Character Checks Are Enjoyable However Do not Seize Who You Actually Are : Pictures

Character Checks Are Enjoyable However Do not Seize Who You Actually Are : Pictures

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Jeannie Phan for NPR
Jeannie Phan for NPR

Twelve years in the past, I attempted to drive a stake into the center of the personality-testing business. Character exams are neither legitimate nor dependable, I argued, and we must always cease utilizing them — particularly for making selections that have an effect on the course of individuals’s lives, like office hiring and promotion.

But when I believed that my ebook, The Cult of Character Testingwould result in change on the planet, I used to be keenly mistaken. Character exams seem like extra well-liked than ever. I say “seem” as a result of — at present as once I wrote the ebook — verifiable numbers on using such exams are exhausting to return by.

Character testing is an business the way in which astrology or dream evaluation is an business: slippery, usually underground, exhausting to observe or measure. There are the persona exams administered to job candidates “to find out in the event you’re an excellent match for the corporate”; there are the persona exams imposed on people who find themselves already employed, “with a view to facilitate teamwork”; there are the persona exams we take voluntarily, in profession counseling workplaces and on self-improvement retreats and within the again pages of magazines (or, more and more, on-line).

I do know these exams are well-liked as a result of after the ebook was printed, the general public I heard from have been personality-test fanatics, desirous to rebut my critique of the exams that had, they stated, modified their lives.

We like to think about our personal personalities, and people of our household and pals, as predictable, fixed over time. However what if they don’t seem to be? What if nothing stays fixed over a lifetime? Discover that enigma within the newest episode of the NPR podcast Invisible.


Really, it was only one take a look at they have been speaking about: the Myers-Briggs Kind Indicator. Should you’ve ever made a brand new acquaintance who, after conversing with you for a minute, says, “Are you an INTJ? As a result of my sister-in-law is an INTJ and also you remind me of her, and as an ESFP I am clearly your reverse, however so long as we all know that, we are able to get alongside and work collectively very well,” you have met an MBTI convert. The MBTI is a secular faith, and no quantity of scientific proof will dissuade its true believers. I’ve tried, and have repeatedly been advised that it is clearly my fill-in-a-four-letter-personality-type-here nature that makes me so skeptical.

After plenty of encounters of this type, I developed a tolerance and even an affection for type-obsessed followers of the MBTI. Positive, their instrument is a Carl Jung-inspired load of nonsense engineered to make everybody who takes it be ok with themselves. Then again, perception usually turns up in unlikely locations. Wherever you discover illumination, I started to inform the sort disciples I met, it’s best to seize it.

However the one manifestation of persona testing to which I’ve by no means been in a position to accommodate myself is the administration of exams to captive audiences: college students and staff required to position themselves in containers for an administrator’s comfort. If my marshaling of scientific proof towards the take a look at failed to vary many minds, I hope that the narrative wherein that proof is embedded makes my bigger level: that human beings are far too complicated, too mysterious and too attention-grabbing to be outlined by the banal classes of persona exams.

Certainly, the creators of main persona exams are themselves a colourful bunch of characters whose exams have been largely reflective of their very own idiosyncrasies. In researching and writing their life tales, I got here to consider that persona exams inform us much less concerning the people who take them than concerning the people who devised them:

  • There’s Hermann Rorschach, the Swiss psychiatrist who turned a parlor recreation into the long-lasting inkblot take a look at — the outcomes of which have been for many years taken very severely in courtrooms and psychological hospitals.
  • There’s Henry Murray, the patrician (and married) professor who developed the Thematic Apperception Check with the assistance of his lover, who labored alongside him at his Harvard clinic.
  • There’s Starke Hathaway, the Midwestern psychologist who included questions on test-takers’ non secular beliefs, intercourse lives and toilet habits in his influential instrument, the Minnesota Multiphasic Character Stock (MMPI).
  • And, after all, there’s Isabel Myers, the Pennsylvania housewife who was impressed to show Jung’s cryptic writings right into a persona take a look at accessible to all. Her mom, Katharine Briggs, helped with this endeavor, and at first the take a look at was referred to as the Briggs-Myers Kind Indicator; the order of the names was reversed beginning in 1956.

Myers typed herself as an INFP (that’s, introverted-intuitive-feeling-perceiving). Having spent many months poring over her letters and journal entries, studying the recollections of those that knew her and reporting on the way in which she turned an obscure psychological principle right into a persona take a look at that has been taken by tens of millions of individuals worldwide, I can let you know {that a} string of 4 letters would not come near capturing the fascinating complexities of this lady. If Myers imagined that her multitudes might be contained by 4 pseudo-Jungian descriptors — nicely, that was her limitation. We do not have to make it ours.

Annie Murphy Paul is a journalist and creator of The Cult of Character Testing.

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