Forget for a moment the debate about whether the MBTI is a valid and reliable personality measurement tool. (I did my Bachelors thesis on it, and I studied psychometric theory as part of my PhD in experimental psychology so I can debate forever too.) Let’s focus instead on the MBTI because tests similar to it can be answered online and you can find out your result in a few minutes. It kind of makes sense and people understand the idea of using it to understand themselves and their reactions to our world. If you’re not so familiar with it, the MBTI divides people into groups based on four continuous personality characteristics: introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perception . (I’m an ISTJ for what it’s worth.)
Now, in the market and social research world, we also like to divide people into groups. We focus mainly on objective and easy to measure demographic characters like gender, age, and region though sometimes we also include household size, age of children, education, income, religion, and language. We do our best to collect samples of people who look like a census based on these demographic targets and oftentimes, our measurements are quite good. Sometimes, we try to improve our measurements by incorporating a different set of variables like political affiliation, type of home, pets, charitable behaviours, and so forth.
All of these variables get us closer to building samples that look like census but they never get us all the way there. We get so close and yet we are always missing the one thing that properly describes each human being. That, of course, is personality. And if you think about it, in many cases, we’re only using demographic characteristics because we don’t have personality data. Personality is really hard to measure and target. We use age and gender and religion and the rest to help inform about personality characteristics. Hence why I bring up the MBTI. The perfect set of research sample targets.
The MBTI may not be the right test, but there are many thoroughly tested and normed personality measurement scales that are easily available to registered, certified psychologists. They include tests like the 16PF, the Big 5, or the NEO, all of which measure constructs such as social desirability, authoritarianism, extraversion, reasoning, stability, dominance, or perfectionism. These tests take decades to create and are held in veritable locked boxes so as to maintain their integrity. They can take an hour or more for someone to complete and they cost a bundle to use. (Make it YOUR entire life’s work to build one test and see if you give it away for free.) Which means these tests will not and can not ever be used for the purpose I describe here.
However, it is absolutely possible for a Psychologist or psychological researcher to build a new, proprietary personality scale which mirrors standardized tests albeit in a shorter format, and performs the same function. The process is simple. Every person who joins a panel answers ten or twenty personality questions. When they answer a client questionnaire, they get ten more personality questions, and so on, and so on, until every person on a panel has taken the entire test and been assigned to a personality group. We all know how profiling and reprofiling works and this is no different. And now we know which people are more or less susceptible to social desirability. And which people like authoritarianism. And which people are rule bound. Sound interesting given the US federal election? I thought so.
So, which company does this? Which company targets people based on personality characteristics? Which company fills quotas based on personality? Actually, I don’t know. I’ve never heard of one that does. But the first panel company to successfully implement this method will be vastly ahead of every other sample provider. I’d love help you do it. It would be really fun. 🙂