Interpreting Your Enneagram Test Results
Although discovering your Enneagram personality type is their primary object, our tests can also provide additional information about your personality and its dynamics. Here are some suggestions on how to interpret your Enneagram test results.
For most people, it’s clear what your basic type is. If your highest score is much higher (3-4 points or more) than the rest of your scores, this is most likely your basic personality type. You can confirm this by reading about the type either on our site or in Personality Types and The Wisdom of the Enneagram. If the descriptions of this type do not fit you, there are several other possibilities to consider:
- If you have a number of close ties, you could be a Three, a Six, or a Nine.
- If you have a scattered distribution of scores across three to five types so that there doesn’t seem to be any discernible pattern, you could be a Six.
- If you are a woman and your Two score is highest, look at your next two high scores—women are often taught to play the role of the Two whether it is their basic type or not.
After reading in Personality Types or The Wisdom of the Enneagram, or the free descriptions on this site, if you are still not sure which is your type, you could put aside the test results and the descriptions and try to observe yourself objectively over a period of a week or two. After a break from the Enneagram material, you could take the same test again, or try a different Riso-Hudson test on this site, or try one of the following ways of identifying your type.
If you’re still not sure about your test scores, try the following steps:
- Identify your three highest scores—one is most probably your basic type.
- Consider your family culture, the environment you grew up in as a child—does one of these types seem to reflect that basic orientation and perspective? If so, that is part of you, but not necessarily your primary type.
- Look at the Directions of Integration (Security) and Disintegration (Stress) related to these three highest scores. If there are high scores in one of these directions, this is an indication that the type related to this direction may be your basic type.
- Look at the wings related to each of your three highest scores. Often, but not always, this will also be a high score.
- Close Calls between all nine types can be explained in a variety of ways: a lot of spiritual/therapeutic/self-development work, a lack of self-understanding, a common mistyping of certain types.
- Common misidentifications for all 9 types can be found here, and in our book Understanding the Enneagram (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), Chapter 6, p. 189-244.
- To distinguish between the nine types, see the Compatibility Combinations. For example, if you can't decide between Type 2 and 9, click on the 2/9 Compatibility Combination and see which one fits better.
- For further defining distinctions between the types, you may wish to purchase our Levels of Development Chart #4.
- Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide what your basic type is. When you read the description of your own personality type, you will know it. You may feel chills run down your spine, or an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. This will be your subconscious telling you that something is hitting home (from Personality Types, p. 42).
More Advanced Interpretation Issues
The Types as Functions
Each of the personality types embodies a wide range of behaviors and attitudes. Each of the types can be seen as a metaphor or symbol of the full range of human potential. Seen this way, the nine personality types of the Enneagram are psychological "functions" or "domains" of an archetypal power or capacity of human nature. One reason we are all similar is that all nine functions operate in each of us. One reason we are all different is that their proportion and balance within our psyches is different and constantly shifting.
Don Riso and Russ Hudson have used two main words to describe each Function (see Discovering Your Personality Type, p. 80-83) because each personality type represents two major areas of activity—a Function that characterizes an internally held attitude of the type, and a Function that characterizes the type's observable behavior.
Understood as a series of interrelated psychological Functions, the nine personality types of the Enneagram reveal the full range of one's personality assets and liabilities. The balance of the Functions in each person (as indicated by your test scores) produces that person's distinctive psychological "fingerprint"—and while the basic type is uppermost and should remain constant, the other Functions in the overall pattern create a unique pattern that also changes over time.
Furthermore, equal in importance to discovering which are the most developed types (or highest test scores) is to note the areas that a person is least developed in (as reflected by his or her lowest test scores). The highest scoring types are Functions or areas of potential that the person has already activated, while the lowest scoring types are Functions or areas that the person still needs to be aware of and to consciously further develop.
Looked at from the viewpoint of the Functions, our basic personality type can thus be seen for what it actually is—a dominant Function around which we have organized our central response to reality—while the other eight types represent the wide range of potentials that exist within us but are constantly changing.
In The Feeling Center
The Helper: The Functions of Empathy and Altruism— the potential for other-directedness, thoughtfulness for others, genuine self-sacrifice, generosity, and nurturance. Negatively, the potential for intrusiveness, possessiveness, manipulation, and self-deception.
The Achiever: The Functions of Self-Esteem and Self-Development—The potential for ambition, self-improvement, personal excellence, professional competence, self-assurance, and social self-distinction. Negatively, the potential for pragmatic calculation, arrogant narcissism, the exploitation of others, and hostility.
The Individualist: The Functions of Self-Awareness and Artistic Creativity— The potential for intuition, sensitivity, individualism, self-expression, and self-revelation. Negatively, the potential for self-absorption, self-consciousness, self-doubt, self-inhibition, and depression.
In The Thinking Center
The Investigator: The Functions of Mental Focus and Expert Knowledge— The potential for curiosity, perceptiveness, the acquisition of knowledge, inventive originality, and technical expertise. Negatively, the potential for speculative theorizing, emotional detachment, eccentricity, social isolation, and mental projections.
The Loyalist: The Functions of Trust and Perseverance— The potential for emotional bonding with others, group identification, sociability, industriousness, loyalty to others, and commitment to larger efforts. Negatively, the potential for dependency, ambivalence, rebelliousness, anxiety, and inferiority feelings.
The Enthusiast: The Functions of Spontaneity and Diverse Activity—The potential for enthusiasm, productivity, achievement, skill acquisition, and the desire for change and variety. Negatively, the potential for hyperactivity, superficiality, impulsiveness, excessiveness, and escapism.
In The Instinctive Center
The Challenger: The Functions of Self-Assertion and Leadership— The potential for self-confidence, self-determination, self-reliance, magnanimity, and the ability to take personal initiative. Negatively, the potential for domination of others, crude insensitivity, combativeness, and ruthlessness.
The Peacemaker: The Functions of Receptivity and Interpersonal Mediation— The potential for emotional stability, acceptance, unself-consciousness, emotional and physical endurance, and creating harmony with others. Negatively, the potential for passivity, disengaged emotions and attention, neglectfulness, and mental dissociation.
The Reformer: The Functions of Ethical Standards and Responsibility— The potential for moderation, conscience, maturity, self-discipline, and delayed gratification. Negatively, the potential for rigid self-control, impersonal perfectionism, judgmentalism, and self-righteousness.
Other Patterns and Questions
If you take one of our Enneagram tests several times, your basic type should remain the same, although you will probably find that the scores for the other types will rise or fall depending on other influences in your life. Someone having problems with a significant relationship, for instance, is likely to register higher or lower scores in types associated with concerns about relationships, such as Two, Six, and Nine.
Likewise, someone who has been putting a lot of time and energy into work or is having career problems is likely to produce elevated scores in types Three, Eight, and One. After the troubled relationship or the career issues have been resolved (one way or another), the profile for that the person may change yet again. The scores for the person's basic personality type may also be affected, although the type itself will remain the same.
Your (dominant) wing is indicated by the higher score of one of the types on either side of your basic type. For example, if you test as a Two, your wing will be One or Three, whichever has the higher score. The second highest overall score on your Enneagram test is not necessarily that of the wing. For instance, a Six's second highest score may be Nine; this does not mean that his or her wing is Nine. (Look at the scores for Five and Seven; the higher is the Six's wing.)
In all cases, the proportion of the wing to that of the basic type must be taken into consideration. Some people will have a relatively high wing score, in proportion to their basic type. Some will have a moderate, or even a low, proportion of wing to basic type. This consideration is significant for understanding a person's reactions and behavior, particularly if a prediction of his or her performance is being attempted, as in a business setting. Understanding the relative proportion of the wing to the basic type also yields insights into the childhood origins of the person, codependency issues, and potential pathology. (For a complete explanation of the proportion of wing to basic type, see Personality Types, revised edition, 418-421).
You may also get a high score in a wing other than the one you are expecting because of current factors in your life. For example, someone who had been typed both by himself and by three trained Enneagram teachers as a Seven with a Six-wing tested as a Seven with an Eight-wing. In this instance, although our Enneagram test correctly diagnosed the subject's basic type, the wing differed from what was expected. A reasonable interpretation is that the subject is in a high-pressure, competitive field where self-confidence and initiative are crucial for success. The subject has been taking more control of his career and has been making a conscious effort to be more assertive. This possibly caused the subject to register more responses for the Eight than for the Six.
When assessing your wing, it is always a good idea to evaluate the test results by reading the descriptions of both wings in Personality Types and deciding which fits you best.
Close Calls and Indistinct Patterns
Occasionally, someone's results will be an almost even distribution of scores among the nine types. Of course, the highest score will usually indicate the basic personality type. However, in some rare instances, there may be a tie for the high score, and it will therefore be difficult to draw conclusions about the basic type from the evidence of the test alone. Alternatively, while one score may be higher than the others, the scores for several types may be so close that it is difficult to find easily recognizable patterns among them. For example, in a specific case, a subject scored 19 points—his highest score—in three types, and 18 points in two others.
There are two explanations for this kind of close pattern. First, the subject may have been engaged in therapy or spiritual development for many years and may have resolved the problems and conflicts of his or her personality. (As essence is developed, personality loses its grip; hence, the more work a person does on himself or herself, the more it eventually becomes difficult to test personality, and scores would be expected to equalize.) It should be noted, however, that very few individuals seem to have attained this degree of integration and non-identification with their ego. This explanation should therefore be applied rarely and with great caution.
The second explanation for a relatively close distribution of scores is that the subject may not have spent much time in personal development and therefore lacks the self-knowledge necessary to take an Enneagram test properly. (Ironically, this explanation is a reverse of the first.) In this situation, the same pattern results from the subject identification with too many traits indiscriminately. If this should occur, the subject's personality type may be found by having someone who knows him or her well take the Enneagram test either with the person or in the person's place. A subject who has obtained the same score in several types should also read the type descriptions on this website and the longer descriptions in Personality Types and Understanding the Enneagram carefully, with particular attention to the types' motivations, and then retake the test.
The personality type that most frequently encounters this difficulty is type Nine. Nines have problems seeing themselves because their sense of self is relatively undefined. They have developed their capacity to be unselfconscious and receptive to others and therefore tend to see themselves in all of the types and in none very strongly. Moreover, there is also a tendency for female Nines to misidentify themselves as Twos and for male Nines to misidentify themselves as Fives; see Understanding the Enneagram (revised edition, 2000) for comparisons between these types.
Furthermore, since Nines also tend to identify strongly with others, they may mistakenly apply the personality traits of loved ones to themselves. For example, Nines married to Fours may register high scores in Four because of their identification with the Four spouse, not necessarily because they have actually developed the qualities of a Four themselves.
Nines are not the only ones to misidentify their type, however. Because of a strongly held self-image, emotional needs, or social fears, individuals of other types may have extreme difficulty seeing themselves accurately and therefore may produce incorrect test results.
A Three, for example, may test almost equally high or higher in another type because he or she invests a great deal in projecting a particular image, especially in his or her career. Threes who want to see themselves as entrepreneurs may test high in Eight, or as intellectuals may test high in Five, or as artists may test high in Four.
A Six may also have scores that do not follow a discernible pattern. Sixes tend to internalize the values and motivations of people that are important to them in an attempt to find stability and security; thus when answering test questions, they may answer from multiple clusters of values, not knowing which is most fundamental to them, resulting in scores scattered across the types.
It is therefore important to read the full descriptions of each type and to understand the person's underlying motivations and attitudes to make an accurate assessment.
Beyond this, it is worth noting that while some people may identify their type correctly, they may not want to admit aspects of themselves either to themselves or to anyone else. Obviously, no test of personality can work unless subjects are willing and able to look at themselves honestly.
High Scores Toward Unhealth
High scores in a subject's Direction of Disintegration do not necessarily mean that the person is unhealthy. It is possible either that the person has integrated around the Enneagram and is developing the positive aspects of the Function that is symbolized by that type or that temporary circumstances in the person's life are eliciting aspects of the type.
Our Enneagram tests do not purport to measure health or unhealth, self-actualization or pathology. The primary concern of this test is to determine your basic personality type, and any other conclusions drawn from the test are relatively speculative.
Furthermore, the statements for each type have been designed to fall within the healthy to average range of the Levels of Development, that is, between Levels 3 to 6 on the Continuum. It would therefore be virtually impossible for pathology to be discovered by this test. High scores in a type in your Direction of Disintegration may, however, indicate a tendency to respond with behavior weighted toward the low-average end of the Continuum. While this could alert you to an "unhealthy" tendency, the Enneagram tests do not diagnose neuroses or mental disorders. Remember that if the type in your Direction of Disintegration is understood as a psychological Function, the type is part of your overall personality and, as such, must be integrated into it. All types, no matter how high or low they score on this test, must be taken into consideration.