Sometimes INTJ, other times ISTJ
February 9, 2016 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Depending on the various Myers-Briggs tests that I take, I either end up with an INTJ or ISTJ result but they are always fairly equal (53% vs 47%, etc.). My understanding is the N and S are very different. What does it mean to be about equal for both?
posted by byhp to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Many people can switch between Myers-Briggs categories, depending on mood, personal circumstances and age. S basically means you are a detail person, N a big picture person but it is quite possible to be a bit of both, which I am and you apparently are also.
posted by TheRaven at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2016

It means the test is bullshit and you shouldn't lend it much credence.
It means you're normal.
I'm straight down the center line on every metric and get a different mix of letters whenever I take it. It's like a damn boggle set every time.
In short: it doesn't mean a damn thing.
posted by phunniemee at 2:06 PM on February 9, 2016 [33 favorites]

In the MBTI mythology, it's pretty normal to not skew one way or the other, or to situationally be more intuitive or sensing. (They'd call it "IxTJ".)

In modern psychometrics, MBTI has been on the outs for about 20 years.
posted by supercres at 2:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I run ENTJ, but very close to the line on N versus S. (To me, the difference is abstract versus practical.). I agree with TheRaven that you can be both, and think that is how I tend too.
posted by bearwife at 2:14 PM on February 9, 2016

One thing it could mean is that the items addressing S and N don't do a great job of grasping those concepts. Or, that the underlying constructs that S- and N-related items are supposed to measure actually overlap (with each other and/or other constructs), or are not actually distinct (i.e. that Sness and Nness have been poorly conceived and articulated, in this theory). Or that those are distinct concepts, but people can have whatever S is supposed to be as well as whatever N is supposed to be, i.e. that those aren't opposed.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:31 PM on February 9, 2016

Because the test has been debunked in terms of having predictive power, its best use is as an aid in self-understanding. Which means: don't worry about it too much. It just means that for this particular personality metric, you either are not very strongly on one side OR you switch depending on context. You are the best judge of which is the most accurate.

I have taken it several times and am fixed on three of the factors but tend to go back and forth between the feeling and thinking designation. I think that's kind of cool - it means I am pretty balanced between my head and my heart. Likewise, I bet you are pretty balanced in this one sensing/inuiting factor.
posted by lunasol at 2:33 PM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just by virtue of asking this question, I think you have found the answer - no testing required.
posted by NoDef at 2:34 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

It means that they're using a discrete variable to measure something continuous.

Consider the case of someone who's bisexual taking a test where the categories are just "straight" and "gay". Sometimes that person will be considered straight, sometimes gay. In reality, they're in between, but the test is poorly-designed, and can't capture that reality.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:36 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

Personality traits are a continuum, not a dichotomy. It means you've got a little of column A, some of column B.

If you consider the MBTI useful (and not everyone does, as shown in the answers), it's a good thing to be in the middle like that. A lot of MBTI-takers want to see themselves in a tidy category, thinking it will help them better understand themselves, but in practical terms being in the middle helps you relate to people on both sides of the continuum.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I either end up with an INTJ or ISTJ result but they are always fairly equal (53% vs 47%, etc.).

This is partly a function of the number of questions. How many questions the test asks influences the percentage number you are given.

My understanding is the N and S are very different.
Then your understanding is likely incomplete. IIRC, the test posits that we each have some of each in us and it is a continuum. So an extrovert has moments when they are shy and quiet and introvert has social needs, but they each have more of something and less of something else. Some testing tools make it clearer than others that it is a continuum and not an either/or switch.

What does it mean to be about equal for both?

It means a) you do not lean too heavily either way and b) you have a bit more flexibility than average to go either way.

But as others have said, it is just some artificial categories someone made up that doesn't have any inherent truth to it. If you find it useful as a tool for insight into how you operate, great! If you don't, no big. Go look for something that makes more sense to you.
posted by Michele in California at 2:38 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

My answer to almost all of the questions on the Myers-Briggs assessment is "it depends". Party or reading? Depends on whether I just went to a party, how tired I am, how long it's been since I socialized, how into the book I am, etc. My personality is an important factor, but it interacts with my environment, recent experiences, health, and other factors to determine individual decisions.
posted by amtho at 2:39 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I took mine pass/fail and failed. (JK.) As a mini experiment I took the test 4 times in the last two years and have changed every time. That does not mean the test is worthless, but it does imply to me that it is just a snapshot of a brief period of time.
posted by AugustWest at 2:42 PM on February 9, 2016

A lot of people are saying that the test is not consistent, but I've always gotten ISTJ results, taking it several times over a period of ten years. So I think that if you're really skewed to one behavior set, you will probably get it consistently, but most people do change their behaviors/thinking/etc, or waffle between two not-so-different extremes. Also, taking different versions of the test will certainly matter. Having the variation does not surprise me too much -- as someone said above, it's perfectly reasonable to be both a big-picture person but to also be attentive to detail.
posted by possibilityleft at 2:53 PM on February 9, 2016

It's a continuum (theoretically). I'm E half the time and I half the time because I am sort of in the middle on the extrovert / introvert thing. I never change N vs S because I am way on the N end of the spectrum. So it probably means you can toggle back and forth between seeing the big concepts and potentials vs seeing the concrete details and present realities.
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on February 9, 2016

My take is that for people who are strongly at either end of the spectrum in each of the 4 areas, the MBTI can offer repeatable results that people often find useful and illuminating. Those folks are the ones who then champion the assessment because it works for them. However, if you are more toward the center on one or more of the categories, then the results are less useful.

I've found the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment to be more "spot on" for the people I know who've done it. The assessment tells you your top 5 strengths from a pool of 34 possible categories, and when you take the assessment you're asked to indicate a rating of how much a particular example is like you or not (not a binary yes/no), so the results are much more fine tuned. $15 online if you're curious.
posted by msbubbaclees at 3:21 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

As someone who used to be really into MBTI for several years, I'll agree with the common criticisms of trying to jam a continuum into a binary, but I'll also add that the N-S axis is particularly badly described by pretty much all online tests. Most of them heavily imply that N folk are the supersmart, head in the clouds, special snowflakes whereas S folk are the simpleminded majority who actually keep the world running by doing all the stuff the Ns don't want to do.

Needless to say, this does not accurately reflect reality or actual MBTI theory and gets very confusing and irritating if you see yourself as fairly practical or detail-oriented without being a complete idiot (or big-picture oriented without being stuck in your head all the time imagining new solutions to world hunger, etc). My guess is that this is why you're coming up as N or S depending on how exactly the questions are worded.

If you really want to figure out your "true" type, I'd try to read up more on the theory and completely ignore the tests. They're a starting point at best. And keep in mind that you might not actually fit into any of the 16 types very well, even if you manage to analyze yourself completely accurately, and that's ok.
posted by randomnity at 3:42 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're deciding between ISTJ and INTJ, the difference is in what your dominant function is. Either it's introverted sensing (Si) or introverted intuition (Ni). Si basically uses past sensory impressions and experience to determine how to act in a situation; Ni looks to the future and the big picture to determine how to act. (This is super-boiled down, obviously.) So which are you best at? Do you look to the past or to the future? Do you use your senses more often or your gut feeling?

Another way to try to determine your type is to determine what your inferior function is -- what do you do the worst. If you're an ISTJ, your inferior function is extroverted intuition (Ne) -- when you're stressed, do you freak yourself out imagining every possible scenario that could occur? If you're an INTJ, your inferior is extroverted sensing (Se) -- when stressed, do you get reckless and indulge in sensory experiences, not thinking at all about the consequences?

Online tests don't do a good job of measuring the functions, which is really what you need to understand what type you are. So I agree with randomnity to read more on the theory and that you won't fit one of the 16 types exactly, because, you know, you're a human being with your own experiences and goals and hang-ups that a test just can't measure.
posted by pised at 4:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

What does it mean to be about equal for both?

Honestly it doesn't mean anything. Myers Briggs had no empirical basis underlying it, the questions are not rigorously put together etc. It is no different to a personality quiz in a issue of cosmopolitan except it has a veneer of respectability. Please don't put too much weight into it.
posted by smoke at 7:02 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I took the test (or a bunch of tests based on it) and was an INTJ, and then a year or two later I was suddenly ISTP. I don't think it matters at all. I remember when I took the test or one modeled after Briggs-Meyer in high school, it told me which careers I should go into (I actually think I did end up doing so, but not because of the test). Other than that, I'm not sure what usefulness knowing your Briggs-Meyer personality is. When I thought I was an INTJ, which is rare, I thought, "Oh, cool, that explains things" but also "oh shit, this sucks." Now that I'm apparently an ISTP, I've decided the test doesn't actually mean anything.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:51 PM on February 9, 2016

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