Hippocrates to Freud, and Maslow to Jeniffer Aaker, all are contributors to the multi-million dollar personality assessment industry today. Whereas the idea of ‘who a person is’ existed since history itself, like many things, the 20th century formalized it in different ways. The historic inquisition into ‘personality’ could have been purely academic, with no cause-effect considerations. But Freud’s study and his 1900’s masterpiece – The Interpretation of Dreams led the world to explore the possibilities of understanding human nature. Though to be fair, a lot of the initial studies focused on what we today term as ‘observable behavior’, nonetheless, they did lay the pillars for modern personality understanding and assessment.
To give a brief insight, whereas observable behavior and even ‘private’ thinking were used to induce or deduce personality, today’s studies have advanced from behavior to causes of behavior, and specifically the psychological processes determining such behaviors.
Leaving aside the initial contributions (with due respect and acknowledgement), let us look at MBTI – a path defining personality measurement scale. MBTI: Myers – Briggs Type Indicator was a development out of the contributions of Carl Jung, a close associate of Freud. Jung is credited with the formation of psychological archetypes (an archetype is an original pattern – a prototype of an abstract pattern, from which similar things get their relevance and are patterned upon). MBTI has been deployed to serve many purposes, one being recruitment, what with some large Fortune 100 companies resorting to MBTI for selection and hiring.
Explaining it the ‘Rancho’ way, the reason for the differences in behaviors of individuals is not chance / random but it is due to the way we see and then judge what’s around us.
We prefer, we have an attitude that determines what we prefer, and what we prefer influences how we see (perceive) and judge what’s in front of us.
Jungian theory states that we choose to prefer amongst:
extroversion / Introversion (you obviously know this)
Sensing / Intuition (relying on input from senses or on intuition)
Thinking / Feeling (to reach to a judgment)
Judgment / Perception
One dominates over the other, in each dichotomy. Thus, MBTI aims at identifying the four basic preferences, which shall be the determining force of individualistic behavior. Mind you, these would remain rather steadfast in an individual, and should endure across varied situations. Simply out, it is safe to say that an extroverted person would not suddenly become an introvert. That’s what personality is all about – it determines a person’s consistent response to a situation.
Let’s not get into the mechanics of it. I am more excited about the possible applications of this model. For instance, I recently undertook a research to explore if an investor’s personality influences her investment choices and decisions. The base used for categorizing different individuals into personality categories was the MBTI scale – a standardized tool. The results were amazing. People sure chose according to who they were. MBTI happens to be a self-assessment tool, in the sense that people respond to questions pertaining to their behavior, attitudes and affect. The responses classify the investor into categories, which are then observed for within-category investor behavior.
Think about it. Before proposing a portfolio solution for an investor’s (hard-earned, don’t forget that) money, what if the planner had an insight into the investor’s personality, with a safe bet on a predictable relationship between personality and investment choices. Would it not be marketing in its most true and noble form? A customized offering, proposing to serve the needs of the customer is bound to create a satisfactory transaction. And this would be good not just for the client and the planner, but also for the industry at large, where trust is not an alien quality and symbiosis is not just a term for biology.
Once can identify their own MBTI personality type on any of the multiple sites online. One such source www.16personalities.com, where one can be assessed on the basis of his honest answers to simple questions.
A widely popular and accepted personality trait template is the Big Five Trait Personality Theory The theory defines personality traits in terms of five broad dimensions which determine the differences between individuals. As personality grabbed the interests of psychology and behavioral sciences researchers, the focus shifted to analyzing personality as an integrated ‘whole’ of many sub-parts – traits.
As marketers, an insight into the consumer’s personality may well determine the efficiency of all marketing efforts.