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Personality Test? Penn State DuBois Professor Has an App for That

Penn State DuBois professor John A. Johnson
Penn State DuBois professor John A. Johnson
4/18/2011 —

DuBois – If you're busy and on the move, but still have the need for a quick personality test, there's an app for that; and a Penn State DuBois professor made it all possible.

The Dutch IT company, iTUDE, has just completed the design of an iPhone and iPad app that administers and scores a personality questionnaire originally designed for the internet by Penn State DuBois Professor of Psychology John A. Johnson.

Johnson was contacted by developers at iTUDE in December of 2010, and asked if he would collaborate with them to create the application.  The result is a 120-item version of Johnson's original web-based personality test, the International Personality Item Pool Representation (IPIP), or IPIP-NEO.

"I was happy to share my scripts and statistics with them so that they could create this application," Johnson said.  "I hope that they can make some money on this venture while providing a useful app for iPhone users."

The developers at iTUDE say that currently about 150 people are completing the questionnaire with an iPhone every day.

As an accomplished personality psychologist and pioneer in web-based personality tests, it was fitting that Johnson was sought out by the developers.  He has used personality tests in the classroom since 1981, and started to experiment with electronic applications out of necessity and convenience.

"Prior to 1990, my students completed paper-and-pencil versions of these questionnaires, and I had to score them by hand to give them feedback," Johnson recalled.   "This was extremely time-consuming, as the questionnaires I used contained between 300 and 500 items. By 1990 I developed some programs for microcomputers to help with scoring and generating feedback, but I was still entering questionnaire responses by hand."

By the mid-1990's, Johnson's work and modern technology allowed for him to begin posting questionnaires online.  Since that time, his students have been able to complete his questionnaires on the web and get instant feedback.

Since establishing his website in 1998, Johnson's online presence has served primarily as a way for his students to learn more about personality assessment and about their own personality traits.  After completing his questionnaire, students receive a seven page report describing where they stand on five primary personality factors and 30 subfactors.

"Not long after I placed the questionnaire on the web, its existence quickly spread by word-of-mouth," said Johnson.  "Hundreds, and then thousands, of people beyond Penn State DuBois began taking the test."

The test's popularity earned it a designation as a Yahoo! Incredibly Useful Site of the Day for October 30, 1998, and professors from dozens of other universities began sending their students to the site as an assignment for their psychology classes. At this time, over half a million people have completed the questionnaire.

Johnson does not charge any fees for either the online test, or the iPhone app.  He said, "I regard my contribution as a form of public service. I am just happy that access to my questionnaire is spreading rapidly." 

Anyone who does not own an iPhone can complete the questionnaire at: http://www.personal.psu.edu/~j5j/IPIP/

Johnson has taught at Penn State DuBois since 1981, earning his full professorship in 1995.  He completed a research fellowship at the University of Bielefeld, Germany.  He was previously an instructor at Johns Hopkins Evening College, and Towson State University.  He is a member of several professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, and the European Association of Personality Psychology.  Johnson has published numerous papers in academic journals. 

Johnson completed his undergraduate work at Penn State, and earned his masters and Ph.D. in psychology at Johns Hopkins University. 

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