The ‘Barnum Effect’ in Personality Assessment: A Review of the Literature

@article{Dickson1985TheE,
  title={The ‘Barnum Effect’ in Personality Assessment: A Review of the Literature},
  author={D. H. Dickson and Ivan William Kelly},
  journal={Psychological Reports},
  year={1985},
  volume={57},
  pages={367 - 382}
}
This review summarizes to date the research on the Barnum effect, the tendency for people to accept vague, ambiguous, and general statements as descriptive of their unique personalities. Studies examined address interpretation variables of the Barnum profiles in regard to generality and supposed relevance of the interpretation, favorability of interpretation, type of assessment procedure, and origin and format of interpretation. Also the role of personal factors such as characteristics of the… 
Accepting personality test feedback: A review of the Barnum effect
This article attempts a comprehensive and critical review of the by-now fairly extensive literature on the Barnum effect—the approval/acceptance by subjects of bogus personality interpretations
Personality and the Acceptance of Barnum Statements under a Condition of Ambiguous Relevance
This study examined the relationship of extraversion, neuroticism, psychoticism and locus of control with uniqueness and accuracy ratings on favorable and unfavorable Barnum profiles. Subjects were
Students' sophistication level and confidence in testing procedures predicts susceptibility to the Barnum effect
The present study examined the relationship between students' level of sophistication and confidence in personality assessment procedures with their susceptibility to the Barnum effect— the tendency
Purported Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics: A Possible "Barnum Effect"
Purported personality characteristics of adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) have gained wide currency despite the lack of empirical evidence of their validity. This popularity may be due in part to
Effects of perceived sophistication and test validity on acceptance of generalized feedback.
TLDR
While the high sophistication subjects rating the interpretation as accurate across validity conditions, the low sophistication subjects rated the interpretation according to the validity instructions they received, run counter to previous assertions that validity and sophistication have little or no effect on acceptance of generalized personality feedback.
Research on the Effects of Test Interpretation
This article reviews four decades of research on test interpretation. It concludes that the intended effects of this intervention have been demonstrated. There seems no clear evidence, however, for
The Utility of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
An evaluation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is made using a “unified view” of test validity (e.g., Messick, 1981). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is an assessment of personality based on Jung’s
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References

SHOWING 1-10 OF 73 REFERENCES
Judging personality assessments: putting the Barnum report in perspective.
TLDR
Results indicated that judges were able to make expected discriminations between genuine and Barnum statements, and seemed due to the use of a population of judges more representative of clinical assessment consumers and to the more specific judgments required.
Barnum Statements in Reports of Psychological Assessment
Barnum concepts have previously been studied in an experimental paradigm requiring deception and identical personality data for each subject. Three replications of a reliable methodology for
Barnum meets the computer: a critical test.
TLDR
Contrary to predictions, there was no interaction between the type of assessment device and the favorability factors and subjects rated the favorable description as being more appropriate for themselves than for people in general.
Effects of "favorability" and type of assessment device upon acceptance of general personality interpretations.
TLDR
It was concluded that the universal validity of general interpretations may supersede the effects of situational factors upon acceptance and be shown to be due to the higher base-rate accuracy of favorable interpretations.
Situational determinants of personal validation of general personality interpretations.
TLDR
An analysis of variance of Ss ratings of the accuracy of the personality interpretations indicated that neither the type of test S took nor whether the personality interpretation was presented as being derived “ for you specifically” or “for people in general” had differential effects on Ss' acceptance of the interpretation.
Acceptance of general personality interpretations prior to and after receipt of diagnostic feedback supposedly based on psychological, graphological, and astrological assessment procedures.
TLDR
There was no difference in the acceptance of a general personality interpretation supposedly based on psychological, graphological, or astrological assessment procedures, but S faith in all assessment procedures and perceived diagnostician skill increased significantly from before to after receipt of the diagnostic feedback.
Popular horoscopes and the "Barnum effect."
Summary The following were investigated in a series of studies on 366 college students: (a) individual differences associated with horoscope reading habits, (b) the reliability and validity of daily
Student Acceptance of Generalized Personality Interpretations
Two groups of Ss were given personality tests and their interpretations, which were identical for each S. Ss were asked to rate the interpretations on a scale ranging from Excellent to Very Poor.
Relationship between the "Barnum effect" and personality inventory responses.
  • C. Layne
  • Psychology
    Journal of clinical psychology
  • 1978
TLDR
In support of the hypothesis, a Barnum Group's personality inventory responses and "personality feedback" ratings correlated significantly and as highly as Reliability Controls' alternate forms reliability coefficient, and descriptors were rated as more personally accurate when presented as "feedback" than when present as test items.
Students' perception of actual, trivial, and inaccurate personality feedback.
TLDR
College students at two levels of defensiveness could reliably discriminate among three types of feedback on the dimensions of uniqueness, usefulness, accuracy, and as a source of new information about themselves.
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