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A test’s validity is found in its ability to measure an aspect of one’s per­son­ality without placing them in a defin­itive box. Pexels.

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.