Communicate on the Same Wavelength



DISK, MTBI, 4-color test, BigFive (OCEAN), HEXACO or maybe BFAS? How to correctly diagnose personality?

While this may come as a surprise, it turns out that quite a lot of commonly used personality tests diagnose personality not much better than… a horoscope*. So should they be used in professional research?

Personality, personality model and test

What is personality? 

Personality is a set of traits, behaviors, feelings and thoughts that make each person different and unique. Knowledge of personality helps us understand why people behave in different ways and predict how they will react in different situations. It is worth mentioning at this point that personality practically does not change throughout life and does not depend on mood or situation.


What is a personality model?

A personality model or theory is the way psychologists try to explain and understand the differences between people. We assume that personality consists of certain traits, such as openness or extroversion. It is on this basis that we call someone melancholic or sanguine. When we correctly define what elements personality consists of, we can measure it with the appropriate tests. However, if we establish the wrong model of personality – then we are measuring something that does not actually exist. Therefore, tests based on wrong models are completely worthless.


What are personality tests?

These types of tests make it possible to measure a person’s personality traits, and therefore what is described by a given personality model. Like all psychometric tests that we recognize as genuine, they must exhibit qualities without which they would be worthless. These include objectivity, reliability, relevance and standardization, among others.


In this article, for the sake of simplicity, we will use the term , “test”, having in mind both the personality model and the psychometric test built on its basis.



Personality tests in business?


Personality tests have become a popular and valued business tool. They are useful especially in the recruitment process, making it easier to find an employee with certain features. This is why more and more employers are choosing to reach for personality tests – both at the initial stage of employee induction and during the subsequent building of an integrated team. 


Among the most popular personality tests used in business are eDISK, MTBI, the 4-Color Test, and BigFive (FFM). Less common – mainly because they were developed relatively recently and have not yet gained popularity – are the HEXACO or BFAS tests. 


It should be noted that there are personality tests on the market with names other than those mentioned above. However, most of them go back to well-known models, such as MTBI or FMM, and their name – suggesting the alleged uniqueness and uniqueness of the test – serves marketing purposes and is meant to distinguish a given test from other tools.


Why is it important to choose a good personality test?

Incompetent test selection is useless information that will do more harm than good.

General rules


In principle, we can assume that if a test talks about specific personality types – it should raise our doubts. This is because labeling or categorization was created only to meet the natural need to divide people into categories. While this fulfills human expectations of a simple vision of the world and appeals to our imagination, it has no justification in science. Indeed, scientific research shows that there are no personality types, only intensities of certain traits, which can be measured on a scale of 1-10.


Tests based on types



One of the very popular tests based on the categorization mechanism is the Myers-Briggs Test, or MBTI. It was created in 1943, and its authors – Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs – were not scientists, but non-academic personality researchers based on Jungian theory. 


The MTBI identifies 16 personality types, described by acronyms, e.g. ISFJ, INFJ, INTJ, where INTJ stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging, for example.


MBTI admittedly draws on Jungian theories but has little in common with psychology. Researchers point out that it does not include neuroticism in its taxonomy of personality, which is still considered a fundamental personality element today, and Jung’s concepts themselves are presented in a way that is inconsistent with reality (McCrae, Costa, 1989).


The psychometric measures of this tool are also controversial. Researchers who use the MBTI test in their research often avoid checking its reliability, even if they take such measures against other tests used (Capraro, Capraro, 2002). The tool is also not very sensitive to the respondent’s current mood and motivation. It lacks, for example, scales to observe that the respondent’s answers are not the result of his sincerity, but of his need to be seen as someone attractive. This is an important shortcoming since it is very possible that it affects the results obtained on the EI and JP scales (McCaulley, 1981).


Hartman Personality Profile or 4-color test


Another equally popular test is the Hartman Personality Profile, or the 4-color test, according to which each person has one dominant color: yellow, green, blue or red. It was popularized by, among others, Thomas Erikson’s widely read book, Surrounded by Idiots. Unfortunately – despite the fact that the concept of the 4-color test sounds very convincing – it should be regarded as a psycho-fun, rather than a professional tool. Particularly controversial in this context is the fact that the concept of personality colors was based on philosophical considerations of the author, who was not a psychologist, but a mathematician and philosopher.  Nor is it based on any theory of personality.



Another test is the DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Compliance). It was created in 1928 by William Marston – a scientist, psychologist, and inventor. However, it was not until the 1940s that Walter Clarke gave rise to the real use of this tool in personnel selection. DISC is a behavioral model and mainly examines what can be seen, “on the outside”, and this already puts it in the light of criticism. In addition: it lacks population norms (Pemberton, 2019) and consideration of cultural differences (McLaughlin, 2019). Thus, it may turn out that two people with the same score may function in completely different ways and only one of them is suitable for the job. 


The large-scale use of DISC in HR markets has absolute consequences – training of candidates on how to answer questions to present themselves in a good light and successfully pass the recruitment process is commonly offered. This makes it very difficult to verify a candidate’s sincerity.


How to choose a good personality test?


For a personality test to be of real value, it must be built on a scientific basis – from the personality model to the test that measures it. 


Thus, for example, the FFM model, also known as the Big Five, was developed from statistical analysis of language in the 1960s, but was re-validated as reliable in 2020 (Satow, 2021). The names Big Five, Big Five, FFM (Five Factor Model) or the more popular OCEAN or CANOE came from the fact that the model consists of five main elements:


  •     O – Openness 
  •     C – Conscientiousness 
  •     E – Extraversion 
  •     A – Agreeableness
  •     N – Neuroticism 


Each of these elements is divided into 6 sub-categories. For example: the components of the Openness element are:


  • Fantasy – The ability to think creatively, be imaginative and generate new ideas.
  • Aesthetics – Appreciation of art, music, literature and other forms of artistic expression.
  • Feelings – Openness to emotions, empathy, sensitivity to the feelings of others.
  • Actions – Willingness to experience new things, openness to trying new activities and challenges.
  • Ideas – Openness to new ideas, theories, concepts and diverse points of view.
  • Values – Openness to a diversity of values, beliefs and cultural traditions.


However, despite its many advantages, the FFM model has also become the subject of controversy. Researchers have pointed out the apparent difficulty of replicating the structure of this test into non-Germanic languages (De Raad, Perugini, Hrebickova, Szarota, 1998), and the real bone of contention turned out to be the number of traits tested in it (Strus, Cieciuch, 2014). It was asked, for example, why it singles out exactly 6 subcategories of each main trait.


The most common answer to these objections is the HEXACO model, which included one additional trait H – Honesty-Humility(Ashton, Perugini, Szarota, De Vries, Di Blas, Boies De Raad, 2004). This, however, was not enough. After all, each trait or its subcategories should be treated separately – they should not overlap in research. Meanwhile, HEXACO did not take this principle into account – it recognized the existence of a strong correlation between Honesty-Modesty and Agreeableness (Schneider, Goffin, 2012, Boies et al., 2004). This negated the distinctiveness of the aforementioned “H” trait and raised doubts among researchers about the validity of using the entire tool. At least until the Honesty-Modesty category is solidly established (McCrae, Costa, 2008; van Kampen, 2012).


The most recent personality model, developed in 2015, is the BFAS, or Cybernetic Big Five (BFAS/CB5T). Its key premise is that personality theory is in line with current knowledge not only in psychology but also in neurology and neuropsychology (DeYoung, 2010b; DeYoung, Gray, 2009). Compared to HEXACO, BFAS also corresponds much better with the latest dimensional models of personality psychopathology, namely DSM-5 and ICD-11 (DeYoung, Carey, Krueger, Ross, 2016), which can significantly help in working with non-neurotypical people. 


As of today, the BFAS model and the personality tests based on it are the most modern and best-documented approaches to measuring personality, confirmed not only by psychological but also by neurological research.


That’s why Empatyzer uses this exact model, introducing it – as one of the first in the world – to the business world.


* It is worth returning, lastly, to the popular topic of horoscopes raised at the beginning. If you look at the correlation between real existing, i.e. scientifically researched, personality traits and those described by horoscopes, it is between 0.148 and 0.323 (Tang Kuok Ho, 2019). What does this mean? Considering that correlation is measured on a scale of -1 to 1, where -1 means something that is completely opposite, e.g. white – black, 0 means zero no relationship i.e. once white once black, and 1 means full correlation i.e. always white is white, then anything between 0.5 and -0.5 is roulette – exactly in this range are horoscopes. This does not in any way take away their entertainment value, but we should definitely not consider them as tools for reliable personality measurement.


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