Why is Lab UK doing the Big Personality Test?

Scientists are trying to understand more about the relationship between personality and other areas of our lives, such as happiness, family, health and career choice. By taking the test, you will be helping to answer many questions about this fascinating area of science.

You can find out more in our article: About the Big Personality Test

Who designed the Big Personality Test

It was designed by Professor Michael Lamb and Dr Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge in collaboration with Lab UK. Many components of this test are established measures that have been used by scientists and researchers for many years.

Find our more about the origins of the test on the Big Personality Test credit page.

Who will have access to my data?

The data gathered through the Big Personality Test will be analysed by the scientists who designed it, Professor Michael Lamb and Dr Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge. However, the data the scientists receive will contain no personally identifying information such as your name, email address or full postcode. It will be completely anonymous.

The results from Lab UK tests and experiments are a valuable resource for science and education. In the future, Lab UK may allow access to data by trusted scientists and academics for educational and non-commercial research purposes. In all cases, the data received will be anonymous and contain no personally identifying information.

When and how will the results of the experiment be made available?

The results so far for this experiment were revealed in a special series of Child of Our Time on Sunday 30 May and Monday 31 May on BBC One.

Watch the programmes.

Why do I have to be over 18?

The scientific measures used in this experiment are only valid for people aged 18 and over. We hope to create a version of this test for under 18s in the future.

Can I drop out of the Big Personality Test?

ou can end your participation at any time by simply closing your browser or navigating away from the Big Personality Test. If you wish to go further and delete data stored in the Lab UK database you can e-mail us, and your data will be excluded from the test immediately and deleted permanently within 28 days of your request.

However, it will not be possible to remove your data once it has been collected and sent in its anonymous format to the scientists for analysis. This is because once the data is passed over to the scientists, there remain no means of identifying the individual to whom the data belongs.


What are the ‘Big Five’ personality traits?

One of the major features of the Big Personality Test is the personalised feedback you will receive about your ‘Big Five’ personality traits. The ‘Big Five Inventory’ or the ‘Five Factor Personality Test’ (as it is more formally known) is one of the most common tools used by psychologists who study personality.

The Big Five traits measured are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. You can find out more in our article: About the Big Personality Test

There are lots of personality tests around. Why use the ‘Big Five’?

Some psychologists have argued that personality scales do not accurately describe meaningful long-term personality traits. However, most now think the notion of personality is a useful model on which to base predicted themes of behaviour in different circumstances.

Compared to most personality scales, the Big Five Inventory tends to give relatively reliable scores over time, so when people sit the Big Five test pver a period of years, their scores tend to remain reasonably stable.

Will the test tell me what aspects of my life I need to change?

No. The Big Personality Test may help you better understand your own personality, but it does not make recommendations for change.

There are many factors that affect personality and these are not completely understood by scientists. The aim of the Big Personality Test is to improve understanding in this fascinating area of science.

Some aspects of personality may be inherited, or shaped very early in life, or change as you mature. For example, people tend to become more conscientious and more agreeable as they get older.

How did you calculate the scores for my Big Five personality traits?

The questions in the Big Five test are grouped to test how you react and your preferences with respect to concepts, ideas and situations. Your answers are scored according to an established scale and averaged to discover your overall score for that trait.

For each Big Five trait score, we have given you two results : your numerical score, and a grouping – high, medium or low.

Your grouping tells you how you compare to the rest of the population. For every trait, roughly a third of people score high, a third medium, and a third low. This explains why you can get similar scores on two different traits, but rank as medium in one and high in another.

The terms high, medium and low refer only to your score and are not an indicator of quality. For example, a low score in one trait is not the same as a bad score, it just shows where you are on the scale.

In addition, men and women score differently on these tests. For example, women tend to score higher on ‘agreeablenesses’ than men do. We’ve taken this into account when working out whether your grouping is high, medium or low. A friend of the opposite sex might have the same score as you, but their grouping might be different.

What else are you measuring?

Our scientists want to find whether background or personality is more important in shaping the course of people’s lives.

For example, one of the areas our scientists are interested in is health. It is known that more conscientious people tend to lead healthier lives than others, and there are also known relationships between people's background and their health. Our scientists want to discover which of these two factors is more important.

They are also interested in geographic differences in personality. There seems to be personalty differences between different countries (for example Icelanders tend to score slightly higher on extraversion than Mexicans), and between areas within a country. Our scientists would like to discover what underlies these differences. For example - do highly open people tend to move to urban areas? Which personality types are more common in rural areas?

So that they can answer these kinds questions, our experiment asks participants about lots of aspects of their lives in addition to personality. It includes sections on childhood, education and work, health, relationships, and life satisfaction.

Getting lots of background information is also important because it will allow our scientists to determine whether their results apply generally, or only to particular groups.

Will the test tell me about my future?

No. The Big Personality Test may help you better understand your own personality, but it does not predict future outcomes in your life.

For example, while scientists may be able to say that someone with certain personality traits is more likely to do a certain job, this is only an observation. It does not show that certain personality traits cause you to do a certain job, or that people who do a certain job will have certain personality traits.

What should I do if I’m worried about my results?

The Big Personality Test may help you better understand your own personality, but it is not designed to be used for identifying or diagnosing personal problems. If, however, you are concerned by anything your have read or heard in your results, you can seek help or advice by following this link:

Click here to find out what to do if you're worried.


What is Child of Our Time?

Child of Our Time is a BBC project that is following the lives and development of 25 children who were all born in the year 2000. There have been eight series of Child of Our Time on BBC One to date.


What is Lab UK?

Lab UK is a BBC website where you can participate in groundbreaking scientific experiments online. Lab UK works with leading scientists to conduct experiments that can only work with a very large number of participants. We promise to:

  • Create new knowledge
  • Use approved scientific methods
  • Be secure and anonymous
  • Contribute to learning
  • Always publish findings

Find our more on the Lab UK homepage .

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