality tests (also known as objective personality tests). The former include, for example, all self-assessments where the recorded personality traits are also related to the test requirement in terms of content. In indirect (objective) personality tests, there is no easily recognizable connection between the requirement of the test and the personality trait measured (example: the length of lines is estimated and feedback is given as to whether this is correct or incorrect - which is independent of the actual correctness. In truth, for example, frustration tolerance or willingness to take risks are measured). It was hoped that these tests would be less easily falsifiable or answerable according to social desirability.

Many of the most popular psychometric personality tests, such as B. the NEO-FFI , are based on the Big Five personality model , which postulates five basic personality dimensions. Other, less common tests of this kind are the TIPI (Trier integrated personality inventory) by Becker (1999) and the HPI (Hamburg personality inventory, cf. Andresen, 2004). A method that has been used in Germany for a long time is the Giessen test ( Beckmann , Brähler & Richter , 1991). The personality questionnaire for children between 9 and 14 years (PFK 9-14) by Seitz & Rausche (2003) is widely used for personality diagnostics in children.

Psychometric personality tests that are suitable for use in a business context are: the Bochum inventory for job-related personality descriptions ( Hossiep & Paschen, 2003), the OPQ32 , shapes and a few others (all in Sarges & Wottawa, 2004). Another quality criterion is a comparison with DIN 33430 , which deals with the process of personnel assessment and selection, but nevertheless names quality criteria for personality tests and offers a certificate (DIN-Check, Martin Kersting). According to this, ipsative and criteria-related tests are also suitable ( e.g. CAPTain test , Harrison assessments).

Projective tests follow a different logic, for example: the Rorschach test , the thematic apprehension test , the Wartegg character test and the tree character test . In child and adolescent psychotherapy, family in animals , family in trees , among other things , are important procedures that initiate discussions. Projective tests are still used in practice, despite proven insufficient fulfillment of the quality criteria of psychodiagnostic methods ; in the meantime, however, there are already more valid new developments in this test type, for example the operant motive test (OMT; Kuhl & Scheffer, 2004). Projective tests are valued by some practicing psychotherapists, especially those with a depth psychological approach, despite the points of criticism as supporting the process of generating hypotheses. Thorough training and clinical experience are considered necessary to increase the quality of projective procedures. Despite their possible use in the psychotherapeutic process , projective test procedures should not be used from a test psychological point of view to objectify and evaluate personality, for example in selection situations.

Personality tests in companies

Older estimates were based on this. that around 25% of all companies and over 50% of large companies in the western EU countries use personality tests as part of aptitude testing . According to a study by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in 2005 , the value for all companies in Switzerland was around 33%. Such procedures are mainly used for management positions. According to the study by the University of Zurich, the three most important criteria that HR specialists apply to selection procedures are validity, economy and acceptance. However, most personality tests do not meet the requirements that HR professionals place on selection procedures. In addition, they are usually not scientifically founded (i.e. valid and reliable). They are also often not based on a scientifically recognized theory. The main scientific criteria for assessing such processes are:

  • Theoretical background
  • Scientific soundness
  • Existing standards (the reference population used) and
  • Compliance with the requirement profile

Several of the procedures frequently used in Switzerland ( MBTI , the DISG personality profile , Insights Discovery , Thomas System and Insights MDI ) are based on the personality typology of Carl Gustav Jung or on the theory of "Emotions of Normal People" by Marston , both of which were over 80 years old are old. In a statement by the professional association of German psychologists on an expert report on Insights MDI, it is made clear that “the type theory according to CG Jung is considered an“ antiquated model without empirical evidence ”in specialist circles. Marston's approach is [...] referred to as a "typological approach without empirical research" ". The recommendation of the opinion with regard to Insights MDI reads: “… it is based on theoretically outdated and scientifically unsecured models. Its use in personnel selection and development, coaching and training must therefore be discouraged. ” The HDI (“ brain dominance instrument ”) also relies on outdated theories and makes incorrect assumptions. The "16-PF", on the other hand, is considered to be a "scientifically founded personality inventory that is used in many areas - including in clinics and research". However, the above-mentioned study by the University of Zurich does not recommend either method. According to the study, only one of the nine most widely used methods examined, GDP , is considered to be up-to-date and scientifically sound. But here, too, it is important to note what the process was developed for and what not: It was specially developed for use in professional life, but is only of limited use for potential analysis due to the lack of a measurement model .

Statutory Regulations


In Austria, a works agreement would be required for employees ( Section 96 , Section 96a ArbVG), and for companies without a works council, the employee's consent would be required. Applicants are not protected by the Labor Constitution Act.

The short form of the MMPI is mandatory when a (private) application for weapons law documents is submitted ( Section 3 ( 2) 1st Weapons Act Implementation Ordinance); for example as an employee of a security service. Applicants who want to join the police force must also take the test.


  • B. Andresen: HPI, Hamburg personality inventory. In: W. Sarges, H. Wottawa (Hrsg.): Handbuch Wirtschaftsspsychologischer Testverfahren. Volume 1: Personal psychological instruments. Pabst, Lengerich 2004, pp. 397-401.
  • D. Beckmann, E. Brähler, H.-E. Judge: The casting test (GT). 4th, expanded and revised edition. with new standardization in 1990. Huber, Bern 1991.
  • Rüdiger Hossiep : Measurement of personality traits. In: H. Schuler, K. Sonntag (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Arbeits- und Organizationpsychologie. Hogrefe, Göttingen 2007, pp. 450–458.
  • UP Kanning, H. Holling (Ed.): Handbook of personal diagnostic instruments. Hogrefe, Göttingen 2002.
  • W. Sarges, H. Wottawa (Ed.): Handbook of economic psychological test procedures. Volume 1: Personal Psychological Instruments . Pabst, Lengerich 2004.
  • W. Seitz, A. Rausche: Personality questionnaires for children between 9 and 14 years (PFK 9-14). Manual. 4th, revised. and newly standardized edition. Hogrefe, Göttingen 2003.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Hossiep, 2007.
  2. ^ Sandra Schmid: Statement on personality tests - a personal diagnostic instrument in the context of personnel selection . Zurich University of Applied Sciences 2006, accessed on November 17, 2013.
  3. a b c Albrecht Müllerschön : Personality tests put to the test . November 2006. (PDF) , accessed November 17, 2013.
  4. Claudia Eckstaller, Erika Spieß, RM Woschée: Statement by the Professional Association of German Psychologists (BDP) on an opinion by Prof. Dr. Hunter via Insights MDI . 2005. (PDF)