[This post was a draft and was never completed.]
Recently I took a personality exam from a Predictive Index outfit that was hoping to do business with our company. The exam was four columns of adjectives, about 15-20 each (don’t remember precisely) and first you were supposed to check all the adjectives you think described “the way people expect you to be” and the second page was the same adjectives but you were then supposed to choose the ones that described “how you actually believe you are”.
Somehow, from that, this representative from the firm was able to describe not only my personality profile (which he says is 50% rigid by age 7 and most of the rest of it is in place by age 14, on average) but also created a narrative about present efforts I’ve been making to try to change my personality, which he said was becoming a source of distraction and sapping my energy.
I just let the guy babble for about 20 minutes or so about all of this before interjecting because I was skeptical and didn’t want to feed him stuff he could use to validate his claims or make his narrative seem more credible, like a fortune teller or magician might do. But when all was said and done, he was accurate. Frightfully accurate. How could he have such a good understanding of my personality by the selection of a bunch of adjectives?
The Predictive Index is used around the world, in private companies and non-profits, large and small. It’s rooted in a profiling system developed around WW2 to serve the military in determining the right role for individuals being conscripted into the armed forces. It’s also Jungian in philosophy, so it’s oriented around the goal of placing people into profile boxes which are fairly simplistic, for example, mine was called “Persuasive-Leadership” (numerous Myers-Briggs testing in my youth told me I was “INTJ,” quite similar). As a result, the system’s output is supposed to be helpful in establishing hierarchies, not necessarily better understanding one’s self. Most users of PI are trying to figure out whether or not to hire someone for a particular position, or whether or not a person can be trusted, etc.
I was and am more interested in knowing myself better. And I wanted to confirm or deny the results of this PI exam by comparing it to another standard. I asked around a bit for second opinions from a friend who is involved in academic-level psychology studies and was pointed to the HEXACO Personality Inventory exam as a highly-regarded academic alternative which markets itself as “a measure of the six major dimensions of personality”. I opted for the 100-question self-reported exam and graded my results. Below are the “scale descriptions” and my total scores, along with my comments on their accuracy or other thoughts I had when considering them.
Domain-level scales are the “six major dimensions of personality” referred to above, each of which has four “facet-level” scales which are traits within the macro traits.
Honesty-Humility: Persons with very high scores on the Honesty-Humility scale avoid manipulating others for personal gain, feel little temptation to break rules, are uninterested in lavish wealth and luxuries, and feel no special entitlement to elevated social status. Conversely, persons with very low scores on this scale will flatter others to get what they want, are inclined to break rules for personal profit, are motivated by material gain, and feel a strong sense of self-importance.
My score: 60/80
It’s flattering to have a “high” score in this area so I’ll be careful about commenting in too much detail at the domain-level and focus my thoughts on the facet-level traits but this made sense to me. I’m not a manipulator, though I do work feverishly to persuade and otherwise cajole people to do or think things that will benefit me. However, my persuasion is always logical and open and in front of the person for them to see and judge themselves. I don’t try to control people behind their back or with other deceptive practices. The ostentatiousness of material comforts dynamic is also particularly descriptive of me. If I ever attain any level of affluence I’ll likely be one of those people who still drives a modest car and lives in a modest home, for example. No Gucci and Prada and Lamborghinis for me.
Emotionality: Persons with very high scores on the Emotionality scale experience fear of physical dangers, experience anxiety in response to life’s stresses, feel a need for emotional support from others, and feel empathy and sentimental attachments with others. Conversely, persons with very low scores on this scale are not deterred by the prospect of physical harm, feel little worry even in stressful situations, have little need to share their concerns with others, and feel emotionally detached from others.
My score: 50/80
Scoring above the median in this area was surprising to me. I do have a tendency to talk through emotions or stressful situations with trusted friends and I definitely fear physical harm, I think about all the nasty things that can happen to a person physically more often than I should and manage to creep myself out every time I do. I tend to be high anxiety as well. However, I also have a keen ability to experience heavy emotion in solitude and find no comfort in “support groups” (versus supportive individuals). And I’ve had occasional gruesome physical mishaps (such as plunging a knife into my thumb, plunging same thumb into a blender blade, etc.) and I don’t even wince.
eXtraversion: Persons with very high scores on the Extraversion scale feel positively about themselves, feel confident when leading or addressing groups of people, enjoy social gatherings and interactions, and experience positive feelings of enthusiasm and energy. Conversely, persons with very low scores on this scale consider themselves unpopular, feel awkward when they are the center of social attention, are indifferent to social activities, and feel less lively and optimistic than others do.
My score: 53/80
The Extraversion criterion are a little confusing because it’s hard to tell how many of the traits listed are personality-related versus self esteem-related. And because it’s a composite, I think my high extraversion in some areas is masked by my concomitantly low extraversion in others (for example, leading groups vs. social gatherings).
Agreeableness (versus Anger): Persons with very high scores on the Agreeableness scale forgive the wrongs that they suffered, are lenient in judging others, are willing to compromise and cooperate with others, and can easily control their temper. Conversely, persons with very low scores on this scale hold grudges against those who have harmed them, are rather critical of others’ shortcomings, are stubborn in defending their point of view, and feel anger readily in response to mistreatment.
My score: 21/80
I was troubled by this score, which is funny because I expected it to be low. Anyone who knows me or who has dealt with me in an argument knows I am pretty impatient and that I don’t go out of my way to be agreeable. I am a “bottom line” thinker and a “get with the program” talker. I am extremely stubborn (of course, I always think rightfully so) and I can be quick tempered when frustrated. I’ve always been known as and thought of myself as judgmental and leniency has never been a strength.
But, while I used to be a big holder of grudges, and I do think this characterizes my personality in a general sense (again, I always believe rightfully so), I believe I’ve made big strides in the “forgive and forget” era over the last 5 years of my life, so much so that I sometimes wonder if I am going soft. Not a healthy way to look at it, probably, and I am exaggerating for effect, but I figured that’d come through a bit in the score. And maybe it did, and that’s where the 20 points I managed to capture came from!
Conscientiousness: Persons with very high scores on the Conscientiousness scale organize their time and their physical surroundings, work in a disciplined way toward their goals, strive for accuracy and perfection in their tasks, and deliberate carefully when making decisions. Conversely, persons with very low scores on this scale tend to be unconcerned with orderly surroundings or schedules, avoid difficult tasks or challenging goals, are satisfied with work that contains some errors, and make decisions on impulse or with little reflection.
My score: 72/80
Again, a pretty flattering thing to get a high score on, though of course the point of this personality profile is not to see if you’re good or bad but merely to describe. The trouble is, no one really seems to consider being disorganized or careless in thought to be a “good.” I think what is interesting about this particular domain is how much conflict there is between people on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The psychologist Marshall Rosenberg said in a lecture on Non-Violent Communication (NVC) once that he believed most of the problems in the world centered around “slobs” and “neats” being in too close proximity to one another! He suggested world peace would arrive the moment the slobs and neats were isolated to their respective hemispheres of the globe.
He was kidding, but there is truth to every joke or else it wouldn’t be funny.
I’m a decided “neat” and can’t suffer a “slob” for a billion dollars.
Openness to Experience: Persons with very high scores on the Openness to Experience scale become absorbed in the beauty of art and nature, are inquisitive about various domains of knowledge, use their imagination freely in everyday life, and take an interest in unusual ideas or people. Conversely, persons with very low scores on this scale are rather unimpressed by most works of art, feel little intellectual curiosity, avoid creative pursuits, and feel little attraction toward ideas that may seem radical or unconventional.
My score: 56/80
I think this area explains my love of learning, philosophy and my contrarianism.
The Sincerity scale assesses a tendency to be genuine in interpersonal relations. Low scorers will flatter others or pretend to like them in order to obtain favors, whereas high scorers are unwilling to manipulate others.
My score: 15/20
I’m just shocked it wasn’t 20! I see myself as entirely sincere. Whether I say something nice or something nasty, you can trust I sincerely meant it. But I think I’ve tried over the years to hold my tongue when it comes to the nasty and maybe the exam questions picked up on that willingness, which it considers manipulative (and perhaps it is!)
The Fairness scale assesses a tendency to avoid fraud and corruption. Low scorers are willing to gain by cheating or stealing, whereas high scorers are unwilling to take advantage of other individuals or of society at large.
My score: 20/20
The Greed Avoidance scale assesses a tendency to be uninterested in possessing lavish wealth, luxury goods, and signs of high social status. Low scorers want to enjoy and to display wealth and privilege, whereas high scorers are not especially motivated by monetary or social-status considerations.
My score: 16/20
The Modesty scale assesses a tendency to be modest and unassuming. Low scorers consider themselves as superior and as entitled to privileges that others do not have, whereas high scorers view themselves as ordinary people without any claim to special treatment.
My score: 9/20
The Fearfulness scale assesses a tendency to experience fear. Low scorers feel little fear of injury and are relatively tough, brave, and insensitive to physical pain, whereas high scorers are strongly inclined to avoid physical harm.
My score: 14/20
The Anxiety scale assesses a tendency to worry in a variety of contexts. Low scorers feel little stress in response to difficulties, whereas high scorers tend to become preoccupied even by relatively minor problems.
My score: 17/20
The Dependence scale assesses one’s need for emotional support from others. Low scorers feel self-assured and able to deal with problems without any help or advice, whereas high scorers want to share their difficulties with those who will provide encouragement and comfort.
My score: 11/20
The Sentimentality scale assesses a tendency to feel strong emotional bonds with others. Low scorers feel little emotion when saying good-bye or in reaction to the concerns of others, whereas high scorers feel strong emotional attachments and an empathic sensitivity to the feelings of others.
My score: 8/20
The Social Self-Esteem scale assesses a tendency to have positive self-regard, particularly in social contexts. High scorers are generally satisfied with themselves and consider themselves to have likable qualities, whereas low scorers tend to have a sense of personal worthlessness and to see themselves as unpopular.
My score: 17/20
The Social Boldness scale assesses one’s comfort or confidence within a variety of social situations. Low scorers feel shy or awkward in positions of leadership or when speaking in public, whereas high scorers are willing to approach strangers and are willing to speak up within group settings.
My score: 17/20
The Sociability scale assesses a tendency to enjoy conversation, social interaction, and parties. Low scorers generally prefer solitary activities and do not seek out conversation, whereas high scorers enjoy talking, visiting, and celebrating with others.
My score: 9/20
The Liveliness scale assesses one’s typical enthusiasm and energy. Low scorers tend not to feel especially cheerful or dynamic, whereas high scorers usually experience a sense of optimism and high spirits.
My score: 10/20
The Forgivingness scale assesses one’s willingness to feel trust and liking toward those who may have caused one harm. Low scorers tend “hold a grudge” against those who have offended them, whereas high scorers are usually ready to trust others again and to re-establish friendly relations after having been treated badly.
My score: 6/20
The Gentleness scale assesses a tendency to be mild and lenient in dealings with other people. Low scorers tend to be critical in their evaluations of others, whereas high scorers are reluctant to judge others harshly.
My score: 4/20
The Flexibility scale assesses one’s willingness to compromise and cooperate with others. Low scorers are seen as stubborn and are willing to argue, whereas high scorers avoid arguments and accommodate others’ suggestions, even when these may be unreasonable.
My score: 4/20
The Patience scale assesses a tendency to remain calm rather than to become angry. Low scorers tend to lose their tempers quickly, whereas high scorers have a high threshold for feeling or expressing anger.
My score: 7/20
The Organization scale assesses a tendency to seek order, particularly in one’s physical surroundings. Low scorers tend to be sloppy and haphazard, whereas high scorers keep things tidy and prefer a structured approach to tasks.
My score: 19/20
The Diligence scale assesses a tendency to work hard. Low scorers have little self-discipline and are not strongly motivated to achieve, whereas high scorers have a strong “‘work ethic” and are willing to exert themselves.
My score: 19/20
The Perfectionism scale assesses a tendency to be thorough and concerned with details. Low scorers tolerate some errors in their work and tend to neglect details, whereas high scorers check carefully for mistakes and potential improvements.
My score: 19/20
The Prudence scale assesses a tendency to deliberate carefully and to inhibit impulses. Low scorers act on impulse and tend not to consider consequences, whereas high scorers consider their options carefully and tend to be cautious and self-controlled.
My score: 15/20
Openness to Experience Domain
The Aesthetic Appreciation scale assesses one’s enjoyment of beauty in art and in nature. Low scorers tend not to become absorbed in works of art or in natural wonders, whereas high scorers have a strong appreciation of various art forms and of natural wonders.
My score: 15/20
The Inquisitiveness scale assesses a tendency to seek information about, and experience with, the natural and human world. Low scorers have little curiosity about the natural or social sciences, whereas high scorers read widely and are interested in travel.
My score: 20/20
The Creativity scale assesses one’s preference for innovation and experiment. Low scorers have little inclination for original thought, whereas high scorers actively seek new solutions to problems and express themselves in art.
My score: 13/20
The Unconventionality scale assesses a tendency to accept the unusual. Low scorers avoid eccentric or nonconforming persons, whereas high scorers are receptive to ideas that might seem strange or radical.
My score: 18/20
The Altruism (versus Antagonism) scale assesses a tendency to be sympathetic and soft-hearted toward others. High scorers avoid causing harm and react with generosity toward those who are weak or in need of help, whereas low scorers are not upset by the prospect of hurting others and may be seen as hard-hearted.
My score: 10/20