I totally get it. Why pay for something that you can find for free? All you have to do is Google ‘free personality test'(or ‘free MBTI test’ or even ‘free Myers Briggs test’) and you’ll find dozens of free personality type assessments. Why bother paying anybody a cent?

In part 1, we covered the importance of wording, and here is #2.

Nuance

out of preference appleOne of the reasons why online freebie tests come up with different results for some people, while others get consistent results, is that the freebies are typically designed by people who are not simultaneously expert in personality type theory AND survey/assessment design AND survey item design. The result is that the freebie tests are designed to catch typical, and in some cases even stereotypical, expressions of each type, i.e. the “typical” ENTP, the “typical” INTP, and so on. The reality is that many people have a certain number of out-of-preference function facets that are context-driven. If you deviate more than 10% from the “typical” answers for your type, the blunt-instrument freebie tests can give different results based on which contextual facets their questions present.

As discussed in part 1 already, the creators of all the free online tests I have encountered (so far; I may get surprised some day) have done two horrific things: 1) They changed the wording and 2) they reduced the number of questions (the actual MBTI instrument has 93 questions.).

Since I already addressed the wording issue in part one, I’ll focus on the issue of condensing the assessment. When amateurs look at the 93 questions, they see what appears to be tons of repetition, so they see no problem in collapsing the survey into themes and far fewer questions. They are also driven by a legitimate web traffic concern: most people don’t have the patience to answer 93 questions on a whim, and freebie test websites will get far more traffic and completed assessments when the tests are shorter.

Here’s the problem. Those “extra” questions are there to capture the nuances of personality type and cognitive functions. Some Introverts are gregarious in certain contexts. Some Thinkers are wired to respond with certain facets of Feeling in special circumstances. In other words, we’re not all typical.

“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”

cookie doesn't fitWe can see examples of “atypical” expression just from looking at the spectrum of body dimensions seen across the human species. I’m 6’1, and a friend of mine is also 6’1. His inseam in 34 inches, while mine is a quite unusual 29 inches. If I bought pants typical for my height, there would be nearly half a foot of pant leg wrapped around the sole of my feet. I have a sister who is 5’9 that wears–get this–a size 5 shoe, while another woman I know is 5’1 and wears a size 8 shoe. We all have our quirks, and some of us have some pretty notable quirks.

This is precisely why some people can take 10 freebie tests and get the same result every time, while others keep getting different results at every turn. By design (or, more accurately, lack of design), the freebie tests are only able to collapse people into very neatly framed buckets. Vary on any facet of any function, and your results will be driven by the specific and limited scenarios that the freebie test chose to present. People with typical cognitive plumbing for their type will conveniently fall into those neatly framed buckets. The rest of you (and there are many of you that fall into “the rest of you” category) will cause the freebie-test algorithms to mis-type you with alarming and monotonous regularity.

Here is a chart of the 40 facets that make up all the expressions of personality type (you can click the chart for the full size image):

facet chartfacet chart 1

brain-cellsI’ve assessed hundred of people, and I can report that at least a third of them presented with at least a few out-of-preference/atypical cognitive facets. Each of the 4 major functions  (Intuition, Sensing, Thinking, Feeling) and 4 orientations (Extravert, Introvert, Judging, Perceiving) is comprised of 5 possible facets; this means that every person is a unique mixture of 20 facets from a pool of 40. Any one of you can have a unique mixture of cognitive preferences. It really is possible to be a gregarious Introvert or a casual Judging type. It all comes down to brain plumbing.

So, if every freebie test you take gives you the same result, don’t think that means that freebie tests are accurate across the board. It just means, from a cognitive plumbing perspective, you are typical.

For those of you with unique expressions of cognitive preferences, the freebies won’t cut it. If you are serious about truly understanding yourself, don’t waste your time on the freebies; they really are worth what you pay for them.

 

 

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