Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

What the Blank Are You?

From a novel by Salman Rushdie:

What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind of idea that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, be smacked to bits, but on the hundredth time, will change the world?

“Oh, you’re INTJ,” she said matter-of-factly. “I’m ENFP.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Was that a personality test, a compatibility test, or a glorified horoscope? How accurately can a test summarize a person’s personality if it provides at best four bits of information? Did that question imply that I’m INTJ, an information theorist, or just a nerd? Perhaps all three.

Maybe the Internet could end my internal monologue. Wikipedia’s answer was partially helpful:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to identify certain psychological differences according to the typological theories of Carl Gustav Jung as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types (English edition, 1923).

[…]

The scientific basis of the MBTI has been questioned. Neither Katharine Cook Briggs nor Isabel Briggs Myers had any scientific qualifications in the field of psychometric testing. Furthermore, Carl Jung’s theory of psychological type, which the MBTI attempts to operationalize, is not based on any scientific studies. Jung’s methods primarily included introspection and anecdote, methods largely rejected by the modern field of psychology. However, extensive subsequent studies using the MBTI assessment have shown increasing reliability and validity over the last 50 years of use and research.

Should a test be taken seriously just because it has Jung‘s name associated with it? Is it more descriptive than a quiz that tells us which character we are on The Simpsons (I’m Otto Mann the Bus Driver) or Sex in the City (I’m 50% Miranda, 30% Charlotte, 20% Carrie, 0% Samanta)?

Who cares? It’s been a couple years since I took the online MBTI, but if you’re looking for a four-letter acronym that sounds cool, try this one.

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