Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What if Myers Briggs is Full of Crap?

Tillerman just cranked out over a thousand words to prove to himself that he is the INTJ that Myers Briggs personality testing told him he was, not the ESPN (or whatever) that Typealyzer says his writing suggests he is. That INTJ or ESPN designation can be a comforting source of identity that reminds us who we are. It tells us how we approach other people and life situations.

Perhaps the results of personality tests should be printed on a little card that could be put into our wallets next to our driver’s license and social security cards. They’d surely provide more useful information about any “real” identity than height, weight, hair color, eye color, and last known address.

The personality card would be a handy reference for ourselves. In times of trouble and soul crippling crisis, we could refer to it for guidance as to how our particular personality type should proceed. If we can read the road map that is encrypted in those four letters - ESPN – we will find a way through our dilemma. Our personality will approach the situation in this general way of that general way.

But is this understanding of “who we are” descriptive or prescriptive? If it describes us, it only helps us understand our behavior in the past. It tells us which of our inner tools we prefer to use or have preferred in the past. If we apply the same toolkit to new situations, aren’t we likely to get the same results? Doesn’t it take some “out of character” act to avoid living in the endless loop of Groundhog Day?

According to one personality typing theory I have read, Personality Types - Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, personalities are somewhat more of a limitation than an asset. As we get older and healthier, we tend to demonstrate a wider variety of personality characteristics. If there is a goal, it is to achieve a balance between the types, giving us access to all the tools and allowing us to use the right one for the job. By that logic, it is a very good thing to get somewhat different results on different tests. (And it has to be good to frustrate the testers!)

I’m sure that Tillerman was the most entertaining of all possible IT managers, but I wonder if his old business world friends would guess that Tillerman and their old friend inhabited the same body. I suspect that in Proper Course he uses some inner tools that weren’t in his briefcase and that some of his work devices don’t get as much use as before.

For my money, I give as much credence to Typealyzer as the Meyers Briggs test. There is no reason both can’t be pretty accurate – or completely full of crap. If Tillerman has been tagged with some new letters now so as to be an alphabet soup of personality, it’s a credit to his complexity, versatility, and mental health.

In this case, the words of Walt Whitman apply to our blogmaster: “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

Yarg, a humble INTP


  1. Well said sir. It is true that those Myers-Briggs types are only "preferences". We all have the potential to change our behavior and act in different ways if we choose to do so. One of the reasons I enjoy writing my blog so much is that it enables me to experiment with different "personalities" in my writing, from analytical Racing Rules wonk, to angry anti-mommy-boat ranter, to sentimental grandfather, to grizzled hardy frostbiter. God knows what "ESPN" types all those roles are!

  2. This is some of the finest pseudo-science I have ever seen.

    Over the years, snake oil salesmen have had an uncanny knack for sniffing out the gullible and the dim-witted, and for tailoring their products to the demands of the market. As new technology presents itself, they are invariably the first of the early adopters.

    I wonder how many drilled far enough into the Typealyzer site to find this:

    Is this ethical?
    We do NOT collect data about peoples identities, but their pseudo-identities. A pseudo-identity is for instance the nick-name used persistent over time when a person is using social media such as a blog. We DO collect the URL´s and classifications results to build new cool apps. That way we hope to bring something back to the blogging community.

    Perfect! The pseudo scientists are data mining our pseudo identities. Care to guess what those 'new cool apps' they'll be bringing back to the blogging community are?

    Tillerman is way too smart to see this as anything but total baloney (another wurst innovation?) and, again, is having some fun with us.

    My blog? BLSHT, of course.

  3. I think part of the problem is that a lot of us write differently than how we speak... I can be a mischief in my head, but totally meek in real life.

  4. its killing me that the fact that this 'test' is quoted as being scientifically backed. this is one case in which science can be a total tragedy. seems to me one of those immeasurable tests, subject to subjectivity, desire, and honesty- all things I can see Freud contesting. perhaps theres a way to measure whiteness or blackness too. quite informative into the present, but i would never mistake to believe that it is fixed. The scientific aspect seems to fix it as a secure state.