The Cult of Personality Testing
eBook - ePub

The Cult of Personality Testing

How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves

Annie Murphy Paul

  1. 320 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Cult of Personality Testing

How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves

Annie Murphy Paul

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents

About This Book

Award-winning psychology writer Annie Paul delivers a scathing exposé on the history and effects of personality tests. Millions of people worldwide take personality tests each year to direct their education, to decide on a career, to determine if they'll be hired, to join the armed forces, and to settle legal disputes. Yet, according to award-winning psychology writer Annie Murphy Paul, the sheer number of tests administered obscures a simple fact: they don't work. Most personality tests are seriously flawed, and sometimes unequivocally wrong. They fail the field's own standards of validity and reliability. They ask intrusive questions. They produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are: complicated, contradictory, changeable across time and place. The Cult Of Personality Testing documents, for the first time, the disturbing consequences of these tests. Children are being labeled in limiting ways. Businesses and the government are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars every year, only to make ill-informed decisions about hiring and firing. Job seekers are having their privacy invaded and their rights trampled, and our judicial system is being undermined by faulty evidence. Paul's eye-opening chronicle reveals the fascinating history behind a lucrative and largely unregulated business. Captivating, insightful, and sometimes shocking, The Cult Of Personality Testing offers an exhilarating trip into the human mind and heart.

Frequently asked questions

How do I cancel my subscription?
Simply head over to the account section in settings and click on “Cancel Subscription” - it’s as simple as that. After you cancel, your membership will stay active for the remainder of the time you’ve paid for. Learn more here.
Can/how do I download books?
At the moment all of our mobile-responsive ePub books are available to download via the app. Most of our PDFs are also available to download and we're working on making the final remaining ones downloadable now. Learn more here.
What is the difference between the pricing plans?
Both plans give you full access to the library and all of Perlego’s features. The only differences are the price and subscription period: With the annual plan you’ll save around 30% compared to 12 months on the monthly plan.
What is Perlego?
We are an online textbook subscription service, where you can get access to an entire online library for less than the price of a single book per month. With over 1 million books across 1000+ topics, we’ve got you covered! Learn more here.
Do you support text-to-speech?
Look out for the read-aloud symbol on your next book to see if you can listen to it. The read-aloud tool reads text aloud for you, highlighting the text as it is being read. You can pause it, speed it up and slow it down. Learn more here.
Is The Cult of Personality Testing an online PDF/ePUB?
Yes, you can access The Cult of Personality Testing by Annie Murphy Paul in PDF and/or ePUB format, as well as other popular books in Social Sciences & Sociology. We have over one million books available in our catalogue for you to explore.


Free Press


xii “a key to the knowledge of mankind”: Quoted in Diane E. Jonte-Pace, “From Prophets to Perception: The Origins of Rorschach’s Psychology,” The Annual of Psychoanalysis, 1986.
xii “overpathologizes”: Author’s interview with James Wood, coauthor of What’s Wrong with the Rorschach? Science Confronts the Controversial Inkblot Test (John Wiley, 2003), January 6, 2003.
xii used by eight out of ten clinical psychologists: Cited in James M. Wood, Howard N. Garb, and Scott O. Lilienfeld, “The Rorschach Is Scientifically Questionable,” Harvard Mental Health Letter, December 1, 2001.
xii nearly a third of emotional injury assessments: Marcus T. Boccaccini and Stanley L. Brodsky, “Diagnostic Test Usage by Forensic Psychologists in Emotional Injury Cases,” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, June 1999.
xii almost half of child custody evaluations: Francella A. Quinnell and James N. Bow, “Psychological Tests Used in Child Custody Evaluations,” Behavioral Sciences and the Law, September 2001.
xii “we permitted the patients to design their own test”: Starke R. Hathaway, videotaped interview conducted by W. Grant Dahlstrom, “Measuring the Mind: Psychological Testing: A Conversation With Starke Hathaway,” Center for Creative Leadership, 1976.
xii an estimated 15 million Americans each year: Eugene E. Levitt and Edward E. Gotts, The Clinical Application of MMPI Special Scales, 2nd ed. (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1995), 1.
xii administered by 30 percent of American companies: Management Recruiters International, “Drug Testing a Prominent Part of the Hiring Process,” Business Wire, April 30, 2003.
xii “woefully short of professional and scientific test standards”: John Hunsley, Catherine M. Lee, and James M. Wood, “Controversial and Questionable Assessment Techniques,” in Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, ed. Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, and Jeffrey M. Lohr (Guilford, 2003), 53.
xiii used by 60 percent of clinicians: Wayne Camara, Julie Nathan, and Anthony Puente, “Psychological Test Usage in Professional Psychology: Report to the APA Practice and Science Directorates,” American Psychological Association, May 1998, 19. All figures drawn from this survey are based on clinicians who spend at least five hours a week on testing.
xiii two-thirds of police and fire departments and state and county governments: Phillip E. Lowry, “A Survey of the Assessment Center Process in the Public Sector,” Public Personnel Management, fall 1996.
xiii the test she called “my baby”: Quoted in “Eminent Interview: Katherine Downing Myers,” Journal of Psychological Type, vol. 61, 2002.
xiii given to 2.5 million people each year: Personal communication from Siobhan Collopy, marketing communications manager, CPP.
xiii used by 89 of the companies in the Fortune 100: CPP, “CPP Celebrates 60th Anniversary of Myers-Briggs Assessment,” PR Newswire, October 28, 2003.
xiii what devotees call the “aha reaction”: Peter B. Myers, preface in Isabel Briggs Myers with Peter B. Myers, Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type (Davies-Black, 1995), xiii.
xiii as many as three-quarters of test takers achieve a different personality type: Cited in “In the Mind’s Eye: Enhancing Human Performance,” ed. Daniel Druckman and Robert A. Bjork, Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance, National Research Council (National Academy Press, 1991), 96.
xiii the sixteen distinctive types described by the Myers-Briggs have no scientific basis: See, e.g., M. H. Sam Jacobson, “Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to Assess Learning Style: Type or Stereotype?,” Wiliamette Law Review, spring 1997.
xiii “again and again,” the results of drawing testshave failed to hold up”: Loren J. Chapman and Jean P. Chapman, “Test Results Are What You Think They Are,” Psychology Today, November 1971.
xiii the Draw-a-Person Test is still used by more than a quarter of clinicians: Camara, Nathan, and Puente, “Psychological Test Usage in Professional Psychology,” 19.
xiii the House-Tree-Person Test by more than a third: Ibid.
xiv there are some 2,500 others on the market: Cited in Margaret Talbot, “The Rorschach Chronicles,” New York Times Magazine, June 24, 2001.
xiv a $400-million industry, one that’s expanding annually by 8 percent to 10 percent: Cited in ibid.
1 “Combativeness, six”: Quoted in Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman: Selected Poems 1855-1892 (Stonewall Inn Editions, 2000), 114.
1 “You are one of the most friendly men in the world”: Quoted in Madeleine B. Stern,Heads & Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers (University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 103.
2 “Breasting the waves of detraction”: Quoted in Edward Hungerford, “Walt Whitman and His Chart of Bumps,” American Literature, January 1931.
3 “An American bard at last!”: Quoted in ibid.
3 “in America an immense number”: Walt Whitman, The Neglected Walt Whitman: Vital Texts, ed. Sam Abrams (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993), 161.
3 “Never offering others”: Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose, ed. Justin Kaplan (Library of America, 1996), 677.
3 “They shall arise in the States”: Ibid., 590.
3 “who would talk or sing to America”: Ibid., 477.
4 “very learned and erudite, fond of philosophical dissertations”: Anonymous, “Bright, Passionate, Harmful, and Helpful Stars,” trans. by Daria Dudziak,
4 “The chief reason why Asiatics are less warlike”: Quoted in Jacques Jouanna, Hippocrates, trans. M. B. Debevoise (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 221.
5 “Those maddened through bile”: Quoted in Morton Hunt, The Story of Psychology (Anchor, 1994), 18.
5 “Persons who have a large forehead”: Quoted in ibid., 312.
6 “I collected in my house”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, x.
6 “Gall’s Passionate Widow”: Quoted in Raymond Fancher, Pioneers of Psychology, 2nd ed. (W. W. Norton, 1990), 77.
6 “mechanical aptitude”: Quoted in D. B. Klein, A History of Scientific Psychology: Its Origins and Philosophical Backgrounds (Basic Books, 1970), 672.
7 “practical system of mental philosophy”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, xii.
7 “the professors were in love with him”: Quoted in David Bakan, “The Influence of Phrenology on American Psychology,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, July 1966.
7 “When Spurzheim was in America”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, xiii.
7 “one of the world’s greatest minds”: Quoted in Minna Morse, “The Much-Maligned Theory of Phrenology Gets a Tip of the Hat from Modern Neuroscience,” Smithsonian, October 1997.
7 “a calamity to mankind”: Quoted in Thomas Cooley, The Ivory Leg in the Ebony Cabinet: Madness, Race, and Gender in Victorian America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 17.
7 “Ode to Spurzheim”: Cited in Paul Lafarge, “Head of the Class: The Bumpy Road From Phrenology to Public Schools,” The Village Voice, January 17-23, 2001.
7 “Nature’s priest”: Quoted in Karla Klein Albertson, “Phrenology in the Nineteenth Century,” Early American Life, June 1995.
8 “a strong social brain”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, 11.
8 “a practical knowledge”: Quoted in John D. Davies, Phrenology: A 19th-Century American Crusade (Yale University Press, 1955), 162.
8 “Phrenologize Our Nation”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, 35.
8 “the prosperity and material good”: Quoted in ibid., 39.
8 “Surely, [a reading] will point out”: Quoted in Bakan, “The Influence of Phrenology.”
8 “two wizards of manipulation”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, 16.
8 “No Conscientiousness!”: Quoted in ibid., 17.
9 “would veto bills”: Quoted in ibid., 23.
9 “what the great dome”: Quoted in Justin Kaplan, Walt Whitman: A Life (Simon & Schuster, 1980), 149.
9 “How can the value”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, 22.
9 “It is not at all likely”: Quoted in José Lopez Delano, “Snaring the Fowler: Mark Twain Debunks Phrenology,” Skeptical Inquirer, January-February 2002.
9 “By and by the people”: Quoted in Stern, Heads & Headlines, 17.
10 “A correct Phrenological examination”: Quoted in Bakan, “The Influence of Phrenology.”
10 “A most typical American”: Quoted in Hungerford, “Walt Whitman and His Chart of Bumps.”
10 “painful confusion’s derangement”: Quoted in Robert H. Azbug, Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (Oxford University Press, 1994), 177.
10 “a complete mental daguerreotype”: Quoted in Bakan, “The Influence of Phrenology.”
10 “AN APPRENTICE WANTED”: Quoted in Davies, Phrenology, 50.
11 In October 2003, Emode renamed itself Tickle, Inc. and added a focus on social networking.
11 “Man of the Internet”: Quoted in Deborah Giattina, “Geek Love,” The Industry Standard, February 12, 2001.
11 “I saw that it was a tremendously meaningful experience”: Author’s interview with James Currier, March 18, 2003.
12 “just for fun”: Ibid.
12 “Everyone is interested in themselves”: Quoted in Anita Hamilton, “What Breed of Dog Are You?,” Time, September 30, 2002.
12 “Since the beginning of man”: Quoted in Kathryn Balint, “Online Tests Try to Give You the Inside Information on Yourself,” San Diego Union-Tribune, January 4, 2001.
12 “Emode will use Internet technology”:, “Our Story,”
12 “It takes a really distracted and imprecise, scary process”: Quoted in Alex Salkever, “In the Emode for Love,” Business Week, March 10, 2003.
12 “We take information”: Author’s interview with Currier.
14 “Depress the adhesive nature”: Quoted in Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, “Portrait of Wh...

Table of contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Dedication
  4. Contents
  5. Introduction
  6. ONE: A Most Typical American
  7. TWO: Rorschach’s Dream
  8. THREE: Minnesota Normals
  9. FOUR: Deep Diving
  10. FIVE: First Love
  11. SIX: Child’s Play
  12. SEVEN: The Stranger
  13. EIGHT: Uncharted Waters
  14. Epilogue
  15. Acknowledgments
  16. Notes
  17. Index
  18. About the Author
Citation styles for The Cult of Personality Testing

APA 6 Citation

Paul, A. M. (2010). The Cult of Personality Testing ([edition unavailable]). Free Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2010)

Chicago Citation

Paul, Annie Murphy. (2010) 2010. The Cult of Personality Testing. [Edition unavailable]. Free Press.

Harvard Citation

Paul, A. M. (2010) The Cult of Personality Testing. [edition unavailable]. Free Press. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Paul, Annie Murphy. The Cult of Personality Testing. [edition unavailable]. Free Press, 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.