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I attended an intensive day course this weekend as part of my Events Management Masters and was intrigued to see ‘psychological profiling’ as the title for the afternoon session on Sunday. As a Psychology undergrad, I learnt a lot about people’s behaviour, different personality types and certain psychometric tests that could be undertaken to give you an inclin into the type of person you are, however I had never actually taken a test.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is a commonly used tool within coaching, team building exercises and people management – it primarily consists of 80+ questions designed to analyse specific character traits on 4 main scales: Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling and Judging vs. Perceiving.

The test includes questions such as ‘If you are at a party do you – a) sometimes get bored b) always have a good time’, ‘When you have a deadline to meet do you a) like to plan in advance and make a schedule of work or b) leave it until the last minute.’ Each choice you make then has point values assigned to it registering on the 4 different dichotomies, which you total up at the end of your test.

I was identified as ESTJ – ‘An Extravert who is practical, realistic and matter-of-fact with a natural head for business or mechanics. Not interested in abstract theories; wants learning to have direct and immediate application. Likes to organise and run activities. Often make good administrators; are decisive and quickly move to implement decisions.’

Although some parts of my personality are like this, I would like to think that I’m not as straight laced  – when it is necessary I can be practical and realistic, but at the same time I listen to my intuition, am ruled by my heart over head a lot of the time and am hugely into music and the arts which a lot of the time is very abstract.

And so, it got me thinking about the differences between what people would LIKE to be, and how they actually behave. You may like to think that you’re an outgoing person who’d always have fun at parties and be really popular and have lots of friends but realisitcally is that really you?

You can take this even further and relate it to particular facets of a person, so for example someone’s online presence or ‘persona’. From personal experience, I have found that in the past a lot of people developed online counterparts for themselves whether it be through messaging software like msn messenger, dating websites or myspace profiles. These characters were not necessarily anything like the person was in ‘real life’ – it was a way of portraying a particular side of their personality, or at least the person that they wanted you to believe they were. They could be whoever they wanted to be.

I think since the launch of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook inparticularly, there has been a slight shift in the way that people are now portraying themselves. Through Facebook people can now see what you’re up to, who you are dating, where you live, who you hang around with, where you work, your political views and all of the other people you are friends with. Likewise via Twitter you can find out about a person’s wearabouts via app’s like Foursquare, you can follow celebrities – a notoriously private group of people and you can follow someone’s individual tweets about what they get up to on a day to day basis. The content of tweets are, I would say, predominantly realistic and genuine and about real life people going about their every day lives. And so, there seems to be a switch to a much more open, honest online community of people willing to share information about themselves and their personality relatively freely.

As a MBTI defined ‘extravert’ I would have to say that I prefer this more open, honest communication – I have always been upfront about who I am as a person and have struggled to understand why some people choose to hide parts of themselves. I think tests like Myers-Briggs can really help you to get an idea of how you come across and an indication as to the type of person you are as well as to understand those around you better. However, I think the only person who really knows who you are and who you want to be is yourself – there’s no point hiding from it, take the test and see whether you can handle the reality of the ‘real’ you.

You can find out more about the Myers Briggs test at http://www.myersbriggs.org/