What is the multiphasic personality test? Everything you need to know

Finding out your personality traits and what makes you tick is fascinating!

But sometimes it can be confusing to know what’s really your personality and what’s only a passing mood or phase. 

That’s where the multiphasic personality test comes in: a reputable and detailed way to determine your real personality and what it means. 

What is the multiphasic personality test?

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality test is an industry-leading way to determine what makes you tick. 

It was originally designed to discover personality disorders and mental illness, but it can also be useful to unearth insights about what motivates you in life.

As Individual Differences Research Labs (IDR Labs) notes:

“The Multiphasic Personality Test is a psychological test that assesses personality traits and pathologies. 

“It is primarily intended to diagnose people who are suspected of having mental health issues, but can also be used to discern whether people who are psychologically healthy have surprising personality characteristics.”

The IDR test is a miniaturized version of the most standardized and long-form test, which is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). 

Many multiphasic personality tests are based on the original MMPI or include shorter, condensed versions of it. 

The test essentially asks you how you respond when life doesn’t go your way and you are under significant stress. 

It also asks questions related to how you deal with loneliness, miscommunication, conflict, desire and fear. 

This test is commonly given to people who are exhibiting mental health concerns, but also to those who do high risk and high stress jobs like prison guards, police officers, pilots, nuclear power plant workers and more. 

Its broad use in society has made the various versions of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) well known and historically valued.

The standardized MMPI test is the MMPI-2. It was first created in 1989 and is comprised of 567 true or false questions. 

Honest answers to all questions provides the tester with a fairly detailed analysis of an individual’s personality traits and inclinations

Analysts judge responses against a psychological average which is considered “normal” or typical and rate those who fall far outside this range as potentially suffering from certain psychological or personality issues. 

As mentioned, however, the test does not only point out what’s wrong but may also be highly useful for pointing out strengths and weaknesses and giving us insight into how to improve our lives, relationships and careers.  

This can be done via reverse engineering, by knowing your weak points you may begin to figure out what you can do to remedy them and enhance your strong points. 

The most recent version of the MMPI in use is the MMPI-3 released in 2020. It has 335 questions and takes about a half hour to one hour to finish. 

What does it tell you?

The multiphasic personality test tells you a lot of informative things about yourself and what drives you.

In particular, it judges your levels of sincerity, any gaps in your real self and how you present yourself and your measures of depressive, anxious and neurotic qualities. 

It goes even deeper into your relation to masculine and feminine ideals, psychopathic tendencies, your relationship to authority, paranoia and health anxiety, your self-discipline and mental control, your ability to understand and improve yourself and how you relate to social and romantic situations. 

In addition to all this, a multiphasic personality test will see what traits of your personality are the most dominant. 

You can separate out certain trends and ways you behave from what comprises your foundational personality and pathologies. 

Serious problems are rooted out from temporary reactions or occasional behaviors, giving insight into what’s going on at the deeper level. 

If you’re trying hard to separate our temporary moods and behaviors from parts of yourself that have deeper roots, this test will uncover it. 

You’ll have a big to-do list of what you can improve and understand about yourself to move forward in your life and improve it in many ways. 

Why is it useful for your life? 

A multiphasic personality test is useful for your life because it can reveal your blind spots.

Like driving a car, you often need to see your blind spots to know whether you can change lanes or backup. 

Life isn’t all that different. 

Many times a lack of knowledge about our own personality or what drives and destroys us can lead to us self-sabotaging or making mistakes repeatedly

This kind of tests helps show you those blind spots, which gives you the opportunity to potentially correct and remedy them. 

After all, you can’t do much about a problem or challenge if you don’t know it’s there. 

The multiphasic personality test is more reliable than many other psychological testing systems, partly because it’s harder for anyone to take advantage of and because it’s based on a scale rather than black and white judgments. 

As Mike Drayton observes in the journal of Occupational Medicine

“The test developers Hathaway and McKinley used an empirical test construction technique to develop the MMPI. This involved basing the test scales (for example the hypochondriasis scale) on the actual test items that differentiate people with hypochondriasis from ‘normals’. 

“Often, the questions that do this most reliably are not concerned with health issues as such. This has two advantages. 

“First, it makes it very difficult for subjects to ‘fake’ responses, deny problems or give a particular impression. Second, the MMPI-2 is based on empirical research and not on a clinician’s assumptions about what answers indicate particular personality traits.”

This is part of why multiphasic personality tests have stood the test of time and performed so well.

It’s because they aren’t just opinion-based, nor are they easy to take advantage of or “game.”

If you answer the questions you’re presented, you will present a portrait that can be usefully analyzed. 

Nonetheless, it is worth keeping in mind some reservations about the MMPI and what it can tell you. 

Finding out the truth about your personality 

Many of us don’t understand a lot about ourselves. I don’t mean that as a criticism, just as an observation. 

It’s like looking for your glasses when you’re already wearing them. 

Sometimes you can’t see what’s literally right in front of your eyes. 

This isn’t only about finding weak points or faults in the sense that the MMPI may determine, it’s also about realizing parts of yourself and strengths that you may have overlooked

The problem is that the MMPI doesn’t go far enough in this regard. 

While the MMPI is long and extensive, there are other methods of obtaining deep insights with fewer questions that are still based on the multiphasic model. 

This is true for finding out what’s right and great about you as well as what you might need to work on a little bit more. 

The truth is that we are conditioned from a young age to be “normal” and go along with whatever society, our teachers and our family expects of us.

But we have much more going on below the surface!

In fact, each of us has a hidden superpower that we may not be aware of and you can find out what it is much faster than you might think. 

Hack Spirit’s free superpower quiz is an amazing way to figure out what your superpower is and how it can boost your life, love and career!

What can personality tests do for you? A word of caution

The MMPI test is highly reputable and well known throughout the psychiatric world. 

Other tests such as the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are also extremely popular and well respected. 

Nonetheless, there are some cautions that people should know about personality tests like MBTI and MMPI. 

The fact is that they include a lot of inbuilt judgments and value assessments based on social norms and normative values. 

Although MMPI is considered more objective, it still includes inherent values about what is “normal” and abnormal that can be problematic and make people feel worse about who they are. 

This is something Tim Hawkins explores in his documentary Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests

As an industry worth $2 billion per year, personality testing is not all positive, and it can end up making people feel divided into categories like “extroverted” or “introverted” and “neurotic” or “normal.”

While these may have elements of truth, certainly, they can also lead to people becoming siloed in an identity or even reinforce some potential personality aspects they have and cause them to become more dominant and more real than they previously were. 

This is the downside of the personality test and the danger behind even some respected systems such as the MMPI. 

Flipping the script

The MMPI test is very useful to find out about how you relate to yourself and others and what you can improve. 

Despite noting some of the cautions around personality tests, it’s still something you should check out with a grain of salt. 

It’s also important, however, to look into your strengths that you may not realize and your skills and talents that might have been overlooked or underdeveloped. 

As I mentioned, finding out your superpower in this free quiz is an excellent way to do this. 

Using the multiphasic model in a condensed format, this quiz looks at your hidden strengths and the gifts you have to bring to the world that may have remained hidden and uncovered up until now. 

Instead of focusing on pathologizing and finding the problem, this quiz focuses on highlighting and finding the solution. 

That’s what I love most about the superpower concept is the idea that we each have something special inside us that we can find out how to unleash and make a huge difference in our own life and the lives of others. 

I know that the quiz was a game changer for me and helped me realize how I relate to the world and how I can expand my own skills to increase my success and life fulfillment. 

The truth is that far too much of the psychological industry is focused on what’s wrong with an individual, instead of what’s right with him or her. 

Now I’m not saying we should ignore problems, pathologies, disorders and challenges:

We absolutely need to face them and be honest about them. 

But at the same time, we need to understand that there’s a lot more potential and power hiding under our surface than many of us realize. 

Knowing what your superpower is brings you more than just a little confidence boost:

It gives you a roadmap. 

Think of it this way:

You could be an amazing basketball player who will go on to reach the pros, but if you never get introduced to the game or realize your skill or the optimal position for you to play, then it’s not going to happen!

Knowing your superpower unlocks doors. 

A final word

I started this article with an in-depth look at the MMPI test and what it tells you. 

I strongly recommend checking out and taking some version of the test, such as this one from IDR Labs.

The IDR’s version of the MMPI is really well done and gives you a broad range of insights about your personality, how it works and what you still need to work on. 

At the same time, keep in mind that you should not uncritically believe all the things it tells you. 

I also recommend taking the fast and free superpower quiz here as well. 

It builds on the multiphasic model but without the psychobabble, and it’s aimed at getting you to recognize your strengths more than to find out where you may be going off track or have neurotic tendencies. 

The superpower quiz tells you about where you have the biggest gifts and what kind of things you are best suited for to succeed and flourish in life! 

Together, these two tests will tell you your weak points and challenges as well as your strengths and talents, giving you a clear roadmap for how to move forward in your life. 

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