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Ahh, nothing beats the satisfaction of taking a personality quiz and seeing yourself represented and understood in the result. But, why exactly is this comforting? From horoscopes to Hogwarts houses, people seem to love labels more than we care to admit. We preach individuality, yet we crave the homogeneity of personality types.
Psychology Today posits that there are three main reasons why we love personality tests and types:
- We want to learn something we didn’t know about ourselves
- We want to belong
- We want simple ways to understand other people
These make sense. Personality types are concise profiles for certain types of people — they simplify humans into digestible explanations for attitudes, ways of thinking, likes/dislikes, etc. The issue, as Psychology Today points out, is the oversimplification of complex beings. Personality types may feel all-encompassing and accurate, but that’s only because they’re so vague and largely relatable.
Take horoscopes, for example. I’m a Cancer, which is supposed to mean I feel deeply and am a generally caring person. This may be true for me, but it also is true for many other people who aren’t Cancers. Does that mean there’s something wrong with them? No. It means there’s something wrong with trying to understand a person based solely on the position of the stars and planets when they were born.
Personality types are scapegoats; they allow us to dismiss other people’s behaviors and feelings based on an arbitrary label, but the way I see it, they also stifle critical introspection. People are dynamic, ever-changing beings, composed of a multitude of experiences, memories, thoughts, and feelings that shape us into the people we are at a given point in time. Fitting ourselves into boxes for the sake of feeling included is not the way to go if we want to learn more about ourselves and why we are who we are.
Sure, it’s fun to take personality tests and see which type of pizza you are based on your music taste, but we shouldn’t base our understanding of the self on that. We should always make an effort to examine our inner workings and try to understand ourselves as we change each day, hell, each second. We are more than the categories we’re put into. Like Walt Whitman once said, “I contain multitudes,” and surely, we all do.
Do you believe in personality tests?
Yes, it’s uncanny how well they know me better than me