Dissecting the Belbin test – By @Holly_Georgious

By Holly Georgious


Dissecting the Belbin test


“You’re a plant,” said the man at the other end of the phone “ would you like me to tell you what that means?” Before I had the chance to answer he carried on “Creativity runs through your veins, that is very clear”. He was giving me my Belbin results (the results of the psychology test we took at the beginning of our assessment day). My 6 years of psychology and countless hours in mind-numbingly boring statistics labs told me that everything about this test was in fact bullshit (a little detail I let him know) but I humoured him and continued to listen with critical ears.


My problems with the Belbin test are three-fold (there are actually more than three things wrong with it, but my old friend John Smith (the painter not Pocahontas’s lover) taught me that humans like things in threes, so I thought I’d oblige.)

  1. It uses the self-reporting technique; a famously inaccurate form of testing, that relies on subjects answering questions about themselves. Apart from the obvious (that people lie) subjects are liable to put down exactly what they think the tester wants to see. In our case, this could have been saying you are good at working with people when you are not or rating yourself as creative, when you are in fact as original as a stick insect (i.e. bland).
  2. It does not consider the variables; the questions given in the test did not take into account how variables would impact upon our answers or “behaviour”. For example, you may take the lead in some group situations but not others – in cases like these the Belbin test does not allow room for elaboration and so subjects have to generalise their answers.
  3. Sweeping stereotypes; for a course that does not want to ‘put you in a box.’ I find it ironic that the very first thing we did (before we have even started) does exactly that. The results of the Belbin test do exactly that. To understand why the results are problematic you must first understand how the results are calculated:

The scores subjects gave themselves throughout the test are tallied up. Based on this overall score subjects are then allocated to a certain group. These groups reveal which ‘team role’ the subject takes on and describes their character attributes.

However, these character statements are general; they assume that what is true for one must also be true for another, for example: introverts cannot be opinionated (not true) or that extraverts are always outgoing (also not true.)


The Belbin test may be a little general, hey even a little biased, but for all its flaws, all its unreliabilities and impracticalities, I did then and do now have to admit that this test did sketch out a pretty honest representation of me. Perhaps more accurate and honest than I would have thought myself. This is not to say that I believe that it is any more reliable or robust than did at the beginning, not even, that I would recommend it to a friend (because I almost certainly wouldn’t). It is just that this little – seemingly unreliable and (in my own words B*S* ) -test said more about me and my personality than any ABC, Myers-Biggs, Winslow, Holtzman inkblot test ever did, and for now that is good enough for me.


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