5 Psychological Tests That Are Fooling You

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A very big part of studying Psychology is methodology (and statistics). It´s something almost all student moan about as it´s not "interesting enough". But here´s the thing: How are psychologists supposed to know what goes on in your mind without these standardized tests? Unfortunately, the mainstream media takes some of those tests and really hypes them up without looking behind their facade. Because the hype about some psychological tests drive me crazy, here are 5 hyped psychological tests that psychologists don´t use.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator

Are you an INTJ or an ESFP? I feel like everyone knows their four little letters almost as well as their Hogwarts house. But the Myers Briggs Type Indicator doesn´t reveal your true personality. Firstly, the scales are separated into two extremes. You can either be introverted or extraverted, there´s no middle ground. It has been shown that this construction of personality is not accurate to how personalities work in real life. Similarly, this personality test could give you a completely different result to any other personality test you take. If it was measuring the real personality you´d see similarities between all of the tests.
Secondly, because of the two extremes on each scale your result can change when you take the test another time. That´s because there´s a certain cut-off score for each category (this could be 15 for extraversion). If you get 16 points on the Extraversion-Introversion scale the first time you´d be categorized as an Extrovert but if you answer two questions differently the second time you might only get 14 points and therefore get Introvert as a result.

Further reading: Furnham (1996), Harvey, Murry & Stamoulis (1995), Boyle (1995)

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Polygraph Tests

Can you tell if the person opposite of you is lying? Many people claim that with a polygraph they can. The principle behind it is quite easy: You put a few cables on a person and let them record physiological parameters of arousal (e.g. heart rate or electrodermal activity). Then you ask them a few questions that you know the answer to, to get a baseline of these parameters. If the parameters differ from this baseline in the real questions later the person is lying. Seems logical, right?
It does except for the fact that arousal doesn´t equal lying. We actually feel arousal (as light as it may be) in a lot of different situations. Are you happy? Arousal. Are you scared? Arousal. Are you lying? Arousal. Are you nervous? Arousal. Are you attracted to someone in the room? Arousal. You get the idea. Another problem with polygraphs is how easily they are manipulated. Some people can (after a bit of training) put themselves in a calm state and therefore will show no arousal even if they´re lying.

Freuds Dream Analysis

Oh Freud, my old nemesis. People assume that studying psychology basically means studying Freud and his work. Surprise, it´s not at all. While Freud did some great work for bringing psychology further, much of what he established has now been proven difficult or wrong. Newer version of psychoanalysis are now often combined with behavioral therapy but somehow the internet is still obsessed with dream analysis.
Based on the idea that in sleep your unconscious comes alive and shows your dreams, wishes and fears analyzing your dreams can resolve issues with these things and give you a better feeling for your body and mind. First off, we still don´t know what´s going on while dreaming or sleeping in general. It´s a state of regeneration for your brain in which it processes everything you did, saw or thought that day. Scientists have shown that dreams are a part of that process and somehow help our brains make sense of the day. So sorry Freud, but it´s not all our unconscious.

Further reading: Bernstein & Belicki (1996)

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Rorschach Test

Another test based on Freud´s ideas. I´m sure you saw the inkblot test somewhere before. It´s actually quite a fun party game. You just take one of the ten pictures that show random splatters of ink and you tell each other what you see in it. When it´s used in actual therapy it is just as easy to do. 
And that´s where the problems start. Firstly, there´s no real standard against which psychologists can compare the answers of a patient. Sure, there are the most common answers and a few that are supposed to point out abnormal personalities or mental disorders, but what if they say something that´s not on any of those lists? Or something that´s only similar but not exactly like one of them? Also the therapist needs to score on about a thousand variables to get a result. Did the patient look at the whole picture or certain spots? Did they acknowledge the colours?
Additionally, it simply does not work. As with the Myers Briggs Test the results of the Rorschach Test differ from the results of other tests for the same disorders. While it seems to work good/average for detecting schizophrenia it simply does not detect anxiety, psychosis, depression or trauma. Also tell me again how one test as simple as this is supposed to detect all different mental disorders?!
All of this is not even taking into account that there are only 10 different pictures which are available on the internet (including the most common answers) so that you can basically fake your way through.

IQ Tests

I used to be obsessed with IQ tests, I so badly wanted to find out my IQ score but I wasn´t patient enough to fill out an hour long test just for fun. It turns out that IQ tests are one of the most discussed tests in psychology. Some researchers say they are really good at measuring your intelligence and can predict GCSE or SAT scores and your general success in life. Other researchers believe that they may work in general but you can´t make any conclusions for an individual person. 
The concept behind the tests is a bit wobbly as well because IQ is defined in about a hundred different ways, so each IQ test measures a bit of a different IQ. I guess this is a test where it´s down to what you personally believe as even the scientists themselves are not sure about it yet. All we know is that they are not as infallible as they are presented to the general public.


Seeing how widely these tests are used is honestly driving me mad. I´m all for people being interested in psychology and finding out more about themselves but please inform yourself about good tests before you do anything. And even if you seemingly found the perfect test for your purpose, take the result with a grain of salt. No psychological test has been found to be perfect yet, they all have their problems and are generally critiqued. After all, we cannot be 100% certain what goes on behind a persons´ frown.

Have you taken any of these tests? What was your result, does it fit to your perception of yourself & would you take any of them again now?


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