Catching up on some back issues of the New Scientist I came across an article in the October 23rd edition (pg 14) looking at how certain personality characteristics correspond to an interest in science. Dutch researcher, Hanke Korpershoek and colleagues found that students who chose science subjects tended to be less extroverted, more conscientious and have a higher emotional stability than those who chose non-science subjects. The study involved almost 4000 students and examined their personalities and subject choices at the age of 15.
If one considers some of the demands in doing science well then it is not surprising that it might appeal more to students with high levels of conscientiousness. High emotional stability would also make it easier to weather the challenges that regularly occur in science. The tendency for introverts to look inwards, to be happy to work on their own and to think things through would also seem to favour an interest in things scientific.
While one must be careful not to pigeonhole students using psychological tests, I would suggest that there probably would be some benefit in the use of reputable testing to give students some career options to consider. Having myself completed the Myers Brigg personality type indicator five years ago, I was pleasantly surprised that my INTP (Introvert, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving) type suggested I would get the most satisfaction in a scientific or education setting.
I’ve always thought that good career advice in school was important, but never really considered that this might be assisted by psychological testing. I’d be interested in what others have to think. Is there a danger of pigeonholing students, or is this an opportunity to align a students natural abilities and tendencies with a suitable and satisfying career?
For anyone that is interested a description of the INTP personality type can be found at http://typelogic.com/intp.html. Descriptions of the other 15 Myers-Brigg personality types can be found through links at the top of the page.