I don’t know why, but the personality test calling itself the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (and the added Keirsey Temperaments) keeps popping up again, so I thought I’d take a minute to remind everyone that it’s about as useful as astrology.
If you haven’t, by some cultural fluke, ever been subjected to the Myers-Briggs personality test, this is just a healthy reminder that it’s not based on anything inherently true. Myers-Briggs sorts people into sixteen “types” based on four dichotomies:
- Introversion vs. Extraversion (yes, they spell extroversion with an “a” for some reason)
- iNtuition vs. Sensing (yes, iNtuition, because I was already taken)
- Feeling vs. Thinking
- Perception vs. Judging (why they can’t stick to either regular nouns or gerunds still boggles me)
So, you might be an INFP, or an ENFJ maybe. An INTP. You get the idea. Sixteen combinations.
Except that when people are tested, they don’t show any evidence for being sortable into these dichotomies, except maybe introversion and extroversion. For these to be in any way shape or form relevant, people would have to be able to be clearly divided between the sides of the dichotomies. But instead most people are somewhere in the middle, making the distinctions derived from these so-called dichotomies based on almost entirely arbitrary dividing lines in the middle of normal distributions.
It also relies on a self-reporting quiz, which is more about what you value than what you are. If asked how you respond in a given situation, you’ll always say you’ll do the thing you want to believe you’ll do, even when in reality you might do something else.
Furthermore, it’s unreliable. Some studies have shown that after as little as five weeks as many as 3/4 of people’s results had changed.
All this information is available on Wikipedia, by the way. This isn’t a secret.
Myers-Briggs is arbitrary and inconsistent, and as a result has no predictive power regarding how a person will act in any group setting.
Knowing your Myers-Briggs type is literally no more useful than knowing your astrological star sign, for all the reflection of reality it presents. But hey, I’m not that much of a kill-joy. If you want to break the ice with your new coworkers by taking it for fun, or, heck, go to a fortune-teller to laugh about the results, go right ahead. Just don’t try to plan your business around it, because it’s not a good idea.
Here, have a Vox video that says the same thing.
Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.