Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Myers-Briggs Is Bunk

Why doesn't that stop people from taking the enduringly popular personality test?

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre, Doubleday, 336 pages, $27.95

DoubledayDoubledayThe official Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can be taken online for $50, but there are plenty of free knock-offs floating around the internet. I took two while writing this review. One says I'm ISTJ. The other typed me as ENTP.

For those who aren't familiar with the phenomenon, the test is made up of statements like "I prefer to stay home rather than go out" and "I prefer a tidy workplace," which the test-taker marks as either true or false. In the end you are assigned to one of 16 possible personality "types," based on the combination of results on four different axes: extroverted/introverted, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. As an ISTJ, I am introverted, sensing, thinking, and judging. Unless I am actually extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and perceiving. Whatever any of that means.

The Myers-Briggs test and others like it were huge in the corporate world in the 1980s and '90s. Individuals took them to see what kind of careers they should pursue; H.R. offices used them to decide who to hire or promote. In The Personality Brokers, Merve Emre explores how, precisely, this variety of psychobullshit rune-gazing was born.

Briggs and Myers were a mother and daughter who shared a personal fascination with psychology. Katharine Briggs, born in the last quarter of the 19th century, was one of the few women of her generation to gain a college degree. Like most female members of the upper-middle-class in her time, however, she didn't pursue a career, instead marrying young and raising a family. Rather than the chemistry she had studied at college, children became her research subject.

With an intensity that sounds frightening, Briggs believed she could develop a scientific approach to raising well-behaved, intelligent children. She seemed to do a good job with her daughter Isabel, and other parents soon sought her advice. Briggs was well-connected—her husband was a Washington bureaucrat, so of course she knew magazine editors. Soon she was writing columns for various publications about ideal parenting and child behavior.

As a devotee of psychology, she developed a correspondence with Carl Jung. She drew on his psychological theories to interpret the personalities of kids, the better to advise their parents on behavior management. The 16 "types" of the Myers-Briggs index directly relate to Jung's thinking, and Jung's approval of her ideas offered validation for her explorations.

But the commercial Myers-Briggs test came later, and it was far more her daughter's achievement. Isabel Myers was also fascinated with psychological type. But being a generation younger, she was better placed to pursue this professionally. Again, she had the advantages of social connection: Her husband was an attorney, and she happened to know Edward Northup Hay, one of the first personality consultants in the United States.

In 1943, Hay allowed Briggs—despite her having no formal qualifications or experience—to offer her test to his clients. The takers were few: mostly small outfits, sometimes just a single test for a potential employee. She continued working to perfect the evaluation, trying it on friends and neighbors.

The modernizing workplace in the first half of the 20th century was all about efficiency and productivity. Taylorism, a managerial philosophy of "scientific" efficiency in production, guided companies in trying to make the most of space and their workers' labor. Aptitude and intelligence testing could, in theory, help employers hire those most suited to a job. Businesses like Hay's tapped into this new market, promising to help identify the best candidates.

Some tests were not aptitudinal but focused on filtering out the "defective" or "subversive" types. (Unsurprisingly, given who they were made for, the assessments tended to show a lot of overlap between those two categories.) The Myers-Briggs test was different: There were no "wrong" answers or bad classifications. People simply had different traits that suited them for different roles.

Myers-Briggs achieved further acceptance when the Office of Strategic Services (a forerunner of the CIA) chose it as one of the tests to be given to newly recruited spies during World War II. Of course, Myers didn't know what made a good spy, and neither did anyone else—at least as far as could be measured on paper. Later, it became part of the battery of tests used by researchers at Berkeley in the 1950s studying the nature of creativity. They wanted to "type" artists and writers, so they recruited such notable subjects as Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, who as usual had no trouble talking about themselves.

Myers also convinced Educational Testing Service (ETS)—the firm that sells the SAT and other standardized tests—to include her product among their offerings. To the statisticians at ETS, the test was a nightmare. The answers were too subjective, the supposed traits being diagnosed too vague. Meanwhile, Myers was too possessive, insisting that all assessments be hand-graded. The folks at ETS had trouble reshaping the test into something useful, and it remained among their "experimental" evaluations rather than their standard range until the company finally dropped it in 1975.

By this time, Myers was aging and in poor health. She had to find a new publisher for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; her only taker, Consulting Psychologists Press, was a small outfit run from someone's basement in California. But that basement operation figured out how to turn the test into a goldmine.

Myers-Briggs was well-positioned, in the mid-'70s, to ride the wave of "self-actualization," the trend that brought us a dizzying array of personal growth programs and gurus. The new publisher offered the test not just to schools and corporations but to consumers as a "self-test"—individuals could buy the assessment and grade it themselves. This was a new market for such tests, which previously had only been sold to organizations, with the answer sheets sent back to the publisher for grading.

The DIY option was perfect for the "me" decade. People who felt unfulfilled could send off for a little green booklet with a self-scoring guide. Like reading a horoscope or doing a love quiz in Cosmopolitan, bored suburbanites could fill out the Myers-Briggs chart during the commercial breaks of Kojak and discover their "true type." By 1979, more than a million Myers-Briggs answer sheets had been sold.

The story of the Myers-Briggs follows the history of personality testing in the 20th century. Earlier self-improvement ideas, like those of Dale Carnegie, focused on doing the right thing. After the 1960s, the focus shifted to being the right thing. Neurolinguistic programming and self-hypnosis suggested that we could change ourselves. Myers-Briggs gave a softer option: It would help us know ourselves, uncritically. But the knowledge is a mirage. Reading through the questions is like looking at a script for a cold reading. Every answer could apply to everyone to some degree, possibly changing depending on mood.

The first half of The Personality Brokers is slow, with rather dilatory explorations of the lives of the two women. We don't get to the Myers-Briggs test itself until halfway through the text. But Emre, who teaches literature at Oxford, does a fine job of illustrating how the ideas for the evaluation came out of a particular time and social/cultural milieu. The test's creators (and intended audience) are people best described as affluent and anxious. Briggs wanted to perfect her children. Myers wanted to prove her worth as a professional, to justify her education, and to gain the respect of the psychology community.

She never really managed that last task. The test has been most influential among the kinds of businesses given to weekend "success seminars" in Ramada ballrooms. Today you'll still see people putting their Myers-Briggs type on their LinkedIn pages, the way others might mention their astrological sign on a dating profile. But not many scientists take it seriously.

At the end of her life, Myers established the Center for the Application of Psychological Type, the keepers of the Myers-Briggs flame. They control access to all her papers, and they defend her legacy with almost Scientological zeal—expecting Emre to spend $2,000 on a counseling course before they would even consider letting her access the archives. This cultish approach only reinforces the sense that what's behind the curtain is bunk.

Fewer corporations use the Myers-Briggs test now, although it lingers in various corners of the human resources world. (Emre wasn't the only one attending the counseling course.) This book is a useful study of how a dubious idea can gain traction if it arrives at the right time.

Photo Credit: macrovector/123RF

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Rob Misek||

    To a narcissistic megalomaniac understanding and improving relationships with others may be bunk.

    For the rest of civilization, it is an opportunity to understand human perceptions and motivations and minimize unnecessary conflict, with the goal of working together.

    All elementary school children should learn about this.

    Simply taking a test isn't enough. One needs to understand the concept.

  • Shirley Knott||

    The "concept" is as old as 'the 4 elements' and Pythagorean mysticism.
    It is bunk, same as it ever was, because it reduces the complexities of personhood and personality into a small set of reductive boxes labeled with rarified abstractions that 'fell' significant but signify nothing.
    Notably, such foolishness ignores temporality and context.
    Worse, as the author notes, the test results are wildly inconsistent. As useful as a measuring stick made of Silly Putty.

  • DontBsoSure||

    A few years ago when I was between jobs and looking for employment, I took all kinds of "personality" tests. It was infuriating. Between that and having a 20 year-olds conducting the initial screenings was enough to make me want to give up. (I think it's a result of too much power being given to HR types, and probably the influence of legal on the hiring process -- going to extremes to make sure they do proper CYA.) Maybe there's some value to some of these tests, but they are way overrated, and possibly a big negative.

  • sarcasmic||

    I wonder where authoritarians fall into these types. I do know a good way to find out. Tell me, which type are you?

  • MasterThief||

    That is actually a 5th type they added in later iterations of the test.
    Overall the test is decent at showing a person's general disposition and understanding their decision making process. Of course, it is only as good as the questions and the participant's understanding thereof. It's one of those things where it has a certain amount of value so long as the results aren't given excessive weight and used as a determinant

  • SQRLSY One||

    Myers-Briggs is all touchy-feely about "no judging allowed", or all the tested-for attributes are OK to be any way you want to be, or are. Myers-Briggs dances around the problem of EVIL, in all of its shades and degrees. It's not OK to be totally all narcissistically selfish or wantonly cruel (evil).

    But it's a tough nut to crack, hard to test for... Evil people know how to LIE, and give the correct answer to, "Do you like to torture puppies with lit cigarettes?", so as to pass the test.

    I am glad to see that SOME shrinks and psychologists are willing to be more honest about this. Maybe we can "heal the evil" in Government Almighty power pigs some day! Or at least brain-scan for evil, and keep them OUT of government!

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....110841.htm Psychologists define the 'dark core of personality'

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/.....of_the_Lie People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil M. Scott Peck

  • Alcibiades||

    "Do you like to torture puppies with lit cigarettes?"

    A, Yes
    B, No
    C, Do I ever!

  • Karl_L||

    I like cooking puppies and leaving out commas.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    I like reading, baking cookies and children.

    I am adamant about the Oxford comma being unnecessary and incorrect punctuation.

  • sarcasmic||

    You've met my ex I see.

  • Juice||

    People of the Lie

    Holy crap. That takes me back.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Well, if the old crap is bunk or partially bunk, maybe the new crap will be better. See below...

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111612.htm
    Scientists determine four personality types based on new data
    Comprehensive data analysis dispels established paradigms in psychology

  • Rich||

    So, "self centered" people score high in "extroversion"? Seems legit.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Attention seeking?

  • Sylvie1||

    I've taken three variants, for work-related reasons, some more than once, and come out INFP every time.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I'm always INTP. Very much so.

    The author and Reason should be embarrassed at publishing an article "debunking" Myers-Briggs where the only data is the author's anecdote of getting diametrically opposing scores.

    It's the Pomo way. "My truth."

    Myers-Briggs is nothing more or less than a classification scheme. Of course there will be people at the classification boundaries. That too is a classification that most people who actually use the scheme recognize. Myers Briggs delivers scores along 4 axes. The more extreme the score, the more you should expect the generalizations to hold.

    Simply using *any* kind of personality typing mechanism is a helpful antidote to the typical mind fallacy. Everyone is not like me, or each other.

  • Greg F||

    The author and Reason should be embarrassed at publishing an article "debunking" Myers-Briggs where the only data is the author's anecdote of getting diametrically opposing scores.


    Agree.

    Of course there will be people at the classification boundaries.


    Unfortunately for MBTI it is a fairly high percentage.

    Several studies, however, show that even when the test-retest interval is short (e.g., 5 weeks), as many as 50 percent of the people will be classified into a different type.


    MBTI has numerous issues with both reliability and validity. It is junk.

  • Sylvie1||

    I first saw it used in a class on "soft skills," offered to local budding and longstanding entrepreneurs in a rural area. They all said it made dealing with customers easier - they understood better that people approach things differently.

    It was sort of fun, seeing a farmer in his 60s, two fingers missing from hone hand and one from the other, do earnest "trust" exercises with a young, New-Agey massage therapist.

    I am not usually that firmly INFP, I border in some areas, two or three, usually. So it is interesting I do still, always come out that "type."

    Yeah, I'm afraid the quality of both the writing and the subjects written of are deteriorating here. I've been a loyal reader for over 30 years, but . . .

  • lafe.long||

    I'm always INTP. Very much so.

    Same. And all INTP descriptions overwhelmingly describe libertarians.

    Presumed INTPs: John Locke, Adam Smith, James Madison, (some say Thomas Jefferson), AF Hayek, Milton Friedman

  • Sylvie1||

    Interesting. I've been libertarian-leaning for most of my adult life. The despair of my cutting-edge-Victorian-progressive parents, God rest them.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Same here

  • Lester224||

    Well, it's not *entirely* bunk. I find more in common with other folks that have tested INTP and INTJ than with someone who tested ENFP or ISTJ. So maybe some wheat in the chaff.

  • DonC||

    I was 'professionally' tested, an while scoring as INTP, I was scored near the border for T/F and the course instructor said he had never seen a P score as extreme as mine. [For example, I don't do lists].
    For the rest of the course, all the INTP/INTJs were grouped together, and we had a fun time watching the other fools.
    And yes, my refridgerator is not a cold storage unit, it is an adventure. No, my cans/products are not 'facing', and they are seldom on the same shelf/location.

  • Sylvie1||

    "P" is my strongest lean in the letter-group, too. And I hate lists. And my fridge and cabinets are also adventures.

  • markm23||

    "Of course there will be people at the classification boundaries." I expect _most_ people will be at the classification boundaries. Each of those four binary classifications are things I would expect to actually be continua, with a distribution that peaks in the middle. Instead of a multi-valued result for the axis, it splits it into two groups, right through the peak.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Hah. I got tapped for some training at work and they want me to take this.

  • Rich||

    "How do you feel about taking this test?"

  • LynchPin1477||

    They have said that they want honest feedback about the training.

  • Rich||

    "It's a trap!"

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I had to take this test before my freshman year in college in order to have a roommate assigned to me that would be a 'good fit'. I was a nerdy introvert. My roommate ended up being a redneck frat boy. Not exactly a good fit.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    I'm sure the "plan" was to match disparate types to bring out the best in each. Two nerds together in a room isn't gonna be good for anyone.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Riiiight. Jobs and Wozniak weren't good for anyone.

  • vek||

    Jobs was just a hype guy tool... Gates and Allen would have been a better example.

  • JWatts||

    "Riiiight. Jobs and Wozniak weren't good for anyone."

    Jobs and Wozniak were two different personality types!

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Diversity is our strength! Except when it affects me!"

  • Robert||

    What makes you say that's not a good fit? Redneck frat boy w redneck frat boy would be a bad fit. Nerdy introvert gives redneck frat boy all the space he needs to be a redneck frat boy.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Great for him, I suppose.

    Midway through the second semester he moved into the frat house and I never saw him again. It was probably for the best.

  • Ben of Houston||

    I have found one area where it is quite useful: fiction.
    Assigning your characters Myers-Briggs thoughts allows you to keep their actions consistent. Especially if they think in a way different than you.

  • Necron 99||

    Maybe the Myers-Briggs test is bunk, but I know I am 100% libertarian based on the world's shortest political quiz.

  • AlmightyJB||

    There can be only one

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Myers-Briggs Is Bunk"

    In an article presenting exactly one data point, an anecdote on the author's own personal scores when taking different tests. All the rest is pure ad hominem.

    This article is Bunk.

  • paris1||

    Agree totally and I'm shocked/disappointed that Reason would publish this kind of garbage. In the name of what? Being "controversial"?! You don't have to be a genius to recognize yourself in the MBTI test results. I t can be invaluable in understanding why you get along better with some types and learning to be accepting of personality traits you cannot change in yourself or others. One of the first things my wife and I did 30+ years ago at the start of our marriage was to take the test. It was ah "Ah-ha" experience for both of us and paved the way for a smoother road for the coming decades. I will probably read the book (in spite of?) this wretched article because I'm interested in the subject and I suspect Ms. Gulliver's take on it is not representative of the book.

  • paris1||

    Agree totally and I'm shocked/disappointed that Reason would publish this kind of garbage. In the name of what? Being "controversial"?! You don't have to be a genius to recognize yourself in the MBTI test results. I t can be invaluable in understanding why you get along better with some types and learning to be accepting of personality traits you cannot change in yourself or others. One of the first things my wife and I did 30+ years ago at the start of our marriage was to take the test. It was ah "Ah-ha" experience for both of us and paved the way for a smoother road for the coming decades. I will probably read the book (in spite of?) this wretched article because I'm interested in the subject and I suspect Ms. Gulliver's take on it is not representative of the book.

  • gphx||

    You've obviously not had an employer force you to take the test then pronounce you're the 'wrong' type.
    Actual performance is what counts not some creepy cultish bullshit.
    It could be the first chapter of future government eugenics guidelines.

  • vek||

    Like it or not, people and things can be quantified. We're mostly not all the completely original snowflakes we all like to think of ourselves as.

    Now, there's not such thing as a test that PERFECTLY captures all relevant things. But an extreme introvert, in 99% of cases, is NOT going to make a good sales guy... UNLESS maybe he is selling technical products, to other super geeky introverts.

    As a business owner, I have met (and hired or not hired) many people I like over the years, some who have talents in certain areas, but that are 110% WORTHLESS for doing certain things. Even when they may in fact be BETTER at seemingly harder or more complex things. It's often their personality type, or the way their brain is wired to deal with stuff.

    A test like this should be the whole decision making process, but there's nothing wrong with it being a component.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Our best sales guy is an introvert... do you know why? Because he's not pushy, and people seem to like that.

    Fuck your generalizations.

  • vek||

    Ahh, making a Tall Japanese Man argument I see.

    Yes, there are these things called "outliers" you see. Or generalizations if you will.

    The thing is that outliers exist, of course. But generalizations are still very useful things for making practical decisions in the real world.

    Hiring a 90 pound woman to work loading and unloading trucks, for instance, is GENERALLY not a good idea. They won't be able to lift as much, they'll get tired faster, they'll get injured more, etc than a 230 pounds of all muscle 6'4" dude. Even if they happen to be a freak of nature, 1 in a million, that has magical stamina for somebody their size, you're statistically better off just never hiring such a person for that type of job, because every single other 90 pound woman you hire WON'T be a freak of nature like the one.

    The reason people use generalizations about tons of stuff in life is because they work, most of the time. There's nothing wrong with digging in and figuring out if a particular person may be an exception to a rule, but if in doubt, assume they're the norm. As I said myself, an introvert may be a good salesman for certain types of products, or in certain situations. But for many other situations, not so much. I've done sales, the top grossing guys I worked with were typical salesman types.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Here you are, stirring up shit again. Is everything you do here just to whine and complain about Reason?

    It's not a Republican site, it's not an alt-right site, it never will be (hopefully). So why do you even bother?

  • vek||

    Probably the only reason half the people even read this stuff anymore is to bitch about how off the rails it has become. So you might not want to wish us all away, otherwise the comments section will be pretty quiet!

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Horseshit.

  • vek||

    Or, reality? If you actually read the posts... Nobody bitches much on articles about cutting spending being a good idea... But any of the even mildly controversial subjects... More people than not posting seem to disagree with the Cosmotarian take on things.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Why should I leave?
    I was here well before most of the current staff.

    I see no reason for those actually in favor of liberty to give up the site to the pomo invasion. If they want to get rid of us, let them shut down the comments section like a good pomo publication.

    Until then, *our* house. We'll hate comment to our heart's content.

  • Greg F||

    This article is Bunk.


    And so is Myers-Briggs. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  • NickThom||

    I agree completely. I took the Myer's-Briggs test in 11th grade, followed a specific education path through college with a specific career inmind, started working as an employee in that profession which I did for over 11 years and now, just over a year ago, I left that job and started my own business in that profession which is going extremely well. Like most 17 year olds, I didn't know what the hell I wanted to do/be in life. I totally credit the Myer's-Briggs test for setting me off on the right trajectory.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    LOLOLOL

  • buybuydandavis||

    Well reasoned retort!

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Bunk or not? IDK, but I never found the results useful.

  • Robert||

    I've taken it about 4 times over the past 45 yrs., & I consistently come out ENT, & so close to the line between J & P that I've fallen on both sides of it. Seems reproducible enough for me.

  • paris1||

    I too have taken it 3 times in the past 30 years and the only change there's been has been from INTP to INTJ and that was a fairly recent shift. My take is that I've become less tolerant of ambiguity as I've aged and am looking for more certain outcomes (ie: closure). I'm 70 years old and that feels right to me!

  • Robert||

    The real Q is how close Mike Hihn's MBTI comes to mine. Maybe we really are the same person.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I think we all know Tulpa's 4-letter classification: J-E-R-K

  • Johnny B||

    as opposed to I-D-I-O-T for you, Jeffrey

  • gphx||

    Tests such as this work pretty well in determining who should work the front desk with the public and who should work on programming behind the scenes.
    The problem starts when the findings are used to justify other conclusions.
    For example a hyper socialized person who likes to pass laws forcing others to do things at gunpoint is deemed the 'sane' person and the loner who just wants to be left alone to work, play, and enjoy their day is the 'insane'.
    Leftists want to deploy this type of yardstick to deprive the latter person of their Second Amendment rights.
    Not only have certain people established themselves as the bankers, judges, etc. but now they want to be the sole arbiters of sanity itself.

  • lap83||

    I like Myers Briggs and have found it really useful for understanding myself and other people, but I don't think it should be a mandated part of the workplace. It makes sense actually, every employer has their own assumptions about who should be working there. So the incentive is for people to try for a test result based on what they think management wants.

  • Longtobefree||

    Get off my lawn!

  • Alive Free Happy||

    I am not sure that the problem with Meyers-Briggs is the test itself. The problem of a "cultish" society around a revered learned person is absurd. The problem is that Jungian Psychology is not a science, ask Jung if you can get access to his own "cultishly" guarded wisdom.

    There is a reason the same person can take the same test and get different results. There is still value in those results that reflect a person at the time of the test. The test can NOT define a person. Using the test properly is an art and the value becomes loss if used deterministically. It is only ethically used for opening conversations about strategies. For illustration, the proper use is not pre-hire, it is post hire.

    The mistake is thinking that the test is somehow universally accurate, moreso thinking of people as static objects. Used after hire, you learn a great place to start conversations about office and job strategies. It helps you understand what general strategies that the person can relate to. With that understanding as a manager you are empowered to communicate. You can better understand how to illustrate new strategies to someone in a framework that is familiar to them.

    The test is valuable in ethical and empathic hands. It is a terrible weapon in the hands of someone who is looking for curation or control of people. But then come to think of it... People who curate and control people just plain suck... Don't blame the tool; blame the wielding hand.

  • IMissLiberty||

    Thank you.

  • Alive Free Happy||

    I am not sure that the problem with Meyers-Briggs is the test itself. The problem of a "cultish" society around a revered learned person is absurd. The problem is that Jungian Psychology is not a science, ask Jung if you can get access to his own "cultishly" guarded wisdom.

    There is a reason the same person can take the same test and get different results. There is still value in those results that reflect a person at the time of the test. The test can NOT define a person. Using the test properly is an art and the value becomes loss if used deterministically. It is only ethically used for opening conversations about strategies. For illustration, the proper use is not pre-hire, it is post hire.

    The mistake is thinking that the test is somehow universally accurate, moreso thinking of people as static objects. Used after hire, you learn a great place to start conversations about office and job strategies. It helps you understand what general strategies that the person can relate to. With that understanding as a manager you are empowered to communicate. You can better understand how to illustrate new strategies to someone in a framework that is familiar to them.

    The test is valuable in ethical and empathic hands. It is a terrible weapon in the hands of someone who is looking for curation or control of people. But then come to think of it... People who curate and control people just plain suck... Don't blame the tool; blame the wielding hand.

  • Eric||

    MTBI types are actually quite useful. For example, libertarians are going to be heavily skewed toward the NT (Intuituve/Thinkers). INTJs and INTPs are two of the smallest groups as a percentage of the population (>5% of the population combined), but I would bet that they make up a large portion of this commentariat.
    Additionally, you'll find that the SF (Sensing/Feeling) types are much more tolerant of authoritarianism.

  • lap83||

    I think NFs probably lean the most left. They're the "idealists", so at their worst they want to force everyone to believe in and care about the same things. (You know who else was an NF?)

  • MikeP2||

    Nonsense. I am an infj and am absolutely not left leaning.

    Proggies arent limited to a personality trait. More correlated with a lack of basic logic skills.

  • lap83||

    I didn't say all NFs are leftists, but there seem to be a disproportionate number of them on the left. As idealists they focus on what could be rather than how things are and as feelers they prefer to make judgments using feeling rather than thinking. So progressivism holds a lot of appeal with the rhetoric of compassion, tolerance, social justice, etc.

    So I disagree that there is no connection between personality and politics. That said, I only think it's a mild correlation. NFs are perfectly capable of figuring things out if they so choose.

  • vek||

    As with all statistics, there is the average or common result, and the outliers.

    Most criminals have very low IQs, average in prison is about 85... But there are also Al Capone types out there.

  • Tim B||

    Myers-Briggs is slightly more informative in judging human behaviors than a horoscope. Reason isn't the only publication that sees it as deeply flawed. There is however a cottage industry of consultants who have a vested interest in making sure people keep paying to take the test, and paying them to present it as a way to arrange your business or team.. It packages up so well, and has a parlor game entertainment value. It really is nonsense to think that you can slot people into 16 personality types.

    It really should not be used to make any meaningful decisions about who to hire or promote. And, don't get me started on polygraph examinations.

  • MikeP2||

    Nonsense that you can classify people into 16 personality types? thats pretty standard fair for psychology. We are more similar than most realize.

  • MikeP2||

    What a mindless article. Rant much?

    Myers briggs is useful for understanding human differences around interaction and decision making styles. I have never heard it claimed to be more than that.

    There are short tests on the internet. There are much longer tests that ive taken for work. I suspect much of the variability is in the shortform, as everyone ive worked with is extremely consistent in retests using the longer official version. And the personality traits associated with the classifications have broadly matched expectations,

    It may be bunk, but its has more supporting evidence than this mindless rant of an article. Who pays for this crap?

  • Inigo Montoya||

    This article is bunk. At least more than the real MBTI (Who knows what "lite" version the writer took?)

    No, the answers do not depend on one's mood, sorry.

    It possible to be close to the midpoint on one or more of the 4 spectrums. I'm fairly close to the midpoint of introvert vs extrovert. However, behaving as an extrovert, fun as it can be, tires me. I recoup my energy by being alone, absorbed in a book or film. That's how I know I'm an introvert.

    I have taken the test, official and less extensive versions, maybe 7 times in the past 25 years. I have consistently scored as an INTP.

    The letters don't imply you CANNOT exhibit the opposite trait. I can feel emotions, sometimes way too much, but I almost always favor starting from a standpoint of rational thinking (T for thinking rather than F for feeling).

    I'm often lost without forcing myself to make a to-do list (a J rather than P trait) but that's because I've messed up so many times with my spontaneous, just go with the flow approach to life, that I've learned to compensate by making lists. My preference, however, is NOT to be so rigidly organized, which is why I know I'm a P rather than a J.

    Anyway, way to oversimplify a fairly complex and useful index, and then condemn it with an appeal to authority. ("Most scientists agree..." — ah, another consensus!)

    And what does this have to do with libertarianism or libertarians anyway?

  • Echospinner||

    The index is as useful as a fortune cookie. Less because the cookie is good.

    Appeal to authority. Understand that science does not work that way. It is up to you to prove that B-M has scientific validity if you wish to defend that. You need to publish evidence in favor of a theory and defend it.

    I do not know what it has to do with libertarians. Look at crystal balls all you want.

    I think it is important for libertarians to have a scientific rational arm to inform.

  • Echospinner||

    I do not intend to attack you or your approach Inigo.

    We all deal with this and whatever works is useful.

    I have the same things like I need to make a list and try to get those done.

    You have good insight which is key.

  • TxJack 112||

    The letters also mean that you predominately exhibit those traits. No one is 100% in any area. The scoring just indicates overall, these are the traits you are most likely to demonstrate. You assessment is 100% correct unlike the author. Nice to see at least one person actually has a clue about the instrument.

  • Echospinner||

    Introvert extrovert sensitive feeling judging. Hey I am all those things! Just listed to an old Carpenters song and played with the puppy. Feeling very sensitive introvert. Sometimes I am just a pure ahole and fuck y'all.

    The so called test is pure bunk as is about anything originating from Jung who never even tried to apply scientific methods. He just thought deeply and came up with stuff.

    How does a horoscope work? Because people who write those or astrologers understand human psychology. People will self validate. The Barnum effect is very strong.

    The test is non reproducible. It has zero scientific validity.

    But if it makes you feel better.

  • Karl_L||

    I think the Myers-Briggs phenomenon is fading. It didn't seem to be quite as prominent in the supervisory training class I took.

    One thing I've noticed is that the four types tend to get saddled with cute names. For example, we might sort people into "muffin", "jalapeno", "champagne", and "asparagus". The next year's class might have a different set of names. So all I have to do is come up with four labels and a set of random questions, and I can sell a training course.

  • Echospinner||

    I am for asparagus. Since it actually measures something nobody can figure out.

    The pee smell thing.

  • Doug Huffman||

    Personality, like IQ, only those with it talk about it. Eschew eristic.

  • vek||

    Problem is they're both somewhat useful. IQ is very useful. They both have some room for error, but no serious person claims otherwise.

    Anybody who doesn't accept that IQ tests are an excellent proxy for what normal people consider being "intelligent" is a moron. People with 75 IQs simply cannot do complex math. No matter how hard they try. Period. Their brains don't function well enough to conceptualize the stuff.

    But IQ is not the be all end all of a human being either. Somebody could have only an average IQ, but have an amazing personality and make $200K a year as a yacht salesman or whatever. But they do roughly quantify intelligence. Personality tests roughly quantify personality traits (probably far less accurately than IQ test though). Deal with it.

  • macsnafu||

    I've taken the test. First back in the 90s, and then again about 10 or 15 years later. My results were the same each time. But maybe there was some kind of selection bias going on, because knew what to expect from the questions.

    In any case, I can't say that knowing my results has actually helped me except in the most general way.

  • vek||

    Jeebus!

    So basically they're going with the "ZOMG, we're all snowflakes that are totally unique! And people can't be classified man!" argument. Puh-leeze.

    Of course we can. Not 100%, and not perfectly, and with some room for variation... But people can be classified. We're more similar than most people think. I imagine if the test were 10,000 questions, answered honestly, and had 50 traits it could score you on... It would probably get a lot more accurate still. But even as a roughing out, it sounds like most peoples real experience here is that it has been fairly consistent every time they've taken them.

    As I said in a post above, it only covers a narrow portion of stuff. It's not a be all end all. Just like IQ tests only measure certain cognitive traits, and not whether or not you're a super salesman, or a virtuoso musician or whatever. Doesn't mean such testing isn't valid, and doesn't have a place in the world.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Fuck off, slaver.

  • vek||

    Wow, you really had a hard on for my posts on this article!

    Look dude, the fact is people aren't as unique as we like to think we are. And people can be roughly categorized and classified. We all have our quirks, but there are only so many broad strokes to use to categorize personality types. Our quirks make us somewhat unique, but to deny that we're mostly all the same is simply denying reality.

    If you can deal with reality, so be it. But reality is what it is, whether you admit it or not. So you sir, are the one who should fuck off!

  • Johnniebgoode||

    These tests drive me batty. Worked in a building filled with auditors and audit-brained folks think these tests are wonderful.

    Sigh...……..Only an audit brain thinks you can categorize people like debits and credits.

  • Palatki||

    I don't get this! Aren't these the guys who make lawn mower engines?

  • M.L.||

    A college prof had us take the test as a class around 2004. I think he did offer some disclaimers about how it wasn't very scientific but that he found it interesting nonetheless (he was not a professor of psychology or any of the sciences).

    Horoscopes are the apt comparison to most of the MBTI stuff -- personality profiles that people read and think "wow that's so me!" when really they're just very general.

    I do think there's some basic psychosocial insights to be gained for some people, NOT in the sense of uncovering a fixed "type" that individuals belong to, since as mentioned above it is more vague and fluid than that, but in the sense of identifying some spectrums of behavior and psychology that could be analytically helpful, although more as to temporal states than innate psychology.

  • Azathoth!!||

    And now we see why astrology is so popular.

    damn.

    Basically, you're too generous...

  • Rockabilly||

    I bet you're a Libra !

  • mjs_28s||

    "One says I'm ISTJ. The other typed me as ENTP."

    for sure.

    The first time I took one I remember thinking how one's answers can be highly biased depending on mood.

    Example - if you are slightly agitated and wanting to get away from certain people due to their behavior you might be thrown into the introvert pool of people. If you go in relaxed and open for conversation and engagement, you might get assigned extrovert.

    Perhaps if you are deeply introverted or highly extroverted your results would be more consistent, but if you are in the fat part of the bell curve you could flip-flop pretty easily.

  • mjs_28s||

    "One says I'm ISTJ. The other typed me as ENTP."

    for sure.

    The first time I took one I remember thinking how one's answers can be highly biased depending on mood.

    Example - if you are slightly agitated and wanting to get away from certain people due to their behavior you might be thrown into the introvert pool of people. If you go in relaxed and open for conversation and engagement, you might get assigned extrovert.

    Perhaps if you are deeply introverted or highly extroverted your results would be more consistent, but if you are in the fat part of the bell curve you could flip-flop pretty easily.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Or she just went into the two tests and consciously picked different answers.

    Flip-flopping 3 of 4 traits, probably not a regular occurence.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Not that I have any evidenciary basis for my supposition.

    I flip between INTJ and ISTJ, for the record.

  • TxJack 112||

    What you have said is a classic misunderstanding of the terms introverted and extroverted. There are introverts how are very social, for a while. AT parties they typically find a small group of people and stay with that group all night whereas extroverts tend to move about since the more interaction they have with other, the more energized they feel. In contrast, the more interaction introverts have with others, the more drained they feel hence they stick with a few people in a social situation. It has nothing with liking or disliking people.

  • bravow||

    i took the test 2 years apart (through same company) and scored near identical scores

  • Nuwanda||

    For what it's worth, perhaps judge it by the types of people who swear by it, by the entities that rely upon it, including the HR/bureaucratic types simply looking for a rubber-stamped authority or legal cover.

    Rinse and repeat for IQ tests.

  • vek||

    And IQ tests are the single best predictor of favorable life outcomes we have... Better than parental income, your looks, personality type, where you were born, what race you are, what sex you are... IQ trumps them all...

    So what's your point? IQ, or these tests, aren't the be all end all. They don't capture the entirety of a person... But they're kind of like having a shitty 8 bit picture of something. It gives you enough of a rough sketch to know if it's a horse, or a rocket ship... But perhaps not enough to tell if it's a racing horse, or a draft horse.

    You guys who believe people are impossible to categorize are too much. I guess none of you have ever been responsible for much hiring before huh? I can usually tell if somebody will be a crap employee for a certain job within no time at all, because people and personality types are pretty easy to pick out PDQ.

  • Nuwanda||

    You guys who believe people are impossible to categorize are too much. I guess none of you have ever been responsible for much hiring before huh? I can usually tell if somebody will be a crap employee for a certain job within no time at all, because people and personality types are pretty easy to pick out PDQ.

    And I couldn't have asked for a more perfect illustration of my point.

    Well done.

  • vek||

    LOL

    And I say again "I guess none of you have ever been responsible for much hiring before huh?"

    Note, I wasn't even just saying in an interview. When I wrote that I was thinking of people that were already doing the job. It's not hard to tell within a few hours with many, or almost always a couple days or a week, if somebody is a good fit for something. Not to say I can't snap decision reasonably well even after an interview, but that indeed is a lot less accurate than observing somebody actually trying to do the gig.

    People aren't snowflakes. We're more like a car where there are 100 different options to choose from, which makes for A LOT of combinations of options... But if you can recognize all 100 options individually, you can piece together the type of person somebody is fairly quickly. There are exceptions to every rule, but there are also rules too!

  • TxJack 112||

    Typical online journalist making sweeping statements about a subject they only know enough about to be dangerous. Having been trained in vocation rehabilitation, I can say with confidence, the Myers- Briggs is one TOOL used to help determine possible vocational preferences. It is like other instruments in that it is simply a place to start. Anyone who attempts to determine their career from a single test, is a moron. The Myers-Briggs simply gives you some very limited insight into your personality so you can be aware of what careers may or may not be a match, but that is not necessarily fact. I am an introvert and yet love to teach. People think introverts are loners when in fact, the term indicates how you recharged your "batteries". An extrovert is energized by being in groups of people whereas an introvert is drained. However, that does not mean introverts are not good teachers, it only means at the end off the day, they are exhausted and need alone time to recoup. Before trashing something and pretending to be an "expert" maybe the author should consider learning all the facts by actually talking to a couple of real experts.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    The consultants who get paid big money to subject employees to their MBTI snake-oil show have a pretty good thing going. If you've never been subjected to that kind of torture, just imagine being forced to watch Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow at work for two days in a row.

    However, this article reminds me of the time Reason portrayed Gary Taubes as completely nuts.

    The test itself isn't bunk. It asks a crap-ton of questions and then groups you in to one of 16 categories.

    That one of those categories is highly likely to describe you fairly well isn't rocket science. I mean, you just gave them all the details. Once you're over the fascination of reading about yourself, it's interesting to read about your friends' profiles and learning a bit about what makes them tick.

    If you're cautious of The Forer Effect, the test can be fun and somewhat informative. Is it that useful? Not that I've found.

    What's crazy is when companies try to use it to make their organization run better. It's either HR people trying to show how important they are or management types who are out of ideas and need to show that they are doing something.

  • IMissLiberty||

    The M/B basics were a revelation to me (back in the 1970's), similar to the Nolan Chart or the World's Smallest Political Quiz. The basic concepts of M/B Type Indicator totally explain the futility of trying to make one government fit all, as well as showing us how unnecessary and even dangerous it is to attempt.
    I stopped reading when it appears the author took two knock-offs that contradicted each other as proof.
    Problems with the test are mere quibbles. For one thing, it consistently predicts which are the types that refuse to believe a test like this has value. Other known types tend to answer things differently than instructed. Typeology is a great way to understand people and appreciate their contributions, in lieu of blaming them, trying to change them, or seeing them as defective or somehow wrong in the way they talk, think, feel, or behave.
    M/B is what determined that the clergy, politicians, and many actors have similar traits (self-selected, not absolute). Look how many actors have been elected to public office! Certain professions attract people for similar reasons.
    Sorry. Didn't read it. Couldn't get past the obvious misunderstanding shown in the title.
    INTJ

  • IMissLiberty||

    NT's dominate the Libertarian Party; M/B has them at a small minority of the population. The LP equally defends all 16 types, and their right to be who they are. NT's rock the boat, but their views from the crow's nest reach a further horizon. This helps the survival of the cooks, sail-menders, captain and soldiers, and bookkeepers, below. They make good navigators (and sometimes leaders), and good truth-tellers, but poor politicians, and better surgeons than nurses.
    M/B shows how we need to communicate to other types. We can earn their respect by example, or wait to be proven right (marijuana; dollar collapse). We get accused of being idealists when we are really realists (what a concept), by S's and others.
    The freedom movement needs its NT's, but desperately needs to have all the other types come on board -- without waiting until the ship is upon the rocks, or expecting them to pack up the household and go colonize a satellite or island, instead of staying and fighting for freedom.
    It's really hard to get an INTJ to sit through a council meeting unless you can make it part of a big game of chess.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    holy shit, had no idea this hocus-pocus dated back so far. I remember the newspaper I worked at applying this test to managers in the early 90s. The family-owned chain wasted millions on consultants back then, and then starved its fledgling online offerings b/c it figured the internet was a fad and therefore no threat.
    Ha. Stupid fucking media.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online