Why would you get different results in a personality test?

This is a question that people often ask when they take an assessment and then at a later date repeat the exercise with either the same assessment or a different one.
personality test

This is a question that people often ask when they take an assessment and then at a later date repeat the exercise with either the same assessment or a different one.

If the two results are compared it’s quite possible that there will be differences. There’s a range of possible explanations as to why this occurs, some of which are outlined below:

First Reason
The way people respond to items in a self-assessment questionnaire can be affected by many factors to a greater or lesser extent, and this can influence the final results. Such factors include:

  • Emotional state.
  • Positive or negative thoughts about oneself.
  • Personal values – although these don’t usually change significantly over short periods of time.
  • Health factors – how healthy or unwell one feels.
  • The reasons for completing an assessment – e.g. Is it part of a job selection process? Is it just for fun?
  • The environment in which the assessment is completed – e.g. Is it at work? At home? Is it noisy or quiet? Is it a private or public space?
  • Who will have access to the results of the assessment? – e.g. My boss? Colleagues? Friends? Family? Therapist? Only me?
  • Personal circumstances – e.g. job role, family role.
  • Personal growth and development – e.g. the natural maturation process of getting older and acquiring life experience; completing a significant learning or personal development process of some kind.
  • Levels of self-awareness.
  • the use of medication or drugs of various kinds.
  • Stress levels and recent exposure to traumatic events.

All of these factors, and more, can influence the way people respond to items in a self-assessment questionnaire. It’s important to bear in mind that if any number of such factors is significantly different when a re-test or subsequent assessment is completed, then a different result could emerge.

Second Reason
If a person’s ‘personality’ is being assessed, the question arises: Can personality change over time and therefore cause a different result in a subsequent assessment? Let’s begin answering this by clarifying what we mean by ‘personality’. Here are a number of definitions:

  • The complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially: the totality of an individual’s behavioural and emotional characteristics. – Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  • The type of person you are, is shown by the way you behave, feel, and think. – Cambridge English Dictionary.
  • Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. – American Psychological Association.

As you can see there’s a fairly consistent message that personality relates to habits of thinking, feeling (which can be thought of as emotion or mood), and behaving (essentially action or non-action).

Referring back to point 1 above, and reflecting on your own experience of yourself, you’ll probably agree that all three aspects of personality can and do change over time. This, in turn, can affect the results of a ‘personality assessment’. However, unless some major change, trauma, or experience occurs, these elements of personality generally remain fairly stable and may not change much, especially in the short term.

Having said that, the way we think, feel and behave can be contextual and dependent upon the environment we’re in. For example, I may be assessed as being introverted, but there are likely to be some situations where I show up in a much more extroverted way, and vice versa, people assessed as extroverts will sometimes behave more like introverts in some contexts. The point is, that we don’t always show up the same way, so the results of even a well-developed psychometric instrument may be accurate only at the time of completing the questionnaire. The results could be different at a later time.

Third Reason
The accuracy of some assessments – particularly short online assessments of which there are many – is questionable. This can cause inaccurate results compared with high-quality assessments that are based on solid research. As a general rule of thumb, although there may be exceptions to this, the longer the questionnaire the more accurate the results. This is because in longer questionnaires, more items are used to evaluate each component of personality being assessed and this tends to increase accuracy. As far as Personality Star is concerned, you can rest assured that we continually put effort into ensuring the accuracy of our results.


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