All models are broken, some are useful.– George E. P. Box
Submit. Click. Your personality results are in: ISFJ, CS DISC style, Enneagram 2w1, tritype 269, sp/so, Socionics IEI.
And…let the games begin. Follow a few typology social media accounts here and there. Board a few friends upon the personality train, binge on some relatable Tumblr feeds and subreddits, and enjoy the ride. Until your type eventually gets questioned, often with a bout of rage. And—surprise, surprise!—shit hits the fan.
Take precautions in falling privy to biases while taking the tests and (mis?)interpreting your results. If it sounds too good to be true, it may be time to step way back and reconsider why you decided to take a crack at a personality test in the first place.
MBTI®: The Statistics and Numbers
In the case of personality typology specifically, it’s easy to give credit to sheer popularity alone: MBTI® is the leading hiring tool, despite the original comments from the mother-daughter duo to be used against such purposes.
Studies have found that over 50% of participants have shifts in their MBTI® type over the course of just over one month. That’s half of the sample. As for participants whose type results remained consistent, there remained no viable method to confirm accuracy from the get-go.
Which result, then, is the most correct out of the multiple outcomes?
Are personalities dependent upon extraneous variables such as mood—or is self-awareness truly a non-existent concept? There are strengths and limitations to each model or system, and the famous MBTI® proposed by mother-daughter duo Briggs and Myers is no exception:
- Test takers, after 5 weeks, there is a 50% chance of falling into a different personality category (Journal of Career Planning and Employment, 1993).
- Team-building activities and manager-employee relationships failed to be predicted from the Briggs & Myers personality model.
Jung himself also cautioned against using his theories to sort people into boxes:
“Every individual is an exception to the rule…[to] stick labels on people at first sight [is] nothing but a childish parlor game.”– Carl G. Jung, Psychoanalyst
Hidden Biases in Self-Testing Personality
Having self-knowledge without practical application is next to futile—and understanding one’s personality is no exception. While the popular personality instrument has its fair share of research, it’s still subject to heavy criticism from scientific communities and the general public alike.
Internal biases of the typology community include the heavy Intuitive bias (where Sensors are perceived to be less “interesting” or “intelligent”), the rampant explosion of Internet INFJs who claim to be part of the “rarest” group in the world, despite lacking a reliable worldwide database of personality types to exist.
Relying on self-testing alone can be misleading, as it omits the important insights of another person, which can be missed by the original tester. Alternative personality theories and assessments such as the 16PF Questionnaire provide a more holistic look at the characteristics and traits each individual possesses.
“Self-knowledge involves relationship. To know oneself is to study one self in action with another person. Relationship is a process of self evaluation and self revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself—to be is to be related.”– Bruce Lee, Actor & Martial Artist
Personality Type Results: Another Way to Look at Them
At best, personality typology can be freeing, instead of limiting. If used well, it provides an incredibly insightful framework to make sense of and better communicate with the people around us. Think growth, development, and measurable change. Improved relationships, higher empathy, and more ways to embrace the human condition.
However, once it escalates into a type of infallible doctrine or be-all and end-all, then danger awaits, ready to pounce at any second. Rather than pigeonholing others or compartmentalizing people into boxes, personality typology can be better applied in various fictitious settings and fantasy worlds.
For example, character dialogue and narrative design can gain a serious edge by implementing the principles of personality typology. Movie heros and heroines. Television scripts. Music video personas. Brand voices, UX and personas. All that good artistic jazz.
Final Thoughts: Personality Type Results
Human nature is endlessly complex—and personality types are an extremely reductionist approach to explain the workings behind our diverse minds.
Alternative approaches to personality psychology, such as behavioral epigenetics or positive psychology can open doors to impactful, effective new technology to promote wellbeing and productivity.
“When science, art, literature, and philosophy are simply the manifestation of personality they are on a level where glorious and dazzling achievements are possible, which can make a man’s name live for thousands of years.”– Denis Diderot, French Philosopher & Writer
Behavioral data, or B-data, provides information to natural and unconscious movements, which can be more accurate cues to an individual’s personality. As AI and facial recognition technology develops, researchers step closer to the specific tells which reveal insightful findings on our behavior.
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