Started by Nottingham University student David Stillwell, the Facebook quiz is designed to not only provide entertainment for the person taking the quiz, but also to “generate professional-quality data for use by companies and other
researchers.” The idea is that these personality tests, including the quite old Myers-Briggs test, might have business uses as well.
Central to “My Personality” is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which everyone probably remembers from high school psychology classes. After answering a series of questions designed to figure out social interaction, worldview, and emotional impulsivity, it kicks out any of 16 four-part answers, supposedly describing personality. The test has been around for years–it was originally developed by Carl Jung–but hasn’t ever really been used for a specific purpose, until now. Described by Inside Facebook:
If you’re an introverted thinker, for example, how does that effect
your social network? Who do you work and play well with, and who are
you likely to strike sparks with? Or, for marketers, what sort of media
and products do you prefer?
These basic questions are the core of My Personality’s value. If
users agree to share when they first take a test (each has a lengthy
disclaimer, as well), Stillwell can anonymize the results and analyze
the data, alongside information from a user’s profile and connections,
for hidden facts about human nature. Doing so could not only net the
two graduate students some professional respect; companies are also
interested in the information, and may well pay significantly for it.
The test may seem frivolous (and parts of it are, including astrology-based elements), but with over 600,000 monthly users, it’s actually a massive sample size for some serious data-gathering. It’s a pretty cool way of using social networks for academic research purposes–all under the guise of Facebook fun.