We’re Updating the Language on a few of our Personality Tests

The Big Five Model of Personality is one of the most established personality theories in psychology. The five pillars of this model are its five traits: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Openness, and Stability.

Two of our personality tests, the EPP (Employee Personality Profile) and the CPI (Criteria Personality Inventory), are based on the Big Five. This means that we apply and adapt the Big Five traits into tests that are predictive in the context of employment. However, over the years we’ve discovered that a lot of people who use these personality assessments for hiring routinely misinterpret the “stability” trait.

The confusion is totally understandable. In casual conversation, the word “stability” often refers to a healthy emotional or mental state. The converse of this, then, is that “instability” connotes an unhealthy emotional or mental state. This colloquial interpretation is not what the “Stability” trait in the Big Five was designed to measure.

In reality, the Stability trait measures the ways in which people respond to stress.  People who score lower on this trait scale tend to be excitable, self-aware, perceptive, and highly responsive to external stress. People who score higher on the scale tend to be calm, even-tempered, and less affected by external stress. Neither end of the spectrum is necessarily “better,” but certain score ranges may be more suitable for some positions than for others.

Ultimately, the Stability trait is just measuring stress tolerance, which is why we’ve decided to change the name of the trait on our tests to Stress Tolerance. The trait has nothing to do with mental health or mental illness, which is why the word Stability is so commonly misinterpreted. Customers frequently ask us if low Stability scores are an indication of mental health or various psychosocial disorders, which it does not. We hope that changing the name of this trait from Stability to Stress Tolerance will prevent any future confusion. Our tests themselves will continue to measure the same thing – this small change is simply designed to align the name of the trait with what the trait is actually measuring.