Personality tests and the assessment industry, in general, are expected to experience a compound annual growth of 7.1% between 2020 and 2028. This is being driven by the growing need to attract and manage talent. In addition to the general ease of use to administer these tests. However, with many types of personality tests on the market. It can be difficult to know which one is scientifically supported and what tests will be the best fit for purpose.
The most recognised tests available today are the Big 5 personality traits (aka OCEAN), the MBTI type tests and the DISC personality styles. In general, these tests can be grouped under traits vs types. Tests that take a traits perspective hold the view that personality is best understood as a collection of unique traits that influence behaviour. In contrast, the type approach aims to categorise individuals into different types based on their patterns of behaviour. MBTI type and DISC styles are recognised as personality type tests as their aim is to categorise each individual into specific fixed groups. On the other, the Big 5 is a trait personality test with the aim to create a distinctive personality profile for each individual.
How do they compare with each other?
Big 5 aka OCEAN
The big 5 is widely recognised as the most scientifically validated personality test. It has been validated across cultures, population and has consistently shown to have strong predictive validity. It was designed by investigating and collecting all the various adjectives used to describe personality in the literature and across cultures. This led to the formation of 5 key traits that have gathered a strong scientific basis over the past decades. For example, the traits of conscientiousness and emotional stability are strongly associated with work performance across all contexts and domains.
Conscientiousness is the ability to be disciplined and to follow through on set goals diligently. Emotional stability is usually associated with self-belief, resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. However, some critics of the Big 5 have argued that individuals may lack the self-awareness to accurately report on their own state and functioning. As some individuals may overrate traits that they think may be socially desirable. In addition, it has long been criticised to neglect situational influence on traits and behaviour. For this reason, the best big 5 personality tests today take into account both impression management and the situational context when reporting results.
MBTI tests are probably recognised as the most popular personality tests available today. A quick search on the internet will lead to different online forums dedicated to individuals discussing and sharing their individual types. The tests are known to be fun, easy to use and understand which contributes to their popularity and appeal. Some argue its popularity is also due to the absence of traits or types that can be perceived as socially undesirable. In contrast, the emotional stability dimension of the Big 5 can easily and wrongfully be perceived as undesirable for those with lower scores.
The test design was influenced by the thinking of Carl Jung who introduced the concept of introversion/extroversion. However, the MBTI has been criticised for not being scientific as it tends to have very low reliability and validity by researchers. Nonetheless, some studies have reported some correlations between MBTI types and the widely accepted Big 5 traits. Although this hasn’t done much to change the questions being raised about the underlying science of the test.
DiSC popularity is owed to its wide adoption in the corporate world and HR. It has been used as the preferred tool for development in many corporate environments. Similarly to MBTI, it's easy to use and the dimensions of measure (Dominance, Influence, Steady and Compliance) are relevant within the business sector. It allows corporate professionals to quickly make sense of complex information about people which provides some structure for development plans, training and performance management. It was introduced in 1928 by psychologist William Marston and the development of the test is influenced by emotional temperament studies.
While this may seem to provide some scientific support for DiSC personality tests as temperament is a stable influence on personality. Overall, its scientific basis is reported to be low which has raised many questions about its utility to predict behaviour and performance within the work environment. Correlations between the 4 types have also been found with the accepted big 5 traits. Although DiSC is not as scientific as the Big 5, it's considered to have some basic scientific support when compared to the MBTI.
Trait personality assessments are scientifically validated compared to type based assessments. They account for human variation and their ability to change or adapt. For example, the BIG 5 measures traits based on a continuum. A slight variation on the continuum may reflect differences in behaviour among individuals with similar scores on the same trait. In contrast, the type-based adopts a fixed perspective of human behaviour based on group categorisation which makes it harder to account for subtleties and individual differences. However, they are recognised for their ease and simplicity. In comparison, trait-based assessment can be difficult to make sense of as a result of subtle differences between individuals and the constant influence of the environment.
We provide a range of scientifically validated personality tests ranging from traits, motivations, values and derailers (dark side). Contact our team to discuss how we can help.