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Personality Type: skeptic
August 9, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

This well-known personality test is taken by over two million people a year. It's the go-to-quiz for the career consultant industry. It is used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies and 200 Federal agencies, including the CIA and the military. But not many know that this test was developed by two people in 1940 who had no formal training in psychology. And that the test is based on a 90-year old speculative framework that has no scientific support. Yes, the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless.
posted by storybored (113 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm an ENTJ, Destroyer of Worlds
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:29 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


That's such an INTJ thing to say!
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:31 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Not buying into Myers-Briggs Is such a Scorpio thing to do.
posted by The Whelk at 10:31 AM on August 9 [70 favorites]


"This was before psychology was an empirical science,"

Funniest line in the article.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:32 AM on August 9 [56 favorites]


My G_d, Wotan, is giving ALL of you the stink-eye right now.
posted by slater at 10:32 AM on August 9


I'm a XFXR and can be overclocked to 4.3ghz with water cooling. Also I enjoy time alone.
posted by selfnoise at 10:33 AM on August 9 [30 favorites]


based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung,

Some obscure old guy nobody's heard of, eh?
posted by Segundus at 10:39 AM on August 9 [47 favorites]


Myers-Briggs isn't without scientific support, it's just badly outdated and applied in horrifyingly inappropriate ways.

Take the Five-Factor Theory mentioned in the article, the current cutting edge in personality psychology. Survey based methods can find correlations among ways of speaking about oneself, and those might be weakly correlated to behaviour, but Five-Factor has more explanatory power and covers a broader range of traits.

Mind you, switching to a Big-5 approach wouldn't be any help because businesses are looking for a Harry Potter Sorting Hat, and there ain't nothing in personality psych that can give them that.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:39 AM on August 9 [26 favorites]


"The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."

That's not actually what this tool is meant to do.

Most of the faithful think of it primarily as a tool for telling you your proper career choice.

Most of WHAT faithful? The people marketing the test to employers certainly think that, but I have friends who are very active in online forums and such devoted to discussing MBTI and I'd call them the actual faithful and none of them would ever consider it appropriate to be used like this.

But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community.

I know more than one member of "the psychology community" who regard personality typing, where it be MBTI or enneagram or whatever, useful tools to help their clients find a handle to grasp to begin to steer their lives instead of flailing about.

In 1921, Jung published the book Psychological Types. In it, he put forth a few different interesting, unsupported theories on how the human brain operates.

He wasn't describing how the brain operates. He was describing differences in personality.

Baaaah. I could go on and on and this post would take forever.

I found the MBTI and learning my personality type (which was NOT presented as binary, but was presented as locating me on a sliding scale between one extreme and the other of each of the 4 attributes) to be liberating and very useful during my 20s. It allowed me to understand why I approach some situations differently from others, why I react in certain ways to certain input, and gave me power to begin to understand the parts of my psyche I found good and the parts I felt needed improvement.

I agree with the article that it is a terrible tool for use in the workplace, but that is because it is absolutely not what it is for.

I guess, what I'm saying is, this article has a good basic thesis (don't use this in the workplace) but is a terrible piece of writing full of so much unfactual bias and bad research that it is basically useless.
posted by hippybear at 10:40 AM on August 9 [50 favorites]


MBTI results don't reveal much about a person, but a person telling you their MBTI results can be very revealing.
posted by Metafilter Username at 10:40 AM on August 9 [41 favorites]


spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints: “I'm an ENTJ, Destroyer of Worlds
INTJs like to let the ENTJs keep thinking they run everything. "Trouble rather the tiger in his lair," and all that.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:43 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Some people get weirdly evangelical about the Myers-Briggs.
It really sucks if they're your boss.
posted by fullerine at 10:47 AM on August 9 [20 favorites]


What's the personality type that can never what their personality type is? 'Cause that's the type I am.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:47 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


There are two kinds of people in this world, the kinds who like dividing people into two kinds of people and the kinds who don't.

I have taken unofficial versions of this on a bunch of occasions and have never gotten the same result twice, it's always really deeply annoyed me when people treated it like it was meaningful, like it's totally reasonable to say that people can be "thinkers" or "feelers" but not both. Thanks to the wonders of human evolution, I actually possess a brain that is miraculously capable of both rational thought and emotion, and I'll stick with that.
posted by Sequence at 10:48 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


Hmm. "Psychology wasn't a science then" and "this test was developed by people with no formal training in psychology" seem like not-entirely-compatible complaints.

As someone who's recieved the same very extreme result every time I've taken a version of the test in the last few decades, my uninformed critique is that it sure seems to be measuring something, but more or less just reflects one's conscious self image and doesn't actually add much to the conversation. But it seems less obviously flawed than more subtle, correlation-based options that have all sorts of cultural-context based gotchas.

I suppose at the of the day the real question is whether it's better or worse than other sorting mechamisms. It could well be that half of the results are unreliable, but it's still less horribly flawed than an interviewer's intuition. Which isn't to say carefully testing it and searching for better options is a bad idea.
posted by eotvos at 10:49 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


If you want an accessible overview of the research on MBTI and why it doesn't work by a (very good) social psychologist, you can read this piece by Adam Grant. There is also a nice detailed summary of the research on MBTI here.

Some useful points about why it is terrible:
"If you retake the test after only a five-week gap, there's around a 50 percent chance that you will fall into a different personality category."

"In the MBTI, thinking and feeling are opposite poles of a continuum. In reality, they're independent: we have three decades of evidence that if you like ideas and data, you can also like people and emotions. (In fact, more often than not, they go hand in hand: research shows that people with stronger thinking and reasoning skills are also better at recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions.)"
posted by blahblahblah at 10:50 AM on August 9 [42 favorites]


it's totally reasonable to say that people can be "thinkers" or "feelers" but not both. Thanks to the wonders of human evolution, I actually possess a brain that is miraculously capable of both rational thought and emotion, and I'll stick with that.

That's not actually what those categories mean in MBTI. It's a very easy typing tool to misunderstand because the words have specific meanings which can be mistaken for their common meanings, leading to statements such as this.
posted by hippybear at 10:51 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


I've taken it several times. The I and N are always extremely strong. The T/F and P/J are right around 50% each with some wobble in both directions. This doesn't tell me anything about myself I didn't already know.
posted by Foosnark at 10:51 AM on August 9


I found the MBTI and learning my personality type (which was NOT presented as binary, but was presented as locating me on a sliding scale between one extreme and the other of each of the 4 attributes) to be liberating and very useful during my 20s. It allowed me to understand why I approach some situations differently from others, why I react in certain ways to certain input, and gave me power to begin to understand the parts of my psyche I found good and the parts I felt needed improvement.

Yes.
Also, it helps me understand why my husband and I approach things so differently. And other people.
It's definitely binary:
I typed as a borderline EST with scores of 2-5, but a stronger J in the mid 20's, way back when I was a callow youth and just figuring things out. Now, 30 years of growth later, I suspect I would come out with an ISFJ.
People change.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:54 AM on August 9


And, for those interested, the personality model/traits that are used in social psych now is the Big Five model: (some recent studies add a sixth: humility)

"Extraversion (sometimes called Surgency). The broad dimension of Extraversion encompasses such more specific traits as talkative, energetic, and assertive.
Agreeableness. Includes traits like sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.
Conscientiousness. Includes traits like organized, thorough
Neuroticism (sometimes reversed and called Emotional Stability). Includes traits like tense, moody
Openness to Experience (sometimes called Intellect or Intellect/Imagination). Includes traits like having wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful."

The Big Five test, which has been developed over three decades, compares very favorably to MBTI (and makes MBTI's weaknesses clear). You can see the population norms for Big Five, if you are interested..

You can take a Big Five inventory online as well.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:00 AM on August 9 [20 favorites]


I took a 'business' class last year, and was very skeptical indeed when the course write-up included references to the MBTI and taking the test was prep for the first class. I resisted the urge to use the phrase "astrology for smart people" in class, even. But it turned out that they just used it as a launching pad for talking about how different people approach things differently and communicate differently. That seems a reasonable use of the test, but man, there are some people who've really fixated on it as a Great Tool of Great Insight and Predictive Power.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:01 AM on August 9 [5 favorites]


Max Barry's Lexicon had personality classifications as a key part of the plot.
posted by squinty at 11:02 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


One of my proudest career accomplishments was the time I accidentally instigated a walkout of an MBTI test.

It was a smallish company and they'd hired this ridiculously skeezy huckster as a consultant to come in and administer the tests and then give the company recommendations based on that. I'd already made it clear I wasn't going to take the test, but had agreed to sit through the presentation anyway. However, they'd told the huckster (he looked like a cop from a 70s porn or something) that I'd opted out, and he decided to call me out in front of everyone to try to persuade me to take it.

Despite being a dyed in the wool INTP (Ha ha! I already knew the answer!), I apparently made my case so well that about a quarter of the other people in the room opted out as well. The guy then threatened to submit my profile based on his astute observations of my personality. I never did find out what that guy thought, but I sure as hell told HR about that.

BUT THAT SAID, I come from a family of the most ridiculous nerds in the world, and my dad was the worst of us all. When he attended an MBTI seminar thing at work, he came home with the book and he was just gushing. He'd never really thought about the fact that different people were interested in and motivated by different things, and he was fascinated with the idea of actually understanding humans. He tested everyone in the family, and he had all these epiphanies about things like why my mom, our only extrovert, didn't run away when the phone or the doorbell rang.

So I actually do sort of like it as a jumping off point, and a way for people to start thinking about how other people might be different from them.

I hate it passionately, though, when it's used as a predictive model or a means of pigeonholing people. And I especially hate it when creepy porn cops try to bully people into taking them.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:02 AM on August 9 [47 favorites]


So, I'm a career counselor. I use the MBTI. My sense about the MBTI is that it's most useful in it's ability to give people a common language to discuss *preferences*. Within the context of conversations about career explorations, that is particularly useful.

As a person in career services, I think the MBTI is best used like a rosetta stone between my understanding when a client says "I like working on teams and working independently" and my understanding of what "I like working on teams and independently" means. The MBTI framework gives us a starting point to begin discussing what 'working on a team' means and how to find employment opportunities and organizations that offer that type of experience.

People often seem to think that they are using the same terms so they have the same meaning around concepts like 'working independently, working on a team, being respected, being treated well, etc." and it just causes all sorts of unnecessary misery. For example, at my old job, 'working on a team' meant that my group was really, really close - all of our projects were collaborative, people talked and emailed and ichatted each other multiple times a day, and everyone had lunch together, and socialized after work. In my new job, 'working on a team' means we get together once a week to coordinate our activities, and then people go their separate ways and do their jobs. These are two really different experiences, but without some framework to discuss 'working on teams', people who prefer the "once a week meeting then leave me alone" experience will go to a job interview, say they like working on teams, get hired, and then end up in a job where they feel constantly harassed by fellow staff who keep inviting them to lunch. And when they refuse, they'll seem like they are standoffish, and be unhappy, and probably get fired for 'not fitting in'.

So when discussing optimal career options and the organizations they occur in, the MBTI helps us tease out what a person's definition of 'working on a team' means, and gets them thinking about how to use the interview to tease that out. (Not "Are you all team oriented", but "How often does the team connect around projects?" and "How do you all interact during the week?"). A candidate gets better data, and makes better choices around accepting or refusing a job offer around the issue of 'fit'. So the MBTI does that really well, and as well as some other 'personality assessment tools' out there, like the Big 5, etc.

What I find disturbing is organizations and individuals finding all sorts of uses for it that the MBTI was never seemed intended for:

1. using it as a predictor for career paths (you're an ENFP - you should be a librarian!)
2. using it as a tool to label and judge others (She's so rude - it's because she's an ISTJ!)
3. using it as an excuse to 'explain' why they can't do "X" - be responsible, be reliable, be civil, or behave like an adult (Oh, I couldn't remember to hand the project in on time because I'm an INFP! Sorry! Oh, I can't be bothered to rein my frustration and realize I'm being a big ol' judgy jerkface by cutting everyone off because I'm 'being honest' because I'm an ENTJ!).

But that's not a failing of the MBTI as a tool. It's not an MBTI Fail. That's a Human Being Fail.
posted by anitanita at 11:03 AM on August 9 [21 favorites]


My sense about the MBTI is that it's most useful in it's ability to give people a common language to discuss *preferences*. Within the context of conversations about career explorations, that is particularly useful.


This has *always* been my sense too. The same way that anything uber popular is at least a starting point for conversation. Even if the popularity itself tends to be because its edges are dulled.
posted by DigDoug at 11:05 AM on August 9


In a corporate setting ENTJ or ESTJ seem to be the result you want to have in your file.
posted by humanfont at 11:07 AM on August 9


My major problem is touched on in the FPP article, which is that there is no singular self. Most people have varying masks that they wear for different activities, switching between them as the situation dictates. The MBTI (and I would say most personality typing) gives the comforting fantasy of the self as something which is stable. That's probably a useful fantasy to have, but I don't think it reflects reality very well.

My second problem is that if you're taking the test then you're aware you're taking the test. It's not hard to suss out what direction various answers will lead you in. Therefore you get your result and, surprise, it's what you've always suspected to be true about you, but now there's the veneer of scientific certainty claiming it. No longer is this something that you claim about yourself, but rather something that the grand power of Psychology has intuited. Scientifically I'm a Ross because the Buzzfeed "Which Friend Are You?" quiz deduced it to be.
posted by codacorolla at 11:09 AM on August 9 [14 favorites]


Pottermore sorting hat is BULLSHIT.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on August 9 [17 favorites]


The MBTI (and I would say most personality typing) gives the comforting fantasy of the self as something which is stable. That's probably a useful fantasy to have, but I don't think it reflects reality very well.

Of course it doesn't. I am sure the MBTI community agrees with you that people are fluid and are not rigid and are able to operate in situations which take them outside their comfort zone.
posted by hippybear at 11:13 AM on August 9


Of course it doesn't. I am sure the MBTI community agrees with you that people are fluid and are not rigid and are able to operate in situations which take them outside their comfort zone.

You're confusing the way that MBTI is understood by your nebulous body of forum experts that you keep referring to (without actually talking about any specifics of their beliefs, merely cherry-picking statements to declaim) and the way that it's popularly used by the vast majority of people who come into contact with it but aren't part of your sample.
posted by codacorolla at 11:20 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


From a layperson's view, one reason why Big 5 hasn't caught on in the mainstream may be precisely that it's categories are non-binary. Nobody wants to be evaluated as less conscientious, or agreeable, or whatever the other three the experts have deemed are psychological "types" which are easily insinuated as psychological competencies. Whereas with the Myers-Briggs categories, if you are more in one direction than the other, that's just as valid as a way of existing as a human being. So maybe it's not so much that Myers-Briggs makes people "feel happy", but rather the theory—flawed as it is— implicitly recognizes (whether the designers were aware or not) that humans have a basic need for validation, especially if you as a scientist are going to try and make any of this stuff objective knowledge. (So agreeing with the author as he writes at the end—there does seem to be a PR issue somewhat.)
posted by polymodus at 11:23 AM on August 9 [10 favorites]


The last time this topic came up here someone said their type was STFU. I've been shamelessly passing this off as my own witticism ever since.
posted by night_train at 11:28 AM on August 9 [56 favorites]


antanita: "My sense about the MBTI is that it's most useful in it's ability to give people a common language to discuss *preferences*. Within the context of conversations about career explorations, that is particularly useful."

Empirical evidence shows that MBTI results change every two months for the majority of people, and change for many people weekly and even daily. If it's it's a test calibrated to determine "preferences," then either the preferences it is determining are so changeable as to be ephemeral, or it is simply not an effective test at all. If you're talking about the careers people want, why would you choose to investigate the type of whims that they won't really hold to a couple months into the future?
posted by koeselitz at 11:29 AM on August 9 [8 favorites]


Introversion/extraversion is quite stable, though, so you could probably get a lot out of the test just based on that part.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:34 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


If you want to know what kind of job you shoukd get, just check the tattoo on your wrist to see which Clade you where born into and act accordingly ( or else).
posted by The Whelk at 11:36 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


You're confusing the way that MBTI is understood by your nebulous body of forum experts that you keep referring to (without actually talking about any specifics of their beliefs, merely cherry-picking statements to declaim) and the way that it's popularly used by the vast majority of people who come into contact with it but aren't part of your sample.

I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone on MetaFilter that the popular understanding of a complex and subtle topic might actually be not congruent with how those who actually discuss and attempt to understand that topic understand it.

I don't hang out in these forums, I talk to people who do regularly. They've tossed me links now and again, but I don't even have those. I know generally how that community thinks, and can engage lightly on the topic with my friends, but can't possibly address anything specifically without doing a lot of research that I don't have the energy to do right now. If I can get in touch with one friend in particular who is very well spoken about these matters, I will try to get him to engage in specifics in this thread.
posted by hippybear at 11:36 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


You're supposed to flip the turtle back over, silly android.
posted by Renoroc at 11:44 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


In 1948, psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave a personality test to his students. He told his students they were each receiving a unique personality analysis that was based on the test's results and to rate their analysis on how well it applied to themselves. In reality, each received the same sketch, consisting of the following items:[2]

You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.
On average, the students rated its accuracy as 4.26 on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). Only after the ratings were turned in was it revealed that each student had received identical copies assembled by Forer from a newsstand astrology book.[2] The quote contains a number of statements that are vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:44 AM on August 9 [30 favorites]


the young rope-rider: "Introversion/extraversion is quite stable, though, so you could probably get a lot out of the test just based on that part."

Hm. I'm pretty thoroughly convinced that the MBTI doesn't measure introversion or extroversion in any meaningful way, at least in the way those terms are meant in general psychology. And I'm not sure introversion and extroversion are measured in a stable way by the MBTI, either. I know some people are saying that the MBTI has its own technical nomenclature; my point above was mostly that, whatever it is MBTI is testing or investigating, it isn't relatively stable characteristics of a person's personality like introversion or extroversion.
posted by koeselitz at 11:45 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Every once in a while over the past decade or two, when this topic has come up, if I was bored or curious enough I'd take it again. I've probably done it maybe six or eight times by now, from multiple online versions of varying quality, and every time it's come out the same.

...Which I guess means that either my self-image is consistent, or I'm just in a rut.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:45 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Pottermore sorting works! MBTI may change with the weather, but Ravenclaw is forever.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:47 AM on August 9 [5 favorites]


I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone on MetaFilter that the popular understanding of a complex and subtle topic might actually be not congruent with how those who actually discuss and attempt to understand that topic understand it.

Except that's not what we're talking about, nor what the FPP is really about. We're talking about the way that the test is used (and misused) in general everyday practice, not the way that's understood by a select group of people who've dedicated themselves to finding meaning in the test.
posted by codacorolla at 11:49 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Well, I will say that this article comes off as a bit emotionally invested, to the point of being off the mark in many places. Specifically, the way it speaks of Carl Jung as "discredited" and talks about how he isn't taken seriously now, but then turns around and points out that he didn't regard personality types as testable, is remarkably dissonant. Which is it? Is he discredited or misunderstood? As far as I can tell, the stronger argument would be to say that he's misunderstood, and to say that the people who came up with MBTI were misconstruing his description of personality types as a definitive categorization of the immutable and binary character traits a person has.
posted by koeselitz at 11:55 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


One of the nice things about the MBTI is that with an afternoon of study you can learn to game it super easily, and the next time you're asked to take one for work or whatever you can make it say whatever you want it to say about you. This can be used to great effect with a little strategizing.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:57 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


And now, the Phone Screen for job candidates.

--------

As phones became ubiquitous throughout the 20s and 30s it became popular to do a phone screen of professional candidates before asking them to travel hundreds of miles for a personal interview. It was believed that a general sense of the interviewee could be gained over the phone.

Now 90 years later this procedure is still the standard used by thousands of businesses every day, despite...

1) The Phone Screen rests on wholly unproven theories

People believe they can make a judgement over the phone, but no one has ever proved this. Companies still reject a high proportion of candidates who pass the Phone Screen.

2) The Phone Screen uses false, limited binaries

You can't ask the interviewee to come halfway to your offices. Any judgement about the candidate must come down to a simple yes or no.

3) The Phone Screen provides inconsistent, inaccurate results

The results of a Phone Screen even between the same two people can vary based on a wide variety of factors. Even the quality of the phone connection can cause the Phone Screen outcome to change.

4) The Phone Screen is largely disregarded by psychologists

There are many experiments that show that our judgement of people is greatly enhanced by being in their physical presence. A psychologist will only work over the phone if there are no other options open.


.) What is the Phone Screen good for?

Entertainment for bored managers.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:02 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


Empirical evidence shows that MBTI results change every two months for the majority of people

Can you source that? I'm having trouble believing that the Introvert/Extrovert flag switches that often. Definitely could be sample bias on my part though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:05 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Except that's not what we're talking about, nor what the FPP is really about. We're talking about the way that the test is used (and misused) in general everyday practice, not the way that's understood by a select group of people who've dedicated themselves to finding meaning in the test.

I'm perfectly happy to let people continue to say things which show they have only cursory knowledge about the test and are misinterpreting it even on the most basic level if it makes you feel more comfortable.
posted by hippybear at 12:06 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


I'm perfectly happy to let people continue to say things which show they have only cursory knowledge about the test and are misinterpreting it even on the most basic level if it makes you feel more comfortable.
You sound like a true believer.
posted by fullerine at 12:11 PM on August 9 [9 favorites]


But the fact is that they come from the now-disregarded theories of a early 20th century thinker who believed in things like ESP and the collective unconscious.

Yeah, man, no one pays any attention to Carl Jung anymore. Everyone's all like, "What does Vox dot com have to say about it?" and that if that doesn't pan out, you hit Badass Digest. They usually know what's up.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:11 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


ITA with Polymodus that MBTI and not OCEAN is so popular because there aren't "wrong" answers. In comparison, scoring low on "conscientiousness" and high on "neuroticism" isn't exactly something you would want to make public on Facebook, or have in your company file if you could help it.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:12 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


I'm perfectly happy to let people continue to say things which show they have only cursory knowledge about the test and are misinterpreting it even on the most basic level if it makes you feel more comfortable.

If 95 out of a hundred people (WAG numbers) use the test one way, talk about it one way, and treat its results one way, it's entirely valid to, when someone says there's a semi-secret alternate interpretation that's entirely different and has actual validity, challenge it as not being what people are thinking of when someone brings the subject up.

In other words, you may be right, but that's not what people are largely talking about, and if you go to a party and bring up MBTI, you're probably going to get people talking about how ENTP should never date IFTJ, because they're mismatched types. ((In other words, treat it about as rigorously as astrology))
posted by CrystalDave at 12:16 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


You sound like a true believer.

I'm not a "true believer" in the sense that I think MBTI and the things it can show are useful for all aspects of life. I found it to be a useful tool when I was younger, I still refer to its concepts occasionally now because the earlier usefulness gives me quality context for the present. I know some "true believers", and their enthusiasm is well beyond my interest, although I do engage with them on the topic from time to time, sometimes at their bidding and sometimes at my own.

I also am able to allow people to be wrong on the internet, and go to bed at a reasonable hour even when they are.
posted by hippybear at 12:17 PM on August 9


.) What is the Phone Screen good for?

Entertainment for bored managers.


It reduces the number of cases you need to consider. When you have large numbers of applicants for a position, you're happy for any way of thinning the pile, no matter how meaningless. The fact that the results are essentially random are to some extent a feature, not a bug--that is, with a sufficiently large applicant pool a random thinning of the pile is unlikely to seriously impact the quality of your ultimate hire (presuming that at some point in the process you actually have a meaningful filter of some kind).
posted by yoink at 12:19 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


I'd suggest that any test that seeks to reduce a person to a set of binary qualities is likely to be bunk.
posted by JHarris at 12:21 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Let me tell you about my mother.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:24 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


So, I'm a career counselor. I use the MBTI. My sense about the MBTI is that it's most useful in it's ability to give people a common language to discuss *preferences*. Within the context of conversations about career explorations, that is particularly useful.

The problem with this argument is that any description of personality traits would serve for the basis of such a discussion. That is, you could have an astrologer cast their chart--or, what would be exactly the same, give every single person exactly the same astrological chart (let's say Adolf Hitler's, just for laughs), and that would provide a catalyst for a discussion that would, no doubt, be illuminating in precisely the same way ("So, I see from your chart that you're a team player--what does that mean to you, exactly?...").

What you need to prove in relation to the MBTI is that there is some special added value in the particular personality descriptions it yields over those yielded by any other means. And that, of course, is where what research that has been done is not on your side. It's also, of course, where personal testimony like Hippybear's falls apart. One need not doubt that Hippybear found "learning his personality type" terrifically useful in his youth. But there are innumerable people out there who found (and find) "having their chart drawn up" terrifically useful and innumerable people who found Freudian psychoanalysis terrifically useful etc. etc. etc. The fact is that a process of personal introspection centered around a supposedly "authoritative" account of the nature of your personality is something people often find helpful--regardless of whether or not the "authoritative" account is utter mumbo-jumbo or not.
posted by yoink at 12:30 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


This is a bad article written in a sometimes-okay venue about an interesting topic. The author very evidently lacks factual knowledge about social science and psychology, which is somewhat ironic considering that the intent is to critique a research tool as being unempirical.

I think the critiques are largely ill-considered, though I wouldn't take a specific position on the value of the test itself. I will admit that I hate shoddy thinking which evinces a vague position of analytic rigor while failing to acknowledge its own biases. Here's what I mean:

The only problem? The test is completely meaningless.

"There's just no evidence behind it," says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who's written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. "The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."


The fact that there's no evidence behind it doesn't imply that it must be useless. People have developed ideas based on careful observation and intuition that have turned out to be valid and useful, if not overwhelmingly nomothetic. And the test could be utterly valid and reliable without having "predictive power" about one's happiness in situation x or y, or about job performance or marital satisfaction. I'm not surprised that an organizational psychologist would decry a personality test for failing to assist in fitting people into slots in an organization, though.

But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community.

This reflects a poor education on the topic of psychology itself. "Untested" is not surprising, because nobody was testing psychological theories in the way practitioners do now back when Jung was alive, and "outdated" is such a dismissive and loaded term to describe an incredibly influential thinker that it makes the writer sound like an ignorant simpleton. And the critique is almost immediately obviated by a crucial detail:

Even Jung warned that his personality "types" were just rough tendencies he'd observed, rather than strict classifications.

The rest of the piece is written as though this were never mentioned. This 16-fold (hexadecimal?) typology is not, and was never meant to be exhaustive or predictive. It's a way of characterizing some basic differences that exist both within and between people.

The way the author goes about critiquing the misuses of the test as though they reflect on the test itself is lazy, useless pap. And the conclusion -- that the test is "only good for" entertainment -- is depressingly fatuous. The point of the test was to take a concrete step toward systematizing the explanation of human difference, and the fact that the instrument itself doesn't realize various goals such as predicting happiness or helping determine organizational role is more a failure of unrealistic expectations which never matched the intent or explicit utility of the test than a fatal flaw of some overreaching purpose.
posted by clockzero at 12:30 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah, man, no one pays any attention to Carl Jung anymore.

I think you're being sarcastic, but so far as I know, no serious academic researchers in psychology do pay any attention to Jung anymore. I mean, his influence remains pretty much confined to a few literary critics and lay readers.
posted by yoink at 12:32 PM on August 9 [13 favorites]


INFP here. Not that I really care.

It's interesting and all that,but personalities are more complicated than tests are, and my own has changed in some interesting ways over the years. I can come across as a complete extrovert now, for instance, even though it is still ultimately true that I have to be alone to recharge.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:33 PM on August 9


You mean ... that ... that corporate retreat meant ... nothing?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:34 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


The fact that there's no evidence behind it doesn't imply that it must be useless.

This is true. However if after repeated tests no evidence has emerged to suggest that the test serves any useful purpose surely there is no scientific justification for continuing to use it until such time as evidence of usefulness is forthcoming, no?

I mean, if I concoct some chemical compound in my garage, there is no evidence that it's not a cure for cancer--but that doesn't justify my selling it or prescribing it as such, does it? And if I manage to get it tested in a controlled study which finds no evidence that it does anyone any good, that's even stronger reason not to actually prescribe it. That would seem to be where we are with the MBTI. It essentially was cobbled together by amateurs in their garage, but for some reason--despite extensive testing which has found no evidence to suggest that it does anybody any good--it continues to be widely prescribed.
posted by yoink at 12:36 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


You mean ... that ... that corporate retreat meant ... nothing?

Proof that time can be made to stand still must mean something, no?
posted by yoink at 12:37 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


I think you're being sarcastic, but so far as I know, no serious academic researchers in psychology do pay any attention to Jung anymore.

I'm not a psychiatrist, but isn't this kind of like arguing that Gilgamesh isn't important to modern literature because most modern writers haven't read it?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:39 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


I knew it. Ever since that test marked me NNTP I was suspicious.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:49 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


I'm not a psychiatrist, but isn't this kind of like arguing that Gilgamesh isn't important to modern literature because most modern writers haven't read it?

Um, no? I mean, it's not that they're unaware of Jung. It's that his theories largely proved irrelevant to the development of the science of psychology (because, indeed, they were, for the most part, not based in any scientific analysis whatsoever). I mean, it's not that his theories just got absorbed into the science and are widely propagated in the field without people knowing that they happened to originate in Jung. It's that he was developing a bunch of largely metaphysical speculations which are orthogonal to any scientific inquiry into the nature of the mind or the formation of the self.
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


me: "Empirical evidence shows that MBTI results change every two months for the majority of people..."

Tell Me No Lies: "Can you source that? I'm having trouble believing that the Introvert/Extrovert flag switches that often. Definitely could be sample bias on my part though."

blahblahblah posted this article above, and it's the most even-handed overview of the scientific evidence for and against Myers-Briggs that I've seen. The quoted figure in the section on Reliability is that 50% of people will change their MBTI type if retested within five weeks; the paper offers further citations.

Also, in the section on Validity, there's a helpful discussion of factor analysis which (I think) pretty effectively concludes that Myers-Briggs does not actually test introversion, extroversion, or any other actual psychological characteristics.

So, in other words, if you've observed that people tend to be either extroverted or introverted, and don't tend to change on that count, that may well be true; but MBTI is not likely to accurately measure whether someone is one or the other.
posted by koeselitz at 12:52 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Um, no? I mean, it's not that they're unaware of Jung. It's that his theories largely proved irrelevant to the development of the science of psychology (because, indeed, they were, for the most part, not based in any scientific analysis whatsoever). I mean, it's not that his theories just got absorbed into the science and are widely propagated in the field without people knowing that they happened to originate in Jung. It's that he was developing a bunch of largely metaphysical speculations which are orthogonal to any scientific inquiry into the nature of the mind or the formation of the self.

Okay, sounds legit
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:54 PM on August 9


This is true. However if after repeated tests no evidence has emerged to suggest that the test serves any useful purpose surely there is no scientific justification for continuing to use it until such time as evidence of usefulness is forthcoming, no?

Well, yes and no, I'd respectfully venture. Maybe people have been testing its utility toward purposes for which it was never suited, for example. In this particular case, I think its utility as a diagnostic test isn't its only conceivable value; as I think some others have said, giving people a framework within which to define themselves seems potentially valuable, to give one useful purpose that relates to individual psychology but has nothing to do with prediction or diagnosis. And its value as an embedded artifact of the history of thought about psychology is, I think, immense.

I mean, if I concoct some chemical compound in my garage, there is no evidence that it's not a cure for cancer--but that doesn't justify my selling it or prescribing it as such, does it? And if I manage to get it tested in a controlled study which finds no evidence that it does anyone any good, that's even stronger reason not to actually prescribe it. That would seem to be where we are with the MBTI.

On the contrary. This analogy is formally similar but so radically distinct on a substantive level that I'm not convinced it's a meaningful comparison.

It essentially was cobbled together by amateurs in their garage, but for some reason--despite extensive testing which has found no evidence to suggest that it does anybody any good--it continues to be widely prescribed.

I think this is a good critique of certain uses of the test. Those uses should not be conflated with the test itself though.
posted by clockzero at 12:56 PM on August 9


The last time I took one of these was several years ago, right after I had been downsized out of my job. It was given to me by a employment counselor. I don't recall what type I tested-out as, but I do recall the counselor's first words to me when I sat down with him to go over the test results..."You are a very angry individual."

So, the test got that right, at least.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:59 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Now I am thinking Hogwarts would be more interesting if students got sorted every year, instead of just their first.
posted by fings at 1:01 PM on August 9 [13 favorites]


I think you're being sarcastic, but so far as I know, no serious academic researchers in psychology do pay any attention to Jung anymore. I mean, his influence remains pretty much confined to a few literary critics and lay readers.

And all of depth psychology.

And a subset of other branches of psychology, depending on how one is educated.

I'm a Jungian because his metaphorical way of approaching the world works for me hella better than any other. I'm a metaphorist; I conceive of myself and others, and society in general, originally in images which I then attempt to deconstruct into words and actions. A lot of my work is sub- or semi-sub-conscious, and I stabilize/build rapport with difficult clients really fucking quickly, so something is happening even if we can't measure it in a lab.

I'm also a huge fan of a lot of the modern depth psychologists - like Marion Woodman, James Hillman, and Michael Conforti. Jung's Red Book, which was published in full a couple of years ago and is gorgeous and wonderful, made quite a splash in depth psychological circles. I highly recommend all of them, though of course for people who tend toward wanting data instead of stories (Sensors vs. Intuitive, for example) will loath them.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:17 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


Max Barry's Lexicon had personality classifications as a key part of the plot.

I think ones he used were referencing NLP more so than MBTI.
posted by fuse theorem at 1:20 PM on August 9


One thing that I have lay-noticed based on my vast experience knowing approximately seventeen people is that many things, but especially social aptitude, are very very very super and extremely prone to inaccurate self-reporting.

As a child, I was extremely socially inept, and as a result, I had to pretty much analyze and commit to memory different types of social interactions. So even today, when I take any kind of personality inventory, I'll report that I'm pretty much feral.

But when I have taken little internet personality tests with friends as a social activity, I have noticed that the people who consider themselves especially socially adept are often WAY bigger goobers than I am. And I wonder if there isn't some Dunning Kruger effect in there, where maybe they're rating themselves so highly because they're oblivious.

Similarly, I think a lot of people misreport projection as empathy.

I hereby diagnose everyone in the world as an unreliable narrator.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:24 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


I was surprised when some former colleagues told me what a big deal these tests are in certain sectors of the business world. So I broke down and took a couple of them so we could talk about it. I'm not sure I'd put much stock in it, but my own results were consistent across multiple times taking the test and I guess I got INTJ, which seemed to fit except that apparently that means I'm either Voldemort or Dumbledore, so now I'm all confused about whether I'm good or evil (not really).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:41 PM on August 9


I derailed a leadership seminar once because I asked the leader they brought in from some consulting place or other if I should answer as if I'm at home or at work. The MBTI doesn't really recognize context.

I've learned to be very good at my job, and that job works best if you have certain traits and habits. I'm a total ENTJ at work. That's the way I learned it, that's the way I do it, and over time, that's the way I like it because it gets me results, recognition, praise, etc. I've done it so long that way, I don't know how to do it another way.

Then when I go home, I don't want to see another living person until tomorrow, and lots of decisions are just, eh, whatever. I'm very INTP. And I like that, too.

The seminar leader claimed that was impossible.
posted by ctmf at 1:42 PM on August 9 [7 favorites]


like Marion Woodman, James Hillman, and Michael Conforti

Yes, it is fair to say that Jung continues to influence people (like the otherwise untrained secondary school English teacher Marion Woodman) who choose to be trained at the Jung institute. That, however, still leaves all of those people (and the Jung institute) entirely without influence in any current branch of scientific psychology. In other words, anything one might pursue in a well regarded academic program of psychology that doesn't have "Jung" somewhere in its name.
posted by yoink at 2:02 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure there is a difference between clinical psychology and counseling psychology when it comes to how Jung is regarded. There are overlaps in approach, but what they deal with and the ends they seek are quite different.
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


MBTI results don't reveal much about a person, but a person telling you their MBTI results can be very revealing.
posted by Metafilter Username at 1:40 PM on August 9


THIS. I once worked with an absolute horror show of a teacher; she was nasty to students, sniped at others in staff meetings, was a smug know it all.

You've all probably worked with someone like this, or you know someone who has. Pretty much the person who has the potential to make any job a nightmare.

And her continual default refrain to anyone was that she was an INFJ. As though that was supposed to mean anything. As though it would explain that she was just a big stupid headed jerkface. All we ever heard, at every staff meeting, at every parent conference, was that she was an INFJ.

Yeah, people who have to keep telling you their results, indeed.
posted by kinetic at 2:17 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


You can take a Big Five inventory online as well.

What the hell combination of personality traits leads a person to make a web page in three shades of pea soup?
posted by Wolfdog at 3:27 PM on August 9


Pretty sure there is a difference between clinical psychology and counseling psychology when it comes to how Jung is regarded.

There isn't really. I've personally had about 180 credit hours in clinical and counseling psychology at the undergraduate and graduate levels and Jung was covered in two courses - the Introductory history section of freshman-level Psy and a later "History of Personality Theory" course that explicitly pointed out the non-scientific nature of his work.
posted by Metafilter Username at 3:29 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung,

Is he being snarky or is Jung no longer a household name?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:05 PM on August 9


Can we stop it with the shitty comparisons to astrology? The fundamental problem with astrology is not the Forer Effect, it's that astrology cites arbitrary factors* to produce arbitrary results.

From Koeselitz: The quoted figure in the section on Reliability is that 50% of people will change their MBTI type if retested within five weeks; the paper offers further citations.

So. Whatever else you can say about Myers-Briggs it measures indicative signals that are somewhat stable and it produces non-arbitrary results. That's an incredibly critical distinction between Myers-Briggs and Astrology that shouldn't be rolled over lightly, especially by people trying to bestow the benefit of their rationality upon the world. How useful any of that information is†, who should be looking at that information and whether there are better tests, is distinct from the question of whether it measures anything.

* with the possible exception of the season in which you were born, although curiously I've never heard of a study of astrology finding significant results in such matters despite hearing about it being a major selecting factor in the development of athletes.

† here's my anecdotally based plug for helping kids identify introversion is a thing, because Myers-Briggs was incredibly helpful for that specific purpose for many people I know... possibly even despite it not measuring that, if Koeselitz's reading is correct.

posted by tychotesla at 4:06 PM on August 9


Anyone who understands people well enough to devise a useful general-purpose personality test probably cares too much about others to do so.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:08 PM on August 9


I did another personality test, forget the name but it was the upside down pyramid (like this). Result was that I was heavily centre with slight red tendencies. The instructor said it meant I was well balanced and could interact well with different personality types. My response was "yes... Or I'm a sociopath". That shut down the session sharpish.
posted by arcticseal at 4:18 PM on August 9


The MBTI doesn't really recognize context.

In the Five-factor test I just took there is no way for me to indicate, for instance, how conscientiousness is tied to importance for me.

I'm very conscientious about things that matter to me, and pretty loose with things that don't.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:25 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


I had no idea no one paid attention to Jung. Is it just that his theories were unfalsifiable? that they were really philosophy? Or were his theories just flat out wrong?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:28 PM on August 9


tychotesla: "So. Whatever else you can say about Myers-Briggs it measures indicative signals that are somewhat stable and it produces non-arbitrary results."

That's actually the exact opposite conclusion from the one I was drawing in the bit you quoted. 50% changing over five months - probably a lot more if you increase the time - is not "somewhat stable" and doesn't indicate something "non-arbitrary." If you really want to demonstrate that MBTI is better than astrology, you'll have to directly compare it with astrological results.

Personally, if I'm being given the choice between spiritualism and pseudoscience, I'll take the spiritualism any day.
posted by koeselitz at 4:32 PM on August 9


If you want to have fun, bring up Myers-Briggs with a bunch of assessment statisticians. They hate that crap so much, they will rage about it.
posted by sfkiddo at 4:47 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


That's actually the exact opposite conclusion from the one I was drawing in the bit you quoted. 50% changing over five months - probably a lot more if you increase the time - is not "somewhat stable" and doesn't indicate something "non-arbitrary."

That's a 50% chance of being at one of 16 positions twice in a row (granted I believe most people are clumped at certain positions, but also remember that we're converting a spectrum into binary so small variation causes large effects). If it was random it would be a 50% chance of switching between one of two positions. Thus it's measuring something, and that something is sticky.

If you really want to demonstrate that MBTI is better than astrology, you'll have to directly compare it with astrological results.

Directly compare it? The point I was making is that they are categorically different: No matter how shitty the test is, or how irrelevant what it's measuring is, Myers-Briggs has reproducible results. Astrology does not. That's important.
posted by tychotesla at 5:45 PM on August 9


Somewhat stable? I've had my result differ by two segments within the same *day*, much less five months. (That was not a fun day of mandated testing. Also, a pox upon whoever decided that MBTI was part of my high school graduation requirements in the career counseling course. Telling kids "Are you sure you want to go into science/computers? You scored really Extroverted this time..." helps nobody)

As for 'measuring something sticky/reproducible' results, so are those online tests that tell you which Magic: The Gathering color you are. Yet I'd be worried if people started putting stock in it. (Alternately, replace MTG with any other sort of category quiz, much in the vein that Clickhole found fertile land to mock)
posted by CrystalDave at 5:55 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


My second problem is that if you're taking the test then you're aware you're taking the test. It's not hard to suss out what direction various answers will lead you in.

Indeed, sociologists talk about this all the time, The looking glass self, i.e: I am not what you think I am, I am what I think you think I am.

I had no idea no one paid attention to Jung. Is it just that his theories were unfalsifiable? that they were really philosophy? Or were his theories just flat out wrong?

I am not a psychologist, but I believe it's analogous to the way Freud is treated these days, i.e. the theories were based on conjecture and very limited clinical practice. They were never tested or studied in a scientific sense, were built or expanded from very shaky foundations (in Jung's case, Freud), and - as psychoanalysis and "talk therapy" more generally has fallen out of fashion - has become less and less relevant to the contemporary practice of psychology today.

I dunno, for me, I always think of Jung and Freud a bit like Joseph Campbell and Hero's Journey. Campbell is famous, sure, and his "theories" had a very big popular impact. But no serious anthropologist or folklorist will give his cherry-picking nonsense the time of day. Vladimir Propp he ain't.
posted by smoke at 6:00 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


I don't know how useful this is in the workplace, but come on. I'm an ENFP. Nobody's paying me to know things.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:05 PM on August 9


I know more than one member of "the psychology community" who regard personality typing, where it be MBTI or enneagram or whatever, useful tools to help their clients find a handle to grasp to begin to steer their lives instead of flailing about.

The same is true of Tarot and the I Ching though. Nobody (worth listening to) claims those are scientific modalities.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:25 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Is it just that his theories were unfalsifiable? that they were really philosophy? Or were his theories just flat out wrong?

They are largely unfalsifiable, though honestly I'd love to see people try - it would be fascinating to see the Operational Definitions alone. I've found a lot of Jung's concepts and theories very useful for interpretation of myself an others, particularly with people who are very psychotic and thus neither perceive nor react to the world in a standard manner. I don't think it's a coincidence that he developed a lot of his theories working with psychosis, while Freud was much more neurosis (and possibly sexual abuse). Both Freud and Jung date back to a time when psychology was a natural science as opposed to trying to be an experimental science.

There is a big difference between experimental psychology, which tends to be high on testability and low on generalization and applicability, and psychology practice, which tends to be high on situations where one is operating single-subject-study* only, with multiple competing confounds, and thus even single subject studies are questionable. Expand that out to people with psychosis, when they don't disclose what the voices are saying or what their delusions are on a given day, and we're kind of in "Heh, test what?" land.

My practical basis for assessing interventions on the ground, as a therapist, is "Did it work?" Bonus points for "Does it work multiple times?" It usually takes me a month to two months to formulate a theory about how a person works and then I base my interventions off of that theory. These theories are not generalizable to different people, though I may find points of commonality which help me in building my intervention skill sets.

Some examples - "This person is Duty Driven (original image: he lives in boxes, puts the world in boxes): combine 'These are the rules' with 'I am an authority' and hopefully we'll keep him off the streets." "This person is shame driven (original image: a figure in the corner covered in tar): build circumstances under which she feels safe, offer a lot of unconditional positive regard, and offer up psychological/family systems information as required." "This person is in a highly defensive posture (original image: a cave covered in broken shards of mirror, only eyes sometimes visible in the cave opening): be a reassuring presence and set clear and reliable boundaries."

This is functionally very similar to what Freud and Jung did, only I also draw from experimental data of a variety of levels of applicability, generalizability, and data driven sources in addition to images, experience, and theories from other fields like Family Systems and Gestalt. For example I find Jung's archetypal theory central to my practice; in my experience, archetypes constellate in people's lives and social groups frequently, and think the idea dovetails nicely with the far more commonly known theory of Family Systems, where in a dysfunctional family the people take on various roles (I would argue this is an example of said constellating of archetypes, and that Golden Child, Caretaker, Scapegoat, and Lost Child are the archetypes).

The idea that we all have a Shadow - parts of ourselves that we push away because we are ashamed of them - and that coming to terms with and being aware of it will allow us more ability to mitigate our negative characteristics is often useful as a concept. The same with the idea of a persona or personas (the example one person had of having a work Myers-Briggs that was significantly different from a home Myers-Briggs could easily be understood as a particularly well formed and useful persona). I think when people get married, or have a child, there are psychological responses where they unconsciously replicate what they have seen about those roles as well, and we can understand and discuss all of this using the concept of archetypes constellating in relationships and within individuals.

I use Myers-Briggs in a similar manner; when there is conflict, I look to see if there are any obvious points of difference, and often they fall along one of the four lines - at which point the focus of the Myers-Briggs in seeing the positives on both end becomes really useful, as is the ability to identify people near the center who can serve as translators for people on the ends. My mom once told me about a time at her job when the most Intuitive of the very Sensory Field Team would communicate with the most Sensory of the very Intuitive office team and it cut down on a huge amount of frustration and miscommunication.

None of this is easily testable, and so there are a lot of people who would dismiss it, and me, because if we can't replicate it in a lab it clearly doesn't exist. Clearly I'm not one of those people, and I firmly believe that people have too many variables to be easily replicated or tested in the lab - which is part of why experimental results tend to be so narrow with so many exceptions.



*A single subject study is when one takes a single individual and puts them through multiple experimental situations in order to draw conclusions about individual treatment. It can't easily be generalized beyond that single person, and order of tests plus internal content of subject are both significant confounds. I've only participated in one with an autistic teenager when we were trying to figure out what his reinforcers were, when I worked in a strongly data driven cognitive-behavioral-psycho school.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:29 PM on August 9 [21 favorites]


According to my girlfriend, MBTI results are greatly improved by adding the phrase "in bed" to the end of them.
posted by TedW at 7:35 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Apparently I am an INFJ. I remember this because growing up everybody told me I should be a teacher. I hated the idea.


Right now I'm teaching.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:49 PM on August 9


Thanks for sharing insights about your practice, Deoridhe, fascinating stuff.
posted by smoke at 7:50 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Deoridhe, I love your comment and insights, but I simply cannot resist.

MetaFilter: a strongly data driven cognitive-behavioral-psycho school
posted by hippybear at 10:46 PM on August 9


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: "Mind you, switching to a Big-5 approach wouldn't be any help because businesses are looking for a Harry Potter Sorting Hat, and there ain't nothing in personality psych that can give them that."

There is the old fashioned IQ test, but Griggs v Duke made that practice illegal. Given that IQ correlates with job performance and race, it seems probable that there is no test that can satisfy the requirement that it distinguish one candidate from another, and not have disparate impacts.
posted by pwnguin at 11:05 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Has anybody suffered through the color coded Insights perversion of MBTI?

At least, I think it's some kind of weird perversion of MBTI. I still haven't figured out what I was supposed to learn from it.
posted by freyley at 11:53 PM on August 9


but for some reason--despite extensive testing which has found no evidence to suggest that it does anybody any good--it continues to be widely prescribed.

Scientific-sounding flattery can get you anywhere.
posted by benzenedream at 12:31 AM on August 10


All principled psychologists rely exclusively on the Siembieda Scale, leaving MBTI for aberrant miscreants.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:46 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Saw a brain map giving locations of different functions and realized with a shock that it matched the Jungian types. Functions that fit Feeling were mostly in the right frontal lobe; Thinking, left frontal lobe; iNtuition, left parietal lobe; and Sensing, right parietal lobe.

Bodies are usually a bit asymmetrical, so it wouldn't be surprising if people favored some lobes over others, just as they favor right- or left hand, regular or goofy-foot etc. Frontal and parietal lobes are the largest and newest parts of the human brain, and these four divisions are big clear features of human gross anatomy.

The hypothesis is that asymmetries among these four major brain lobes produce Jung's personality types.

The MBTI may be somewhat misspecified because Jung, though genius enough to discern these groupings by observing his patients, didn't get all the details right; and then his theories were run through the Myers-Briggs team's test construction and Dunphy's too-symmetrical extensions.

I think you could do fMRI scans and directly measure which lobes people favor. My cousin's husband got an fMRI that showed most activity in the left frontal lobe and right parietal lobe. I asked my cousin if her husband was an ST in the Myers-Briggs typology, and she said yeah, she'd given him the test before and he'd come out ESTP.

No idea what anatomical feature introversion/extraversion might correspond to.

If lobe preference is the physical basis of Jung's types, it should be possible to tighten up the definitions a lot by basing them on groupings actually observed in the brain. Type descriptions could be better specified based on clearer data; measuring type with fMRI would help avoid problems with self-reporting; reformulated test questions could be validated against fMRI as a gold standard.

I like the Myers-Briggs types, use them a lot to think about people. It seems like there's something there, but it'd be great to have this system of ideas grounded more convincingly, and for the test questions and type descriptions to avoid sliding off into tautology.
posted by kadonoishi at 5:44 AM on August 10


But if I can't be smug over this or my internet IQ test, what's left?

I've taken this test several times, and I keep promptly forgetting what I got as it feels so useless. I know what I'm good at and bad at in terms of interpersonal relationships, but I learned that through being mindful of how I communicate, rather than a test.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:12 AM on August 10


Geeks love Meyers-Briggs Personality Tests!
posted by Legomancer at 6:28 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


The MBTI is about as reliable, repeatable, congruent and stable as polygraphs or horoscopes. Its results appear "meaningful", but repeated administration of the ritual to the same individual is highly likely to output very different results. For a test allegedly designed to measure enduring features of personality and temperament, that's just sad.

The MMPI-2, however, is a much more valid instrument, with enduring, congruent and repeatable outcomes.
posted by meehawl at 10:06 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


I don't know what you guys are talking about. Every time I take the test I get the same answer: Hufflepuff.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:30 AM on August 10 [3 favorites]


I've changed results so many times I can come out an XXXX, i.e. "you're right in the mushball middle." Even on introvert/extrovert.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:36 PM on August 10


I think that this test is BS. Akin to a Ouiji board. You can nudge it in any direction that you want and then use the outcome to excuse your shortcomings. It is the "intellectual's" astrology.
posted by futz at 10:14 PM on August 10


What Myers Briggs seems to do is ask you to describe your own personality, rephrase the description you gave and then feed it back to you. Whether the personality analysis involved is soundly based hardly matters. Some people are always astonished by how the system seems to got them so accurately, but really it's just their own self-picture recycled.
posted by Segundus at 2:01 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Any discussion of MBTI that doesn't include the concept of functions and function order, and especially anything that talks about being "x% J, y% P", is arrant bullshit. The authors of such rants don't even know that they don't even know enough to critique the theory.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:46 AM on August 11


Would you like to elaborate?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:47 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


When I 1st took it, there were lengthy descriptions of the 16 different types, and they were heavily imbued with BS. It's been (ab)used in several places I've worked, often in an unpleasant way. The 4 traits are interesting to consider, but if I'm ever in another workplace where someone wants to use it, I'm opting out.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 PM on August 13


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