I don't know if I find it difficult to talk about my feelings!
February 27, 2007 1:16 AM   Subscribe

Meyers - Briggs Personality Inventory scores seem to pop up a lot in explanations for askme questions as background on the poster to help people answer his or her questions, and occasionally I've heard people I know discussing their 'types' and how it affects their lives. Because of my own experience with the test, my knee-jerk reaction is that it seems only slightly more helpful than giving one's astrological sign as background.

I took the real test over ten years ago when I was in high school, though I don't remember my 4 letters, and I took a short version online a few minutes ago. I remember the first time I took the test feeling just like I did when I took the test just now - I simply don't know the answer to most of the questions. Would I rather read a book or go to a party? Well, it depends completely on both the book and the party - and as a nearly-30-year old almost-married lady, I must say that the parties in my life are few and far between. Other questions that leave me scratching my head include 'Objective criticism is always useful in any activity', 'When solving a problem you would rather follow a familiar approach than seek a new one', and 'Strict observance of the established rules is likely to prevent a good outcome'. My response to these questions is 'I have absolutely no idea' but there is no checkbox for that.

I am willing to accept the idea that maybe I am just living an unexamined life, but I honestly feel that I am a fairly thoughtful and introspective person. I just find that I don't have an answer for most of these questions, or if I do it's completely situational. Even fairly obvious questions like 'do you get excited easily' are pretty much impossible for me to answer. Is anyone else as confused and skeptical as me about this test? Or are you just the opposite, do you think it's really accurate and helpful and awesome? Or do you have no idea? Are my skepticism and inability to choose answers part of my personality as expressed in my 4 letter code*? Are there 'trick' questions built in to gage whether I am sure about my answers or just making guesses? I am interested in personal experiences/opinions regarding Meyers Briggs as well as links to articles or names of books that might explain the history of the test and/or any controversy surrounding it.

*I'm an eNTp according to the most-likely-not-accurate test I took online here
posted by cilantro to Health & Fitness (50 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try to answer the questions thinking not "What is the best answer?" but rather "What do I normally do in this situation?" Really try to be butally honest and don't answer how you would like things to be but rather how you know you really are. I think it also helps to take the test with a "qualified" administrator.

That being said, I also felt quite ambiguous answering many of the questions and I think a lot of it is bogus. It has its uses but the test is hardly bulletproof. It was not designed by people with any scientific training and is based on Jung's theory of types which was also not based on any scientific evidence and is largely discredited in modern cognitive psychology. There is, of course, a wiki.
posted by sophist at 1:36 AM on February 27, 2007


I tend to take most tests with a grain of salt, but in my experiences, the Meyers-Briggs seems to be pretty accurate. I've scored a very strong ENTP every time I've taken the test since high school, and it has me pretty down pat.

In relationships, I've noticed a pretty high correlation in terms of compatibility with respective, relative types. I actually had my new girlfriend take the exact test you linked to earlier today, and I was able to pinpoint her type on a sheet of paper before she even finished the test.

I've also had the experience of bonding with people incredibly fast or becoming arch nemeses. The type they all had in common? Fellow ENTPs. Once this fact is revealed, arch nemeses become instant good buddies. Something about great minds thinking alike, enjoying the same challenges, and hating on the same types of people.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:45 AM on February 27, 2007


I feel the same as you, cilantro. I haven't found this test (or any test) to be useful at all, much less an indicator of my personality or as a way to gauge prospective friends (!). The answers to the questions are too narrow, the variables are plenty, and so forth.
It may work for people who are very predictable, make the same choices often in complete disregard to the situation, engage in repetitive behaviour, and who enjoy self-fulfilling prophecies (or horoscopes).
As much as I feel my life is pretty mundane and rote, I could answer the questions many ways based on my mood, experience, the situation, and so forth. I could be a ENTP today and the opposite tomorrow. Then again, I'm 'bipolar', so it may be 'diagnosing' me perfectly well.
posted by baklavabaklava at 2:25 AM on February 27, 2007


I have problems with the Meyers-Briggs. When I read the personality descriptions, I can see myself as an ENTP, down to the letter. I have never read a more accurate description of myself.

However, every single time I have taken the test, I have scored as either ESFP or ENFP, and every time I read the descriptions, the only thing I can think is "That's not like me at all!"

It seems to me that the personality profiling is pretty accurate, but my test taking skillz totally sux0rs.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:36 AM on February 27, 2007


(Mach3avelli: Shall we be arch-nemeses now?)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:37 AM on February 27, 2007


Somewhere in the vast space that lies in between peer-reviewed clinical studies and astrology, there are some useful ideas in Myers-Briggs. I take it as a guide to some ways in which people differ. I'm an I and my partner is an E; I'm an extreme P and she's an extreme J. Those concepts, even if they're flawed as an absolute classification system, help a lot to communicate across different ways of seeing the world.

When you start dividing everyone up into 16 little boxes, and matching types to partners and careers, it all becomes a lot more baroque and a lot less useful. Take it as a vocabulary for talking about personality traits, not an all-encompassing system.

In that way, it's not very different from reading literature and using the characters as vivid archetypes of behavior you see in your everyday life. Literature isn't science, and you won't find a character that represents you exactly, but that doesn't mean that it's useless for your understanding of how people work.
posted by fuzz at 3:59 AM on February 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


M-B typing is interesting -- really what I learned from it is that I am a trained extrovert. They say not to examine your answers too closely, but I really have to think about what do I do in any given situation, and is that what I naturally want to do, or am I forced into that by some external pressure? For example, I'm really kind of hermity. I would love to stay at home all the time. In fact, I need to be able to come home to recharge (i.e., jobs w/ lots of travel = bad for me), but because I'm competitive and I literally like accomplishing things (completing projects), I have been forced to be more extroverted throughout my life. I think this is why it should be thought of as more a tendency than an actual personality bible -- it's decent enough at predicting what I will do but it's not the be-all, end-all.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:01 AM on February 27, 2007


I'm not sure I believe in all the distinctions within the Meyers-Briggs type system, and I certainly don't believe that the way people usually test for them is culture-free. For example, yes, I am an introvert, as the test says; but a lot of the questions presume very specific models of introversion and extraversion that I really don't match. On the whole, I think a lot of these tests are measuring what people believe about themselves, more than what they really are, and that they really only do that much well if you're in the target audience: a slightly credulous single urbanite with a weak sense of self and no more than two years out of the marketing degree where you took all the easiest options in your required science and humanities courses and passed them with, on average, a C-. Pardon my saying so.

As to the individual distinctions: The T/F preference, I have my doubts about, simply because many people change styles situationally. And I'm not sure that the J/P preference is dividing up the territory exactly right, either. But I firmly believe in the S/N preference. I detect it subconsciously, accurately, and all the time. My affinity for a person is overwhelmingly correlated to the strength of their N. So, in my world at least, that much of the MBTI is fact.
posted by eritain at 4:11 AM on February 27, 2007


Obligatory Skeptic's Dictionary link.
posted by madman at 4:23 AM on February 27, 2007


I had this done in college as a favor in point to my dad. It actually became very helpful when I looked at it again in grad school, because it was one of the few documents I had that gave me an insight about the things in my personality I should be working to stop doing for management's sake and my own. I plan to do another one soon, to see where I have come to.
posted by parmanparman at 4:51 AM on February 27, 2007


I felt the same way you did until my work brought in a professional consultant who gave us a training on the topic. Then, it made a lot more sense and seemed less whimsical. In fact, most of us came in skeptical and taking issue with the questions ("'Would I rather work for a boss who is kind or who thinks clearly?' Who says I can't find both??"). By the end, most of us were much bigger fans. Now, it randomly comes up in office conversation to talk about, and better accept, the differences between ourselves. Obviously that doesn't prove the test is "right," and maybe we could have done that without the test, but it helped.

It was helpful to objective amorphous aspects of personality and distill them into 4 categories. The one that most helped me was J vs. P. This now jumps out at me about everybody I know. I'm very much a P (spontaneous, always coming up with new possibilities) and bad at J skills (planning ahead, coming to decisions). Now, I'm less critical of that in myself, because I can realize it's not just a weakness but something that's tied in to certain strengths. I can think objectively about the kinds of J input I need to get from time to time, and this has helped me pick up J skills faster than I was learning them before.

It also helps with understanding others. My dad is probably ISTJ, the strong guardian type. To me, he sometimes feels like "a downer." Once I understood how the S (focus on real-life details) combines with the J (keeping things in order), I could better understand better how he saw things, I could see what was good about seeing things that way, and I could understand why him seeing the world that way would feel like a downer to someone like me.

Sure there are critiques, but it sounds like you might still be on the rising side of the parabola and that you will find it more useful as you learn more.
posted by salvia at 5:01 AM on February 27, 2007


The questions are not supposed to be blanket questions. Just answers them promptly, with what you believe most exemplifies you, even if its only a 51%/49% split. If you take a good test that reports you're exact scores for each letter, you can opt to neglect pairs where there's not much difference.

And as far as them being "accurate", I've watched a set of videos for each of the 4 main temperments (NT, NS, FJ, and FP). The section on my type described me almost exactly. I was literally speaking the sentences along with the instructor the first time I saw it. On the other hand, the other three we're almost nothing like me, and in fact it made most of the human race seem very foreign to me.

These tests might not work perfectly for everyone, but their results are often a good starting place in understand how a person ticks.
posted by comwiz at 5:03 AM on February 27, 2007


I find tests like these handy for identifying people who think tests like these produce meaningful data, so that I can avoid them. If presented with one of these tests during a job interview, it instantly tells me that I wouldn't suit the place.

Frankly, these tests are about as accurate as the cliched stand-up routine of "White people drive like X while black people drive like Y". They're typically so far off as to be useless for a large minority of any population. If bridges were built like these tests are designed, they'd fall apart before the 10th car made it all the way across.
posted by krisjohn at 5:03 AM on February 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


Actually, fuzz said what I meant much better than I did.
(we must be the same M-B type OMG!)
posted by salvia at 5:12 AM on February 27, 2007


+1 to krisjohn. its simply a more complicated version of astrology, or determining personality by bloodtype.. of course, it will accurately describe some people, simply as a function of numbers (as will astrology and bloodtype sometimes be accurate) it corresponds well with the (largely) American desire to see absolutely nothing as a weakness or flaw, but simply a variant beyond one's control.. same vein as "you're not a lazy kid, you have ADHD.... you're not fat, stress is slowing down your metabolism!"
posted by modernnomad at 5:24 AM on February 27, 2007


Just answers them promptly, with what you believe most exemplifies you, even if its only a 51%/49% split.

Honestly, the idea that any kind of scientifically useful data could come from that kind of process makes me laugh. Or, what krisjohn just said. Using the M-B as a general starting point for a handful of types of people, like fuzz describes, seems about as far as it should go. The analogy with how most folks (mis)use astrology seems very apt.
posted by mediareport at 5:33 AM on February 27, 2007


I think these things get less useful the more you trend towards the middle. I have this tendency to take personality tests and either go "Err, neither?" for the answer choices, or to have my results change based on my whims and whimsy.

I tend to wish the questions were more related to specific instances. While I tend to get way too emotionally involved in the problems of my close acquaintances, the problems of people who are not terribly close I am significantly more emotionally detached. And regardless of my emotional attachment, I believe that I am capable of being unbiased.

I certainly believe that people have different personality types, but for me, the best way for me to figure it out is to determine whether or not interaction with a particular person causes me to cringe a little on the inside.
posted by that girl at 5:43 AM on February 27, 2007


I'm no stranger to the MB. I took on my own once. Took it once by a therapist's orders. Took it again for college last semester. This spanned over.. about 5 years. And the results, if I remember correctly, were always about the same.

As I said last semester, a human is (or should be) far too complex for some test to ever measure/indicate. But with that being said I like things like the MB. I find them amusing. And I believe there is a purpose and they can be useful but only if you're answering the questions right. Answer honestly. What would you most likely/rather do? Don't get me wrong, it's hard to answer sometimes. I know the feeling of going both ways depending on circumstances. But you know.. who am I kidding? I know what I am by nature.

I'm an INTP. I'm 50/50 on the P/J. Which I find intersting. Another thing I found interesting was that the last time I got 90% for I. I feel my results do match very well. But that's just for me.

Again, it's mostly amusement for me. And it certainly isn't the final word on who/what you are. In fact, don't even worry about it. It's really kind of silly.
posted by VegaValmont at 5:45 AM on February 27, 2007


I have the pretty much the same opinion as you, cilantro. The answer to nearly every question is "uh, it depends." I haven't taken the test for years, but I recall scoring quite close to the middle on most of the letters. I think I was an ENTP, too.

I remember that it was nott a profound insight to me that I'm not as extroverted as I may seem, but this seems to surprise other people. It can be useful for being more tolerant of other people by providing more satisfying explanations for aspects of their personalities, as salvia mentions.

(Glanced at the short test. "Enjoys soap operas?" Egads.)
posted by desuetude at 6:15 AM on February 27, 2007


its simply a more complicated version of astrology, or determining personality by bloodtype

Oh, come on now. It may not produce meaningful results for describing people who score close to 50% on one of the descriptors, but it's not psuedo-science. "Would you rather read a book or go to a party?" is an attempt to classify the person on their extroversion by examining their extroversion. There's no questions on the tests (that I've seen) that have nothing to do with the characteristics being "tested".

"Would you rather eat oranges or apples?" OMG YOU ARE AN INFP

The biggest problem, I think, with the MB is that most people are really bad at admitting things about themselves. I think if you asked people to answer the questions for their closest friend, you'd often get different answers.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:33 AM on February 27, 2007


It is a good layman's tool for building work groups. It also makes for interesting conversation at the bar around 1:45 am.

Though I do find it curious that a lot of people self described as _NTPs post to this question... I being another ENTP.
posted by bkeene12 at 6:35 AM on February 27, 2007


I was a non-believer on the basis that it had no scientific support ... until I scored an ENTJ. It stroked my ego enough. They're a really big deal in business schools, which is probably why I didn't enjoy business school.
posted by geoff. at 6:44 AM on February 27, 2007


I have always been reported an INFJ. I've done various tests online over the past 10 years with the same result. I don't put a lot of stock in this kind of testing, but I do think the description is accurate, and I in fact find it kind of reassuring that all of my seemingly bizarre quirks and flaws sound so normal when they're considered as a "type". I also just think it's interesting to do when you're bored. (I've also done the "slut test" elsewhere, but I won't reveal my score to you people.)

When I'm answering the questions I read them very literally. If something says "always" or "never" then I will usually mark no, because most things depend on circumstance. If it says that I "agree that..." or "feel that..." then I mark yes if I feel I can comfortably agree with that sentence while still acknowledging that situations vary. I also try to answer fairly quickly, so that I don't have time to put a lot of unnecessary analysis into the questions.
posted by loiseau at 7:00 AM on February 27, 2007


"Would you rather read a book or go to a party?" is an attempt to classify the person on their extroversion by examining their extroversion.

What book? What party? These are not either/or concepts. And that goes for almost every single question on the test. (And what do they mean by party? Large formal social function? Bunch'a strangers getting drunk? House full of friends?)

It may be less pseudo-sciencey than astrology, but it is amusing to me that my "type" lines up rather neatly with my "sign."
posted by desuetude at 7:19 AM on February 27, 2007


Results can change over time. Also, the test tends to be more helpful in self-evaluation if it evidences a strong inclination towards one tendency over the other. For instance, if you take the test once per month for four months (to average out the answers that might change day-to-day), and every time you take it you are strong P (as opposed to J), then maybe that's something to take a closer look at. Maybe this explains why you and "J people" get frustrated with each other.

The test is helpful when it becomes clear that there's an imbalance; t can help you think about how different someone else's approach is.
I'm very much J, and knowing that helps me recognize that a P person is less likely to be interested in being on time, or setting up a schedule or making definite plans. Knowing that I'm more likely to want these things than the 'average' person makes me more flexible when people balk at my need for defined plans.
I wouldn't necessarily need the test to figure this out for myself eventually, but I think it helped me figure it out sooner than I would have on my own.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:20 AM on February 27, 2007


Many of the questions are impossible to answer without context. You find it difficult to talk about your feelings.
No, I just tend not to do it. You feel at ease in a crowd. Of musicians or soccer fans? Strict observance of the established rules is likely to prevent a good outcome. Certainly not in traffic.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 7:34 AM on February 27, 2007


I took this test in College came out as an ENTP, and now I test as an ISTJ but I can pretty much pinpoint the events that caused the shift.

It is not science and does not explain all behaviour, it can show tedency and preference which is as close to "science" as the social sciences get. I suppose this makes me a de facto believer in this test.
posted by Deep Dish at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2007


Academic psychologist here.

Among personality/social psychologists, the MBTI has essentially zero credibility:

- There's no good scientific basis for the four dimensions. They're based on a layperson's interpretation of Jung, who in no way pretended to be an empiricist.

- The personality descriptions are vague enough that it's easy to find a way in which they might apply to you (the Barnum effect).

- The statistical assumption behind dividing people into two dichotomous groups is that the underlying distribution is bimodal. However, testing has shown that the MBTI dimensions have normal distributions, which means that you can't just dichotomize people by splitting down the middle, and this is why:

- Test-retest reliability for the MBTI is unacceptably low. On average, 50% of people test as a different type on retest.

- Many of the items are just atrocious: vague, confusing, culturally specific, and subject to desirability biases (one answer is clearly "better" than the other).

I am sympathetic to the idea that MBTI can be a useful way of thinking about people even if you don't take it seriously on a scientific level. The problem is that to many laypeople it "feels scientific," and the patina of credibility and objectivity lead to it being used in places (e.g. HR) where it is at best useless and might even be actively harmful.
posted by myeviltwin at 8:01 AM on February 27, 2007 [9 favorites]


People who can answer the test questions vs. people who get hung up on the details seems like yet another descriptor.
posted by smackfu at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ouch... Those folks who don't put much stock in MBTI - geez, tell us how you really feel.

Be aware that the "accuracy" of any personality testing online, M-B typing included, is about on par with the accuracy of online IQ tests, which is to say, hardly. If you want to seriously explore the ideas behind MBTI, you're probably wasting your time online - get a decent book.

Several years ago, I worked for a large management consulting firm and we explored M-B types in a workshop. It was illuminating to compare the results of the tests with my actual experiences in relating to certain people, especially those people that I didn't get along with so well, and it gave me some useful tips in how to bridge those gaps better. I also realized that the person we are at work isn't necessarily the person we are at heart - I'm a classic introvert, for example, but my work requires me to be extroverted, and so I am (though it causes me more stress than it does my coworkers). These kinds of things are useful to consider when trying to understand why people behave the way they do.

Granted, people are complex, and no "personality test" that attempts to pigeonhole everyone is going to be accurate all the time. But please - those folks who are comparing it to blood types and astrological signs are stretching a bit in the opposite direction. (Last I checked I didn't have to answer about a hundred questions to determine my blood type.) Certainly, don't expect it to tell you who you are - if you can't figure this out on your own, no book or test is going to do much to clarify things for you. And don't use it as the basis for any major decisions - it's not rocket science. But if you consider MBTI objectively as one more way to consider what makes people tick, you may find that it illuminates some things about yourself and your relationships with others.
posted by herichon at 8:27 AM on February 27, 2007


I've took the test in HS, college, and grad school - and I've consistently been an INTP - the older I've gotten, the more the I/E score has veered towards the middle. So as someone said above, I think extroversion can be forced upon you. For me, that was a career thing - I'm a strategy consultant, and like Geoff above, went to business school -- I am absolutely not cut out for either of these things, I'm not competitive and I'm not a salesperson, I am however quite analytical. I realized this about myself long before I started thinking about Myers-Briggs again - but my results from the test (INTP) confirmed it. So, for me anyway, M-B was spot on and while I don't take incredibly seriously, it has been helpful in figuring out my next steps.
posted by echo0720 at 8:29 AM on February 27, 2007


One additional gripe that I have with MB is the assigning to one category or the other for each of the four pairs. Imagine two people, and (arbitrarily) the T-F pair.
Max is very, very T, and also very F. He gets called T.
Minnie is somewhat F, but not much T at all. He gets called F.
Max, a T, is more F than Minnie, an F.
Sure seems like a flaw to me.
posted by daisyace at 8:35 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


What book? What party? These are not either/or concepts. And that goes for almost every single question on the test. (And what do they mean by party? Large formal social function? Bunch'a strangers getting drunk? House full of friends?)

A book of your own choosing. A party, like the kind of party you most likely to attend the next time you attend a party. The open-endedness of the questions is designed to make them answerable by the largest number of people possible, and in so doing, makes it completely unanswerable for some people.

Yes, I would rather go to Helen Mirren's next birthday party than read the phonebook. And yet, I would rather read "Geek Love" than attend a kegger at a frat. That doesn't mean the question is unanswerable. It's just makes it easier to write than "Given your personal experience with reading books and going to parties, which activity has provided you with more pleasure?"
posted by 23skidoo at 8:42 AM on February 27, 2007


its simply a more complicated version of astrology

You were born at 6:24 am? You're an INFJ!

(Did I miss the part in astrology where we get to pick which sign best applies?)
posted by salvia at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2007


I used to be a big MBTI fan when I tested as an INTJ, then ten years on I took the test and found I was supposed to be an INFJ.

My problem with it metaphorically is that it seems to imply that there are four mental dipswitches each set to I or E, N or S, etc, when the human experience seems far more varied than that. A spectrum with plotting would seem more accurate, but would be far less useful in stereotyping people.
posted by drezdn at 9:28 AM on February 27, 2007


My understanding of MBTI is that it is very unlike astrology in that MBTI measures your preferences in actions and thought whereas astrology tells you what your preferences would be based on your 'sign.' Essentially your MBTI type is just the closest MB personality that you seem to resemble. Though some purists would insist that one's type stays the same throughout their lifetime, I tend to believe that one can indeed change from an E to an I or begin to see things more J than P. It is not set in the stars; it's how you tend to act. With MB categorization, the system deduces other facets of your personality that may be associated with your combination of traits. This certainly doesn't pigeonhole you as acting this way forever and certainly does not say that you always act this way.

My favorite MBTI test is here:
http://similarminds.com/jung.html

My favorite MBTI descriptions are here:
http://www.trendal.org/myersbriggs/personhome.htm

FYI, I am an ENTJ and every friend of mine who I've shown their description to has been blown away by its accuracy. Scientific or not, I think learning more about ourselves and others could never hurt anyone.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


madman's Skeptic's dictionary link has a good explanation of the intentions of MBTI categories.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 9:43 AM on February 27, 2007


smackfu wrote...

People who can answer the test questions vs. people who get hung up on the details seems like yet another descriptor.


This is why virtually all self-tests for personality are highly suspect. There are also factors like self-knowledge and social conformity (will you answer as you are, or as you "should" be) that make this sort of self-reporting pointless from a scientific perspective.

Which isn't to say that the tests aren't both fun and useful. As others have mentioned, the M-B perspective on how to categorize humans can lead to some useful insights. Of course, so can the zodiac, but then you wouldn't get to take this cool test.
posted by tkolar at 9:58 AM on February 27, 2007


It's horoscopes for people who believe in science! Seriously, tho, I am a huge MBTI fan. I've taken it several times, always scored as an INTJ and the description fits me very well. Unfortunately myeviltwin's breakdown of its flaws makes too much sense. Damn. Another illusion shattered.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:40 AM on February 27, 2007


I've always thought that the whole thing was a barrel of crap used by emo girls on okcupid that liked to put labels on themselves.
posted by drstein at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2007


I think the value in this test, as with every pop-psych test, is in how you think about and react to the information. Once, on a cruise, a woman did dendrographology workshops. Basically, you drew a tree, and then she described what different elements of possible tree drawings meant about your personality.

At the end of the workshop, one person was feeling really happy, because her tree had shown her to be a really open person, and all of her friends acknowledged that this was true about her. Another person was acknowledging that she really felt the loss of a friendship more than she was letting on. And my mother and I had an interesting conversation about her tendency to use guilt to manipulate people.

None of that was really because drawing a tree is the surefire way to find the window to your true soul. But because with all of these types of activities, it makes us pause and think about what we do value and how we do behave. It's that opportunity to think about things that matters.

That said, MB consultants charge absolutely bucketloads of money to do this sort of thing, by pretending it's real science. That's scammy.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2007


The Big Five personality traits are like Myers-Briggs, but with psychologists and real data. There is some overlap between Big Five and Myers Briggs as well.

FWIW, the description of my Myers-Briggs personality type fits me quite well.
posted by callmejay at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2007


myeviltwin nailed it. Not scientifically valid, but it can LOOK strangely scientific and is subject to much abuse.

I used to administer these types of instruments for a living (still do occasionally) and I used to get into heated arguments with corporate folks who embraced any instrument such as this one as scientifically valid. To me, they are like guns. They can be useful or dangerous depending upon how you use them. Here is what I always told my clients:

TO BE USED FOR DISCUSSION ONLY. NOT FOR DIAGNOSIS.

These instruments can be useful in that they give many people a common language and set of tools for talking about differences and the results of those differences. That's it. No pencil and paper test can sum up your life or personality with a label or acronym. Especially a self report test.
posted by jeanmari at 11:21 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I took the test posted a few comments above and got INTP. I am just all over the map I guess.

For those who believe that in order for something to be scientific it must make a falsifiable claim, then MBTI doesn't make the cut as there's no sure fire way to do that with it.
posted by drezdn at 11:43 AM on February 27, 2007


One problem with the test is that it can only gauge your own perception of how you behave/feel rather than how you might actually behave or feel. Ex: "You often spend time thinking of how things could be improved" I could think once a month is "often," whereas someone else could think once every ten minutes isn't. That says as much about what you think "often" means as it does about what proportion of the time you spend considering ways to improve things.

Having said that, the first half (IN) of it is pretty consistent for me over multiple re-dos, but for the last two, I've seen FJ, FP and TP.
posted by juv3nal at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2007


I for one think Meyers - Briggs is pretty amazing, even if it's unscientific. I'm an INTP - that's what I got in high school, college, after college, every time. And every one of my close friends is also an INTP. (Now that I think about that, it makes me sound a bit judgmental of people who "aren't like me.") And I just bond more easily with them and feel close to them faster. And every INTP I know has no problem with the questions or answering them or feeling like they're il/legitimate. So maybe - just maybe - the test does a good job of taking that into account?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2007


My experience with the Meyers-Briggs is pretty much like what Fuzz describes. The person doing the presentation ran the whole show like, "Hi, I'm Debbie and I'm a Leo and...."

What I found it works very well for is understanding people who are not like me. I am very much an E and a P type, for example. I have tried really hard to understand that some of my co-workers are I types and my trying to get to know them, is their bugging the hell out of them; or that my wife who is very much a J type is NOT going to appreciate my changing some plan or another on short notice based on some potential minor benefit.

When the sun sets it's half a byte of data, so don't expect too much from it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:59 PM on February 27, 2007


I took a personality test on an old DEC computer way back when. It asked a few questions, and came back with a suggestion about your ideal career. Everybody who took the test was delighted with the program and its spot-on recommendations. It turned out that the program only ever chose from a list of about 3 suggestions, flatteringly worded.

I can see the temptation to design more professional sounding (and money-making?) tests long the same lines. HR might want an accurate test, but how do they judge accuracy? almost certainly by people saying "Yes, that has hit me off to a T".

Note that asking flaky questions about how you see yourself would work well for this model, whereas really working out your actual personality or even how you appear to others would be a lot harder to do with only a questionnaire that you answer yourself.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:20 PM on February 27, 2007


If you're really interested in what your M-B type is and don't trust the online quizzes (which can be very innacurate), the book Do What You Are is a great tool. It's about careers, but it's even more about personality types. Instead of giving you a quiz, it breaks down the different letters and describes them and lets you decide which one you are. It really makes you examine yourself, instead of asking a bunch of questions that can be very vague and popping out an answer that doesn't mean anything to you.

I understand people who are skeptical about the M-B, but I think some of them might miss the point. It's not to put people in a box, but just to help people understand themselves and each other. So someone who is, for example, a Thinker, can understand why a friend/coworker/whomever might seem irrational in their way of thinking- they may be a Feeler, who think in an entirely different way than a Thinker.

To me, it differs from an astrological sign because it's about looking at characteristics in yourself and understanding how you think and function, unlike astrology which looks at things that are totally unrelated to personality (birth date, time, the stars).
posted by sherber at 8:22 PM on February 27, 2007


People who can answer the test questions vs. people who get hung up on the detailsactually think about them seems like yet another descriptor.

Fixed that for ya.
posted by eritain at 1:35 AM on March 30, 2007


« Older What about WWOOF?   |   I am curious about how some people manage to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.