If you’re a Hillsdale student, chances are high you’ve been asked what your Enneagram type is.
Although the Enneagram — a personality test based on nine different personality types — is popular among Hillsdale students, personality tests as a whole are a good conversation starter, Assistant Professor of Psychology Benjamin Winegard said. Other well-known tests include Myers-Briggs, Big Five, Strengths Quest Finder, and Astrology. The tests vary in their measurements, uses, and — the distinction that Winegard emphasizes — validity.
Humans are drawn to personality tests largely for the purpose of self-understanding, Winegard said. Certain tests, such as the Myers-Briggs or Strengths Quest Finder, are tailored more toward aptitude and career direction. Others, such as the Enneagram and Astrology, provide a more holistic personality description.
A test’s validity is found in its ability to measure an aspect of one’s personality without placing them in a definitive box. The test that Winegard argues is most valid is Big Five, as it offers percentage scores of five different characteristics rather than listing a few traits.
The college’s Career Services Department has recommended Strengths Quest Finder as a method of understanding a student’s workplace preferences and career options. The test, which Assistant Director of Career Services Rebecca Galvin said some companies require students to include with their application, recognizes the student’s most innate skills and places them into one of four categories.
“We use it mostly for kind of self-discovery and reflection. You use it throughout your college career in helping to answer questions in interviews — what are my strengths, what are my weaknesses,” Galvan said. “And it just gives you one more tool in knowing things about yourself and then being able to articulate that to others, because I think everyone finds it difficult.”
Galvin said she’s observed the rise of the Enneagram recently, and Career Services is hosting an event employing the test to help students’ discover more about their ideal company culture.
The Enneagram, a personality test that divides people into nine types based on their core fears and desires, provides common tendencies of each type, and how they interact with other types.
Senior and Enneagram type seven Claire Murray said she first learned of the personality measurement this past summer and appreciated its accuracy describing her personal behaviors.
“It’s just cool to see how you interact with other types of people,” Murray said. “I read ‘The Path Between Us’ and it taught me about the different behaviors between types and I found it interesting that certain people value different ideas and then respond to conflict accordingly.”
According to a spring 2020 article in the Los Angeles Times describing the recent explosion in the Enneagram’s popularity, the personality test has garnered attention among mainstream American culture in recent years due to the modern adolescent desire for quasi-spiritual self-discovery.
“In many ways, the tool, which isn’t tied to a specific religion, seems tailor-made for a spiritual-but-not-religious generation that grew up on BuzzFeed quizzes and branding,” the article states.
While some use the Enneagram for its spirituality, which Winegard said can be individually valuable, it has the potential for misuse. If students use the test to weed out potential friends or romantic relationships, for example, the test is wrongfully limiting.
Astrology, Winegard said, is completely invalid with no observation and experiment on which it can be based.
Generally, however, Winegard said personality tests pose little psychologically harmful effects. It can often serve as a mere topic of conversation. People tend toward these examinations as a form of internal introspection for self-growth, which can often be found through observing oneself rather than seeking outside verification. Big Five, Enneagram, and Myers-Briggs all provide a sense of being heard and seen to people.
“I think especially with younger people where identity is important, they like the idea that you’re uncovering something important about your identity,” Winegard said.