Objective Personality Tests

The best known objective personality test is the MMPI. This test was created primarily to measure psychopathology. It contains several validity scales to determine if the client is responding to the questions accurately and truthfully, and it also contains ten basic clinical scales. Hundreds of additional scales have been created for the MMPI to measure virtually every personality trait and emotion conceivable. The MMPI was recently revised; the MMPI-2 is now the more commonly used edition. The MMPI is interpreted by looking at scale elevations and configurations. Although limited interpretation can be done by computer programs, a skilled psychologist is needed to make accurate interpretation which take into account a person’s background and other test data. The MCMI-III is another test similar to the MMPI. It contains scales which closely correspond to the diagnoses in DSM-IV. It is particularly useful for the diagnosis of personality disorders. Other objective tests, such as the 16PF and the Myers-Briggs are more useful for looking at personality in the normal range, and are more helpful for counseling as opposed to psychiatric treatment.

Brief Summary of MMPI Scales:

Please note that the following is a very simplistic summary. If you have your own or someone else’s MMPI results you should not draw conclusions based on what you see below. If you are not familiar with this test, you should rely on the judgment of a psychologist who is specifically trained and experienced with both the MMPI and testing in general. A professional can take into account demographic and other factors and understands the psychometric strengths and weakness of this test. S/he can also interpret score configurations, rather than taking a single score out of context.

With all that in mind, a high score on these scales indicates:

L: Reluctance to admit minor and common moral weaknesses
F: Tendency to exaggerate problems
K: Reluctance to reveal problems

1: Overconcern regarding physical problems
2: Depression
3: Tendency to repress and deny problems; shallow relationships
4: Rebelliousness; disregard for social conventions; authority conflict
5: Males: Sensitivity and cultural interests/Females: Assertiveness
6: Distrust
7: Chronic anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tendencies
8: Feelings of being overwhelmed; loss of contact with reality
9: High energy level which is not directed; grandiosity.
0: Shyness


The Myers-Briggs, perhaps more than any other objective personality test, has captured popular imagination. This doesn’t necessarily reflect better validity or accuracy than other tests, but more likely represents the ease of interpretation and broad application.

The Myers-Briggs consists of four scales, each of which places the test-taker as one of two personality classifications, based on Carl Jung’s theories. Combining these scales results in 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 16 personality types.

The four scales are:

Attitudes: Extraversion (E) / Introversion (I): E types tend to become energized by action and interaction with others; I types tend to prefer reflection and calm, and become drained by action.

Functions (S/N): Sensing (S) / iNtuition (N): S types trust tangible information. N types trust abstract, theoretical information and are more likely to believe in “hunches.”

Functions (T/F): Thinking (T) / Feeling (F): F types prefer to reach consensus on decisions and strongly empathize with others. T types tend to remain more objective, using reason and logic to reach decisions.

Lifestyles: Judging (J) / Perception (P): Judging types prefer to have matters settled. P types would rather keep options open.

The Myers-Briggs has wide application, including vocational and relationship counseling. A description of each of the 16 personality types can be found at the Myers-Briggs Foundation website.