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Myers Briggs tests are full of shit

Does no one else see that they’re just modern day star signs? People are willing to shit on star signs because they’re based off of something stupid and supernatural. How can the star alignment when you were born possibly have anything to do with your nature? Myers Briggs tests, which is the whole INTJ EFNT IDYF EINRYCHT thing, where E is extrovert and I is introvert, and the other four letters construct similarly blunt and unintelligent dichotomies, are just star signs where

1. The supernatural element is removed

2. You are given agency over the construction of the personality type

3. The test is taken once you have become who you are (as a consequence of both nature and nurture) and are therefore a fair reflection

But here are the things that are left in the Myers-Briggs that make them more or less exactly the same thing as star signs:

1. They cold read. This is the worst. Cold reading is when I tell your fortune by saying something like “You are facing struggles at the moment, but you’ve always been someone who plans and thinks their way through, while always relying on their emotions to guide them, so you’ll be fine”. This is true of everyone, and it strikes everyone as true when said it to them even though an emotional reaction and planned one are supposedly at odds (which will bring us on to point #2). Cold reading is the “way-in” for the test. It’s slightly chilling how much someone will believe you when you tell them their “personality type”, and how much people are invested in the “Oh my god that’s literally exactly me!” reaction.

2. Personality dichotomies are bullshit. 

Imagine a shy person you know. Are they really introverted? Or do they also speak their mind sometimes? Are you yourself someone who likes to stay indoors a lot, or go out and party with friends?

The answer will almost always be “both”. This is because there are extroverted people, and they are probably unhappy and rely on extreme self-projection, and introverted people, who are probably lonely and have trouble expressing themselves, and are not necessarily closet geniuses. It is much better to understand intro/extroversion as a series of sliding scales. I know shy people who don’t like going out, but do like hanging out, but not endlessly, and who do speak their mind, but don’t like to offend people, but do like to offend people sometimes. They want to be quiet and not put themselves out there with their arguments, but also are insistent on being represented fairly, and can get quite loud when comfortable. This person is a TEXTBOOK fucking introvert. They are also SO, SO OBVIOUSLY a TEXTBOOK extrovert. You see? 

It comes back to the problem of cold reading. The I/E division, which seems to me to have stuck as the division people are most convinced by and hold on to the most, is exemplary as something which would be better as a spectrum (and would still be reductive as a spectrum) but is instead a binary, either I or E. And once you tell people what they are they use confirmation bias to understand it as true of themselves. 

I only need to offer you a sample question to prove this:

“ You find it easy to stay relaxed and focused even when there is some pressure.”

The answer is nearly always “sometimes”. 

3. People hold onto them because it gives them an identity to turn to

4. People hold onto them because it makes them feel special

There’s a “16 personality types” website which will give you a little cartoon after you take the test with a title like “protector” or “scientist” or “mastermind” or “artist”. None of them are negative, of course, all of them are cold-reads, of course. But people like to self-conceive as a “knight” or as a “planner” or whatever, because it makes them feel like they have a particular set of skills. They are also special by default, not only because they might get a particularly rare type, but because 100 divided by 16 is 6.25%. 

5. People join groups for their type.

This is true of star signs. It strikes me that star signs are in a way a lot more real than Myers-Briggs, in fact, because what a star sign does is arbitrarily place you into an 8.3% of the population, and what the original designation was doesn’t matter because all you need for a group or to feel special is a nominal starting point, one which will never be tested anyway. So people go onto groups and say “I’m dating this guy, he’s a Scorpio, how do I get him to open up?” This is exasperatingly stupid, but if we were to imagine that the person followed the advice anyway, and imagined that they knew full well it was bullshit, then at least they’d have some sort of directive. The grouping into Scorpio wouldn’t eventually play itself out in reality by accident, but the grouping would still sort of exist.

Myers-Briggs are a whole lot worse because they attract people into groups who are as diverse as star-sign people, who then get snobbish and weird about their four letters. Because they’re not as entirely good-hearted and deluded as Star Sign people, and because they mistakenly thing there’s logic to the selection process they get into all sorts of weird situations.


But why are the tests harmful? Don’t they have at least some bearing on reality?

No, they don’t. The common defence is that they are at least a rough indicator, and that most tests will give you a spectrum of “agree” or “disagree” responses. This isn’t really adequate though, not least because you are still reduced into four letters, but because the extent to which you agree or disagree can change completely depending on how you interpret the question:

“You rarely do something just out of sheer curiosity.” 

Well, I personally have never been on holiday at random, I’ve never spent a lot on something as a stupid move, I’ve never told someone I love them at random. But I also think that I’m definitely willing to try new things, or act dumb sometimes, or go for a random walk, or buy a random food stuff because I want to know what it tastes like. So going into this question is an interpretative level of scale, an interpretation of “curiosity”, and an interpretation of “rarely”, which is way too much subjectivity.

The argument could be made that subjectivity is the entire point, that question interpretation is part of the test. But unless it becomes an accidental proxy for the test, which it’s not because you’re meant to actually answer the questions, then it just smears the results very badly. maybe, just maybe, a more rash person will answer with more extremes and that will make them more of an extrovert- but then we’re back to a circular argument anyway, because an “extrovert” is a largely false concept and shouldn’t really correspond to answer quiz questions rashly. In fact the idea of judging someone’s personality based on arbitrary question interpretation is an even worse suggestion than the idea that we can reduce someone’s personality to four letters from a REAL question.

But don’t they give at least a hint at what people are really like?

Well, no. Here I suppose I run into a wall, which is that these tests honestly don’t matter anyway, so much like with star signs people can believe what they want. I don’t believe anyone has ever turned up as an introvert on the test and then unhappily introverted themselves because it’s what the test said. But as mentioned earlier with the personality dichotomies I think they can never, ever be a good interpretation of a person. When I’ve brought this up to people they always say “well, yeah, my type changes depending on my mood”. Which to me is the most damning possible response- your mood when you answer the questions reveals your mood. That’s not a personality type. A personality type should be able to be a constant thing. That’s just disgraceful. The fact that anyone could say that sentence and not realise how full of shit Myers-Briggs is honestly shocks me. The fact that it’s a mood test confirms the idea that sometimes people act in an “extroverted” manner, sometimes “introverted”. 

And yeah, again, none of this matters. But at the same time I feel angry and a little worried that something which sounds so much like it might have sense to it could become more invasive and taken as true. So I just wanted to write this post, because it gets me riled up. I’m a Capricorn. I love to climb trees. I always thought that was a neat coincidence and left it at that. What Harvard did last year was use the Myers-Briggs to determine who should be in what rooms together. I mean, Americans are thick, but for a whole university to be tricked?

Not great.

Love,

Alex