Five Factors that Could Skew Personality Test Results

Have you taken a 16 personalities test multiple times throughout your life, only to get varying results for your type? Maybe even from the same website or test?

Let’s examine some factors that could potentially skew test results.

Please note: I had some difficulty locating many sources/references for this piece, and so most of this information is simply my observation/opinion. If you are aware of any articles/resources on factors that can affect or alter Jungian personality readings, please let me know in the comments or via email. I’d love to know! 🙂

#1: Social conditioning and cultural upbringing.

(Can affect F/T expression to a degree.)

If a girl has been raised constantly hearing the messages “girls are sweet”, or “it’s always ladylike to share and let others have their way”, or “why don’t you come up with a compromise?” then they might act like feelers, even if they in fact are not. Many “MBTI” tests measure levels of agreeableness, selflessness, deference, or people-pleasing tendencies in order to determine whether someone is a feeler. However, if these are learned habits, or have been adopted because that’s how one is taught they’re “supposed to be” – rather than how they naturally are – then this could result in a higher scoring in the F direction and away from the T direction (as these traits are viewed on the scale as polar opposites and mutually exclusive).

Growing up, some girls don’t feel as safe saying “No” to the degree that many of their male friends/brothers might. Perhaps one reason for this is because they tend to be, on average, smaller and weaker physically, and therefore potentially more vulnerable to the consequences of refusing to acquiesce to others’ wishes.

This may lead them to compromise and act agreeable (like a “feeler”) more as a survival tactic, or because they’re afraid of getting punished or bullied if they don’t. In terms of emotional and physical survival – especially while young – they don’t exactly have the “upper hand”. So they act nice in order to be safe. And in the process, they learn compromising, self-deprecating, and “agreeable” behaviors.

Some “feeling” girls are actually Ts who have made a calculated choice to act kind and “feeling” in order to survive and be accepted and safe in family or society.

In the same way, if a boy grows up learning “boys are tough” and “boys don’t cry”, then he may have learned to suppress and stuff his feeling side, even if he is very much a feeling type (unfortunately, emotions are often associated with “irrationality” or “not thinking”. While emotions can be irrational at times, this is not a reliable or 100% accurate association to make).

Indeed, feeling types often seem to be a little gentler temperamentally. It’s possible that out of emotional “sensitivity”, the feeling male may have endeavored to hide a part of himself that others didn’t want to see, or for which they (peers, parents) would have punished him in some manner. He concealed this side of himself for emotional, social, and perhaps physical safety (especially as a child, because some children get punished or scolded for crying). Thus, his behaviors and approach to life come through as less “feeling” on a 16 personalities test.

#2: An inaccurate view of self.

Perhaps we view ourselves as being more objective than we really are, or more warm, friendly, and agreeable than is truly the case. This could skew our results in favor of T or F, respectively.

Perhaps we think we’re more “Intuitive” or “Sensing” than we really are. If we inaccurately perceive ourselves as highly open, inventive, or abstract in our thinking – and we answer accordingly on the test – we could score more strongly as Intuitive. If we erroneously think we recall visual details well, or are particularly observant, practical, or concrete in our thinking, this could skew results in favor of Sensing.

Note: I know some pretty open and innovative Sensors and some pretty realistic and observant Intuitives. I also know some “feelers” who are incredibly solid, rational thinkers, and “thinkers” who can be emotionally expressive. Could it be that they got the “wrong” results on the test, or could this simply be “proof” that the 16 personalities system is incredibly limited in its binary measurements of human personality? Perhaps it is possible to be both Intuitive and Sensing? Both (and equally and highly) thinking and feeling?

What do you think? Or how do you feel about this? 😉

#3: A propensity to answer questions in a way that seems “best” or “ideal” rather than in a manner that is authentic to self.

Perhaps we think it’s better to be an E than an I, so we answer accordingly (if we can accurately read where the questions are going).

This test-taking method only serves to confuse us and others more, and keep us from discovering our true selves – our real strengths and weaknesses – which keeps us from leveraging or compensating for them accordingly.

Long-term, there is no true benefit (but possibly harm) in answering as we think we “ought” rather than as we think we “are”.

#4: Social roles, responsibilities, duties.

(Such as “mother” or “software engineer”).

I’m not a mother, so I don’t speak from personal experience here (only observation), but it seems that most mothers continually have a lot on their plates. An INTP mother (especially a stay-at-home INTP mom) could potentially operate more like an ISFJ at times, because #1: she has to be focused on the concrete and sensory world most of the time (and especially so with young children) [Sensing], #2: she is likely to reach emotional breaking points from time to time (or, like, possibly every day) due to intense stress, and therefore appear (and feel/be) more emotional and anxious than might be typical for her [Feeling], and #3: she has to constantly engage in planning and implementation of those plans (not only for herself, but for her child(ren)), in order to survive life and help her family survive it [Judging]. 🙂 And while INTPs tend to be known for absorbing lots of information, a stay-at-home INTP mom is likely to have little time for reading.

Therefore, a person could potentially be mistyped if their personality is being evaluated in a season of unique/particular social obligations or role(s).

#5: Poor mental health.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles can alter one’s emotional and rational state tremendously, and have the potential to skew, at the very least, the F/T or E/I results.

Perhaps an “introverted thinker” is in the middle of a completely undesired divorce, and in this season of insecurity and pain is desiring the closeness, company, and approval of others more than would be typical. If a test is taken at this time, it is likely to yield a more EF (extroverted and feeling) view of the IT (introverted thinker) than it otherwise would, were they in a relatively low-pain season of life. Perhaps the IT’s natural inclination would be to spend most of their time alone, but in this season, they particularly crave the emotional support of a social group.

This is not a comprehensive list. If you’ve thought of any other factors that could cause an inaccurate slanting of one’s personality type assessment, please add them in the comments!

INTP Functions

INTP Relationships

The Struggles of an INTP Girl

Signs an INTP Might Like, Like You

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “Five Factors that Could Skew Personality Test Results

  1. A Chicken

    Nice thoughts and ideas 🙂

    Over the span of a decade, I’ve consistently tested INTP every time except the very first, in which I scored a ~5% preference for E, likely reflecting one of the periods of my life with the most concerted efforts to socialize.

    What I don’t like about personality type theories is the proclivity toward stagnation and determinism that some derive. I’ll die before resigning myself to a perpetual fate of being socially outcast, street-dumb, emotionally stunted, and unreliable. In my view, healthy, maturing adults should grow to be less and less identifiable at surface level by their type’s stereotypes and generally accepted abilities and shortcomings.

    I particularly hate when internet communities push and praise a narrative of thinking types lacking compassion and only offering “tough love”. T/F works best for me as a baseline for ethics and decision-making, not demeanor. Ends vs means, pragmatism vs sentimentality.

    And yes, nothing can crack a person open quite like catastrophic life and health circumstances can. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Chicken, some great thoughts and observations!! I like your thought about healthy, maturing adults becoming less readily identifiable by traits generally associated (accurately or not) with their types. As we mature, we tend to find balance in things, and (hopefully) learn to apply certain behaviors or approaches as appropriate for given situations, whether or not those behaviors match ones commonly accepted/expected of our particular Jungian types.

      And I totally agree! Thinking types don’t necessarily lack compassion. I know some “Ts” who seem to be highly compassionate. Yet it seems that many tests (“MBTI” or Big Five) still associate the presence of compassion with feeling or agreeableness. In my opinion, being compassionate is just being human. 🙂 I suppose it is possible that statistically, fewer feeling types than thinking types might be found wanting in basic compassion. But even if this is the case, being a “thinking” type does not, by default, preclude one from also caring for others or being kindhearted.

      And great point! T/F really seems to make more sense as an assessment of our preferred decision-making processes (what criteria we use when deciding) than it does as a measure of our emotional or rational state or abilities. It annoys me that the T/F distinction is often stretched to mean something completely different (F=emotional/illogical and T=logical/unemotional). (And I sometimes catch myself accidentally promoting this incorrect view of the F/T difference! [Though when I actually “think” about it, I disagree with it.]) Thinking types end up being placed in an “Unemotional” box (label) and feeling types are placed in an “Irrational” box. Feelers and thinkers sometimes then develop disrespect for each other, imagining that their “opposites” are either less in touch with their emotions and less caring, or less capable of reasoning, respectively. But I don’t think this type of distinction was the original intent when these systems were created.

      Thanks for reading and for your insightful comment! 🙂


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