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The Cult of Personality by Annie Murphy Paul
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The Cult of Personality (original 2004; edition 2004)

by Annie Murphy Paul

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1036117,210 (3.79)2
Member:aimeebnugget
Title:The Cult of Personality
Authors:Annie Murphy Paul
Info:Free Press (2004), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:nonfiction, 2012 read, psychology, history, science

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The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and M by Annie Murphy Paul (2004)

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Fascinating take-down of personality testing across the board, starting with phrenology and working through more or less chronologically.
It's a good exploration of how many of the tests have been used for purposes well beyond their initial design, and how little evidence there is for their utility in most settings. I think the part of this book that was most chilling was the section that looked briefly at a high school using the 'Colors' personality test (which I hadn't heard of before). Teachers suggesting that further study wouldn't be worthwhile because someone was an 'orange' or whatever .. ugh. ( )
  daisyq | Oct 27, 2013 |
This book looks at various supposedly scientific tests used to describe and categorize human personalities, from phrenology (which was taken quite seriously in its day), to inkblots, to the 504-question MMPI, to Meyers-Briggs, and beyond.

From the title, you might expect this to be one long, heated anti-personality-test rant, but it's not. Most of the book is spent looking at the history of the various tests, the philosophy behind them, and the often quite colorful people who created them. All of which is interesting in its own right, but it does become very clear from those histories that none of these approaches is exactly resting on a rock-solid scientific foundation, and that even the ones with some empirical basis are of rather limited value. Which is a problem, because these tests are often used by courts and corporations, and their results can have profound impacts on people's lives, from losing a job to losing custody of a child. Paul is particularly critical of the corporate use of personality tests (which are often not even the already dubious tests developed by psychologists, but produced-for-profit knockoffs with even less scientific credibility), which she sees as tools for companies to pigeonhole and manipulate their employees. We're much better off, she contends, not trying to reduce something as complex as human personality to neatly labeled and over-simplified types. And it seems very hard to disagree. ( )
2 vote bragan | Oct 6, 2012 |
A solid, well written book about one of the myths of psychology: the myth that we have a means to tell us what a person's personality is simply by grading responses on a standardized test. Should be required reading for counselors, educators, and anyone else who is trusted with managing or educating people. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Apr 19, 2011 |
Too biased. Except, of course, for the parts where she agrees with me re the self indulgence of test takers. ( )
  pilarflores | Jul 21, 2010 |
The Cult of Personality by Annie Murphy Paul is compelling. Fearing it to be a dry, psychology "talk-shop" ladden lecture on personality tests I read it along side a fictional psycho-babble book. Oddly enough, I found the nonfiction just as interesting as the fiction. Paul's book didn't need the fictional bells and whistles to be a page-turner. Paul has a style of writing that is reminescent of Halberstam such that you feel as if you are getting good society gossip (like the details of a juicy affair)along with the cut and dried information on how a test was conceived. ( )
1 vote SeriousGrace | Feb 25, 2009 |
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To my parents, John Timothy Paul and Nancy Murphy Paul
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(Introduction): Hello.
On July 16, 1849, a young man arrived at the offices of Fowler & Wells on Nassau Street in Lower Manhattan.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743243560, Hardcover)

Millions of people worldwide take personality tests each year to direct their education, to decide on a career, to determine if they'll be hired, to join the armed forces, and to settle legal disputes. Yet, according to award winning psychology writer Annie Murphy Paul, the sheer number of tests administered obscures a simple fact: they don't work. Most personality tests are seriously flawed, and sometimes unequivocally wrong. They fail the field's own standards of validity and reliability. They ask intrusive questions. They produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are: complicated, contradictory, changeable across time and place. THE CULT OF PERSONALITY documents, for the first time, the disturbing consequences of these tests. Children are being labelled in limiting ways. Businesses and the government are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars every year, only to make ill-informed decisions about hiring and firing. Job seekers are having their privacy invaded and their rights trampled, and our judicial system is being undermined by faulty evidence. Paul's eye-opening chronicle reveals the fascinating history behind a lucrative and largely unregulated business. Captivating, insightful, and sometimes shocking, THE CULT OF PERSONALITY offers an exhilarating trip into the human mind and heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Millions of Americans take personality tests each year: to get a job, to pursue an education, to settle a legal dispute, to better understand themselves and others." "Combining cutting-edge research, engaging reporting, and absorbing history, Paul uncovers the way these allegedly neutral instruments are in fact shaped by the agendas of industry and government. She documents the dangers of their intrusive questions, biased assumptions, and limiting labels. And she exposes the flawed theories and faulty methods that render their results unreliable and invalid. Personality tests, she contends, produce descriptions of people that are nothing like human beings as they actually are: complicated, contradictory, changeable across time and place."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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