Does choosing A or B image say something about your personality?

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Each semester in my Master’s level Tests and Assessments course, we (students and I) collectively design a new personality assessment in an effort to highlight some key concepts in test construction – e.g., reliability, validity.

This past semester, we decided to see if preference for certain images might be associated with certain personality characteristics.

For this in-class project, we took an entirely inductive approach by brainstorming various sets of image pairs that one might prefer over another. We started with animals and cars but quickly realized there were too many biases or errors (factors other than personality) associated with these images. We then moved onto basic shapes since they seemed relatively free of influences stemming from age/generation, gender, whether you had a dog or cat as a child, etc.

After a few sessions, we settled on 16 images (see examples shown on Table 1) that we labelled Dynamic and Static personalities. Dynamic images generally showed movement while Static images did not. Using an online survey tool, we then gathered data on 46 individuals (mostly family and friends). In addition to these images, we also included a short online version of the Big Five (John et al., 1998) as well as a newly-created 6-item scale that we called Conformity (preference for conformity and rules of conduct).

Preliminary results based on our small sample of 46 showed that those who preferred STATIC images were also more likely to score higher on CONFORMITY but lower on Openness to Experience (from the Big Five). Results for those preferring DYNAMIC images were just the opposite – they scored lower on CONFORMITY but higher on Openness to Experience.

Given that our personality impacts just about every decision we make – from choosing the type of music we listen to, to the type of friends we choose to be around, and even our mate selection, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the kinds of images we prefer might also show a pattern aligned with our personalities.

While difficult to consider this formal research, this mini class project hints at the possibility that we may be able to systematically determine one’s personality by identifying the underlying mechanisms driving our image preferences.

Fine print: This mini-study was conducted solely for educational purposes as part of a Master’s level Tests and Assessments course. Hence, this study should not be construed as formal research and the university does not bear any responsibility for the results. While these preliminary findings are interesting and hint at the potential utility of an image-based personality assessment, due to time constraints, we were unable to incorporate the following: (a) conduct a full literature review; (b) establish inter-rater reliability estimate of image items; (c) establish satisfactory reliability estimates and factor structures of the image and conformity scales using secondary and tertiary data rounds.

Concepts Covered: Construct definition/design, Levels of measurement, Reliability (Cronbach’s alpha, interrater, split-half, test-retest), Validity (content, construct-related, criterion-related), Analysis strategies (principle components, exploratory/confirmatory factor analyses), and Cutoff-setting methods (e.g., Modified Angoff).


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