True Believers and Personality Tests

I used to be a true believer in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I can’t remember when I first encountered the 93 question test but it was probably during grad school. I was at my height of believing in it though, when I was part of a two-year leadership development program at my old job. I learned a good deal about leadership and made great friends,but there was also an emphasis on personality types that overshadowed much of the programming. Thinking about different personalities and social dynamics is interesting and useful in some settings. But, the complete lack of objectivity (on self-report data that reveals only positive attributes) is not useful to predict behavior, hire employees, and otherwise assess one another and ourselves.

Of course, I thought my results were valid because I was feeling smug about how honest I was with myself and because the results made me look good. But I’ve changed my mind in the last couple of years and as usual, it’s because the facts don’t play out. There is research galore that says, “…it (MBTI) has no more reliability and validity than a good Tarot card reading.”  So, it can sound like science but it isn’t and is no more useful than using astrological signs as part of the hiring process. There is also big money involved for the company that sells the test and certifies “practitioners” (to the tune of nearly 20 million a year).

It’s cool if you disagree with me, I know personality tests and astrology are beloved subjects to many. I’m also guilty of this sort of American essentialism, wanting to think that there is some core essence that is me, the individual and that if I can identify those attributes then I can live a more positive, happy life.

Life is not so simple, though maybe we wish it was.

Read the article over on Vox and watch the video to decide for yourself.