In this project, we will analyse personality tests and test practices used in working life. The analyses disclose an image of the ideal subject coded into the tests. We understand personality tests as technologies, which establish distinctions and meanings linked to gender, age, class, ethnicity, physical capacity and sexuality. Seemingly, the subject of the tests is a universal human, an employee, who is analysed purely as a sum of their traits and qualities whilst the tests produce, for example, gendered and class-bound ideal subjects.

illustrationIn everyday life, the tests often appear as abstract, detached from their connections and unproblematic. However, psychological personality tests were developed as a means to classify, govern and control people. The project aims to dismantle the tests’ self-evident nature by using different materials and approaches to demonstrate the kinds of experiences, social relations, practices of power and resistance, forms of interaction and values as well as remnants of historical meanings the tests are connected to. The project studies personality tests as cultural texts as well as forms and practices of interaction.

This project develops the sociology of testing, which approaches testing primarily as attached on the one hand to the prevailing cultural orders and meanings and on the other to people’s situational actions. Personality tests convey cultural meanings whilst also being interactive between the tester, the test interpreter and those being tested. Personality tests are understood in the project as governing techniques which are used to help organize individuals. However, individuals have the opportunity to act against the tests by challenging and interpreting the results against the grain and utilizing them as a resource for resistance.

The project aims to

  • trace the meanings historically built into the tests and analyse what kinds of notions and meanings personality tests produce on gender, age, social class, ethnicity, sexuality and physical capacity
  • analyse and describe the process that shapes test results in practice and how testing procedures and technology impact the results of the test
  • increase information on how personality tests as cultural texts shape people’s self-understanding and how they structure, explain and steer the course of life
  • produce new methodological tools for analysing personality tests as cultural texts as well as situational interaction
  • participate in the public debate on the significance of testing as part of neoliberal working life and politics
  • create in cooperation with testing parties new ways of understanding personality assessment in a way that would observe the contextuality of the answers and to question the salience of personality

People

Virve Peteri, Academy Research Fellow

Virve Peteri (DSocSci, docent, certified psychologist) is the responsible leader of the project. Virve co-ordinates the operation of the project, analyses personality tests as cultural texts and traces the meanings historically built into the tests. Furthermore, Virve is in charge of developing methodology that allows the ethical handling of personality tests in the project. Virve has a long experience of sociological technology studies, discourse analysis and ethnographic research methods.


Johanna Ruusuvuori, Professor

Johanna Ruusuvuori (DSocSci, docent) is professor of social psychology with profound expertise in analyzing work-life interaction in various institutional contexts. She has studied conversational practices for example in medical consultations, in child health care, in psychotherapy, and in organizational team meetings, using conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis.  Johanna is in charge of the analysis of interactional data in the project.


Sara Liinamo, Researcher

Sara Liinamo (MSocSc, M.Ed) is a researcher in the project. Her dissertation explores personality tests and testing as cultural texts and practices. Sara analyses historical documents, expert interviews and personality tests with discursive and narrative methods. Sara brings her familiarity with the critical counseling theories and versatile work experience in the counseling field to the project.


Teija Ahopelto, Researcher

Teija Ahopelto (MSocSc) is a researcher in the project. Her dissertation focuses on studying personality testing and evaluation as situational interaction. Teija analyses recruiting interviews utilizing conversation analysis. Teija’s earlier career as a HR chief brings valuable ethnographic background understanding to the project.


Anna Tommola, Freelance writer and journalist

Anna Tommola, (MSocSc) works as a journalist in the project and produces the journalistic contents of the project. Anna has a long expertise in working in different newspapers and has specialised in science and health journalism. During the last few years, Anna has written in the largest subscription newspapers, magazines and online magazines in Finland. She is also an author who has published both non-fiction and fiction books.

Päivitetty 23.9.2021