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Thursday, May 24, 2018

What we get wrong about personality tests


Editor's note

Who hasn’t clicked through an online quiz that promises to use your favorite songs or your reactions to various colors to tell you something about who you really are, deep, deep down? Surprise: They’re not really that insightful. Personality psychologists do know how to build assessments that actually measure something real. But new research suggests that human intuitions are all wrong about what kinds of questions are going to get us those tantalizing insights into what we imagine are our innermost, true selves.

Congress passed a bill rolling back some of the Wall Street regulations meant to prevent a repeat of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The president, who favors less regulation, is expected to sign the bill next week. But the usual debate about adding or removing financial regulations misses the point, argue Jena Martin and Karen Kunz of West Virginia University. The only way to really prepare for the next crisis is to start from scratch, they explain.

In the aftermath of school shootings, the perpetrators are often portrayed as social outcasts who went off the deep end after being isolated from their peers. But Jennifer Watling Neal, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, takes a closer look at the evidence and finds it does not support the notion that peer rejection leads to school massacres.

Maggie Villiger

Science + Technology Editor

Top stories

A quirky quiz probably isn’t going to tell you much about your innermost essence. StunningArt/

Personality tests with deep-sounding questions provide shallow answers about the 'true' you

Randy Stein, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Alexander Swan, Eureka College

Few can resist an assessment that promises to reveal your hidden, true self. But new research suggests that people mistakenly believe difficult to answer questions offer deep insights.

Wall Street needs a new face. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Wall Street regulations need a facelift, not a minor Dodd-Frank makeover

Jena Martin, West Virginia University; Karen Kunz, West Virginia University

In giving Dodd-Frank the Botox treatment, Congress misses the point of what's wrong with financial regulation: It's an old mess.

Peer rejection is common among school shooters, but does that explain their actions? Sabphoto/

Peer rejection isn't the culprit behind school shootings

Jennifer Watling Neal, Michigan State University

While many school shooters suffered peer rejection of some sort, research doesn't support the idea that peer rejection is the culprit behind shootings, a scholar argues.

Politics + Society

Environment + Energy

  • Why the offshore wind industry is about to take off

    Matthew Lackner, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Erin Baker, University of Massachusetts Amherst

    Several states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have developed ambitious renewable energy targets that hinge in large part on getting their power from turbines stationed in the water.

  • Would Rachel Carson eat organic?

    Robert Paarlberg, Harvard University

    Did Rachel Carson catalyze the organic farming movement, as many advocates claim? Or would she reject their ban on synthetic fertilizer and see organic as an inefficient way to feed the world?

Ethics + Religion

Health + Medicine

Arts + Culture


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