My personality manifests itself in the image of grilled cheese, I could realistically take on 18 five-year-olds in a fight and I’m definitely going to Hell. At least, that’s what a recent sampling of personality quizzes on BuzzFeed tells me.
Some are irked and others amused by the flood of online quizzes clogging up our Facebook newsfeeds lately. Regardless of your reaction, the recent inundation raises the question of what we expect to gain from these quizzes, anyway.
I’m sure most readers realize that even the less blatantly ridiculous tests should be taken with a grain of salt. The rare quiz occasionally yields a creepily accurate result BuzzFeed accurately predicted my major and the fact that I have no idea where I’m going in life. However, titles like “What poorly taxidermied animal are you” usually tip a reader off to the fact that, while we may find the quizzes intriguing, when it comes down to it they’re just fun and games.
At the same time, they are not completely useless. The most ridiculous ones make for a good laugh see BuzzFeed’s “Are you Andy Samberg or a sandy hamburger?”, and getting a desirable result can be a self-esteem boost. However, the trend got me thinking about the mother of all personality quizzes: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI test.
For those unaware, the MBTI assigns your personality a four-letter “type” based on four dichotomies: introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perception. While clearly more nuanced than any online quiz hopes to be, the MBTI has its obvious flaws.
The test was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, around the time of World War II. Neither woman was a psychologist or even an academic. They assembled the test based on their own observations and after studying the works of Carl Jung. Most research surrounding the test is conducted by a single organization, the Center for Applications of Psychological Type CAPT.
Even the test’s creators urged that people “try on” different types to see what works for them rather than have one administered MBTI serve as the be-all, end-all for defining personality. According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation’s website, ethical abuses of the test include “using the type to assess people’s abilities and using type to pressure people toward certain behaviors.”
Long story short: The MBTI test has little repute in the field of psychology and was not meant to give us hard facts about ourselves and what we are capable of.
This isn’t to say the test doesn’t mean anything. Learning about your MBTI can be enjoyable and even useful as long as we know not to take the results too seriously. Unfortunately, recent trends show that while rejected in psychology, the MBTI has become increasingly popular with employers.
A glance through recent news articles on the subject reveals that companies have been increasingly implementing the test as part of the job application process to determine whether a potential employee would be a good fit. Use of the test in career development isn’t necessarily unethical; we can always disagree with the results and pursue our own career paths. However, we need to be aware of any personality test’s limitations when it comes to allowing people to pursue particular jobs.
Our personalities are not set in stone, especially in our earlier years. Psychological tests also don’t take into account change over time and the myriad experiences that make us unique. Not to mention that people usually fall on a spectrum between qualities like introversion and extraversion rather than in one camp or the other. I appreciate silly online quizzes like BuzzFeed’s because they subvert the idea that the extent of our personalities can be boxed up and delivered in a single presumptive paragraph.
Even a well-thought-out system like the MBTI can’t perfectly categorize us. So how should we define our personalities?
Like a recent BuzzFeed quiz on how you should actually dress for your body type told me, “Any way you want.”
Kate Fridley ’14 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Apple Valley, Minn. She majors in political science with concentrations in Middle Eastern studies and management studies.