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by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


Personality Wise

Personally speaking I have never been that interested in my personality profile; but that’s probably because I’m an O-95, C- 60, E-89, A-83, N-22. Just typical really.

O stands for openess
C for conscientiousness
E for extroversion
A for agreeableness
N for neuroticim

Apparently I’m a laid back kind of personality who likes a lot of stimulation at the same time. Yes, I couldn’t figure that out either; but then I’m low on neuroticism so it doesn’t bother me. I could be a little more conscientious apparently - and a little bit more neurotic might help me take things like personality tests a little more seriously. But that’s just the way I am.

Psychologists stress that personality traits are ‘dimensional’ and we can be positioned at any point on each trait. If we assume there are 10 distinct points on each of the five traits then we would have the chance of one of 100,000 possible personalities. Room for manoeuvre! And so I repeated the test again - answering truthfully but in a slightly different way. I appear to have a few ‘possible’ personalities. I see that as a problem of the test.

I then re-did the test and tried to lie - to give what I thought was the correct answer. I came out with a personality profile I’d be ashamed to admit to. They always say that there is no right or wrong answer to these questions but I’m not so sure.

These are but two of many problems which have bedevilled research in this field.

Even when I was trying my best to be honest - and we already have a problem there because very often we aren’t able to be honest about our own behaviour - many of the questions were not specific enough. For example, even when the question is simple "Do you make friends easily?" What is meant by "easily". What does "friend" mean - companionship? Pleasant interaction without emotional involvement? Friendly acquantance with my neighbours and the postman ?

Depending on how I interpret both the question itself (what does ‘friend’ mean?) and my evaluation of the truthful response ( what does ‘easily’ mean?) I could say yes or no. I may think that I don’t make friends easily but compared to others I may be deceived in thinking this. So what are we testing here - my actual ability to make friends easily or my belief that I don’t make friends easily despite evidence to the contrary as reported by others and the sheer numbers of people called friends on my Facebook page? Some people, I note with astonishment, have hundreds and hundreds of Facebook friends. How can they manage this? Are these really friends or just Facebook friends? And the problem gets even more complicated - what if its agreed that I do make friends easily - do I even want these friends? What if I make friends easily but then lose them just as quickly? What does this say about me?

In short, the questions on personality tests have to be unambiguously specific - and you have to be scrupulously honest in answering them - as far as you can be.

I think the comedian Paar Jack put it best when talking about his personality profile;

"I'm complicated, sentimental, lovable, honest, loyal, decent, generous, likable, and lonely. My personality is not split; it's shredded."

If you want to take a personality test here is the link - take with a good dose of critical awareness.

You might also be interested in finding out whether you, or someone you know, is "ordinary eccentric" or has a defined personality disorder.

Posted by Annabel

The Real Secret has advice on how to make friends and maintain friendships, and improve relationships. The 12 step programme may help you become more open, more agreeable and less neurotic. It is available in paperback and kindle format on and

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