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Illustration by: Steve Johnson
  1. Sensing or Intuitive (S/N)
  2. Thinking or Feeling (T/F)
  3. Judging or Perceiving (J/P)
  4. Assertive or Turbulent (A/T)
  • Creative
  • Emotionally blunt
  • Spontaneous

It’s not as simple as that, dear

The main problem I find with MBTI’s system is that it relies too heavily on binary decisions. The test delivers a conclusive verdict in a fixed either-or manner, unlike other personality tests that prospects on more spectrum based outcomes. To be fair, the online MBTI test, which you can access here, conveys their results in percent spectrums. However, they then approximate that value unto the side with the dominating integer, hence creating an illusionary assumption that one is a full-blown extrovert or introvert. Imagine two people taking the test, one received a 90–10 on the introvert-extravert spectrum, and another received a 55–45 on that same spectrum. The system marks both as complete introverts, when in reality, the latter could really be no different than the average extravert.

Humans are complex beings

We really are complex, and therefore it would be unjust to categorise a person based on MBTI’s mutually exclusive system. People are never exclusively introverts or extraverts, that’s not how humans work. Human behaviours and actions are stretched across huge spectrums, and where a person falls within that spectrum may fluctuate widely based on a person’s current condition and situation. And that’s just to mention one of the four pillars of the test. Annie Murphy Paul in “The Cell of Personality Testing” reports in her book that three quarters of test takers achieve a different personality type when tested again, much like how I did.

It triggers a tendency to fall into a fixed mindset

A unique phenomenon I noticed in many test takers was how they tend to resort to a fixed mindset when it comes to rationalising their actions and understanding themselves.

The Barnum effect

The worst part about this test can be explained by the Barnum effect — a term which was coined by psychologist Paul Meehl in 1956.

“If a prompt is written in a manner that is smartly broad enough that it does not appear foolishly public, it can technically apply for anyone.”

That’s how the test has been successfully duping people from the early nineteen hundreds. As personality test specialist Robert Hogan pointed out, the MBTI is just a little more than a Chinese fortune cookie. It really is just that, packaged in a neater, nicer way to make it publicly acceptable as pop psychology’s latest product.

Wrapping Up

My entire spiel may seem like I’m completely dissing the test, yet I am not encouraging the idea of completely banishing and disregarding the test. Rather, I advise everyone to take it with a pinch of salt, and to embrace it with a more open mindset. Personality tests were created in order for one to get a deeper understanding about oneself, to acknowledge one’s stronger points, and to improve on areas where one is weaker. I personally believe the best way to interpret the MBTI is to master all 16 personalities. Yes! Actively look for characteristics within yourself that you are less proud of, search for ways to improve on those aspects, and then practice them on a daily basis, making sure you’re equipped for a better you in future encounters.

Written by

Junior doctor, writer, photographer, and part-time social media strategist. Receive weekly updates from me ⤵

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