CULT OF PERSONALITY: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves

Annie Murphy Paul, Author
Annie Murphy Paul, Author . Free Press $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7432-4356-8
Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-7432-7163-9
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Personality tests are administered to millions of people every year for purposes ranging from career counseling and educational guidance to determining parental fitness in custody battles. But Paul, a former senior editor at Psychology Today, contends that the accuracy of these tests and their diagnostic value have never been convincingly demonstrated; their results are, she says, "often invalid, unreliable, and unfair." This study entertainingly chronicles the often surprising stories behind the creation and promotion of the most popular tests. The Thematic Apperception Test, for example, was developed by the freethinking Harvard psychologist Henry Murray in collaboration with his longtime mistress; its original purpose was to facilitate "deep dives" into the unconscious in search of self-actualization, but today it is used more often by corporations seeking to evaluate job applicants and manipulate consumers. Paul's book is not a closely reasoned assault on the theoretical underpinnings of personality testing (like the critique of IQ testing in books like Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man ), but its anecdotal account of how personal quirks, intellectual hubris and institutional biases have shaped the use and misuse of personality tests should lead lay readers to ask hard questions the next time they are invited—or required—to submit to such testing. Agent, Andrew Blauner. (Sept. 22)

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