Tag Archive | personality psychology

Truthfulness in personality tests

Social desireability:  this is when you answer questions (either in a personality test or interview (job)) the way you think a good citizen would answer.

Do you drink? Every other night. Socially.

Do you engage in casual sex? Sadly too often. Almost never.

Do you think all people are equal? Not really. Yes.

Episodic memory: memories of life experience, like how you learnt to ride a bike, what the sunset was like yesterday, or how you felt when you were ignored at the party.

Semantic memory: this contains facts and general knowledge, like one’s shoe size, the birthday of your favourite comedian, the capital of Angola, or how people generally feel when ignored at the party.


Due to many factors, among them vast experience of taking personality tests, the resulting boredom, my innate tendency to make boring things more varied, increasing ability/tendency to avoid desireable untruth in self-assessment, have led me to answer to personality questionnaires in a different way.

I now use episodic memory over semantic memory. That is, I don’t automatically and without questioning tick the box of “I agree” to socially desireable answers. I try to strike at the actual truth of it and consider if I truly agree, at all times and circumstances, or do I just like to think I agree. Conversely, I suspect (but am not sure) that when people employ semantic memory in answering personality tests, it might be much more prone to error. One doesn’t think then but just goes with things automatically based on one’s identity, which can be quite static and slow to adapt to change. Plus, even if something isn’t part of identity and one would need to employ episodic memory in answering, social desireability would still interfere.

This explanation is tiresome.

But having started to answer this way has led to the exact same consequences I’ve experienced in real life situations, where a truth-sayer is either pitied for having an unideal life or ostracized for negativism, even if all they do is look at life and themselves more truthfully than common or tolerated. Namely, truthfulness leads to peculiar discrepancies.

Returning to personality tests, I scored in the bottom 2% for conscientiousness in the Five Factor Model. I was quite stunned by being worse than 98% people in conscientiousness. It has also led to a noticeable drop in my agreeableness/sociability scores. This is such complete bollocks it does not deserve refutation.

It is very problematic for personality tests if a more truthful answering style makes the results much more untrue. It makes me think that I can’t really operate on this level of analysis when test-makers and answerers operate on a lower level. Or there should be a social desireability coefficient (that works!).

Alternatives to personality analysis are something I’d like to know more about one day. To date, I’ve not found one that convinced me and could replace the classic way of thinking (trait theory, I suppose it’s called?). It is too static, too governed by self-schema.

I don’t know much about personality psychology really, but I just wanted to record the anomaly I experienced as I shifted from traditional normal person answering style to very truthful episodic-memory-based answering style.

A negativity shift in testing?

The purpose of this test is to confirm that human beings have many bad traits, but are afraid to say so. If you are a good test subject, pay attention to your desire to answer like a good person and focus on how you are actually like. It’s a dare. Don’t be a coward. Every time you spot yourself at a socially desireable lie and correct it, indicate it.

Leading to….social undesireability bias?



Being an introverted extrovert

Every personality test I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken my fair share because I like that sort of thing – has placed me firmly in the introvert camp. Reading the descriptions of introverts and extroverts has never made me doubt I was distinctly introverted.


This spring I came upon something that turned my understanding upside down. Apparently, introverts are more prone to experiencing negative emotions, particularly neurotic introverts. Extroverted neurotics, on the other hand, experience strong ups and downs and life is more like a roller-coaster to them.

This confused the hell out of me because I could relate much more to the latter. I can be ridiculously happy about small things (and big things). None of my introverted friends seem to have that propensity to jump around because of feeling too excited and happy to sit still. They are a lot more subdued, although not necessarily less neurotic.

I began exploring. I talked it through with my introverted friends, I did a lot of comparing, kept my eyes open to the distinctions between extroverts and introverts. Eventually, I had to conclude that at the very least, I was an atypical introvert.

I live an introvert’s life and can’t imagine myself ever starting to value small talk or superficial interactions. I get bored with such talk fast and want to escape. I like to be alone much more than most people. But, unlike other introverts, I sometimes feel the urge to talk to strangers in public places (I’m too shy and polite to do it, but I want to) if their conversation and personalities appeal to me. I love people staying over. I love hosting guests. I look forward to getting my flat in decent condition so I can invite everyone I like there. What sort of typical introvert likes having a house full of guests? But I love it. I don’t, however, like being a guest at other people’s place when there are lots of people who are strangers to me. My shyness makes me uncomfortable and I generally like to get to know people individually and privately rather than talk over the room.

I don’t mind party games, provided they are not embarrassing nor force me to be the centre of attention. I don’t mind strangers coming to talk to me in public places. Usually, such encounters are at least memorable and make for good stories later. Proper introverts are likely to hate all these things.

I can also talk excessively when I’m in the mood. I’m not always in the mood, but when I am, I can be a chatterbox. I have a greater need to share than most introverts, and I can get restless and edgy when there isn’t anyone to talk to (provided I’m in a sociable mood). Talking to likeable people can energize me and make me happy, but small talk does tire and bore me. More bore than tire perhaps.

So I think I’m more shy and sensitive than introverted. I have some distinctly introverted traits, but I’m by no means 85-90% introvert like all the tests I’ve ever taken tell me. Somewhere around 60-70% seems truer. I think the reason I score so high is that although it is generally accepted that shyness and introversion are not the same thing, the tests can’t well distinguish between shyness induced behaviour and introversion induced behaviour. And if I ever get as far as writing a paper in psychology, I’d like to try creating a test that can do it. But I’m sceptical about it happening, so if any psychology researcher reads it and wants to steal my idea, feel free to do so.