Questionnaires are regularly used to assess personality. Discuss some of the difficulties associated with this particular type of method.

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Introduction

Questionnaires are regularly used to assess personality. Discuss some of the difficulties associated with this particular type of method. Today, there are many different methods of assessing personality, some of which get used in everyday life in order to gauge someone's personality with the intention of finding out whether someone is compatible with oneself. In psychology, we understand personality and its difficulties, through various research methods, ranging from observations, structured personality tests or questionnaires to projective techniques. The aim of such methods is to assess an individual's behavioural dispositions, whether extrovert or introvert, confident or insecure. However, questionnaires are conceivably the most straightforward and direct way to make an assessment, making them the most popular method of personality research. Nevertheless, their accuracy is often disputed, as there are many difficulties associated with questionnaires. Personality questionnaires were first devised in post-war America (1918) to assess whether soldiers were emotionally disturbed. The structure was basic, requiring only yes/no answers, but these stimulated use of questionnaires in further personality research, first taken up by Allport who initiated the Trait theory.

Middle

Questionnaires have been improved beyond the original yes/no answers, but multiple-choice options don't always convey the subject's feelings. Different measures have been introduced to overcome constricted answers, such as using a number scale to rate whether a statement is like oneself or not at all. Open-ended answers obviously have no limitations however this creates long and laborious research that can be criticised for its lack of uniformity. Another difficulty attributed to questionnaires is the tendency to have a response set if the questionnaires are not carefully worded and put together. If there is a recognised pattern where appropriate answers can be identified, the subject may be inclined to respond repetitively, echoing the format of questions and without really thinking. It is therefore essential that questions be phrased differently each time. The most effective way of acquiring concentration from a subject is to form questions using double negatives. For example to start a question with 'It is not uncommon...' adds an element of confusion, thus making the subject think about what the question is really asking.

Conclusion

Experimental evidence has supported such criticisms, for example those of Hartshorne and May's studies of 11-14 year olds' cheating. Arguments have been made that people's personalities are so different and complex that any form of questionnaire cannot be accurate, as mental processes are too dynamic to be assessed by any type of questionnaire. Personality therefore should not be simplified into a series of questions and answers, since everyone has an individual personality. Personality questionnaires contain many difficulties for example subjective views are not always reliable and one is susceptible to give socially desirable answers. The very structure of a questionnaire can also create difficulties due to their limiting choice of answers and the potential for a response set. Although these difficulties exist, their validity cannot be undermined within the field of personality, as they often lay the main foundations of theories and stimulate further research. When viewed as neither non-scientific research nor an analytical approach, questionnaires are generally regarded as an acceptable and reliable form of assessing personality. Questionnaires are especially useful when combined with observational and projective personality tests, such as Rorschach's inkblot experiments.

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