Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator: “It’s like religion. Believe what you want. Get out of it what you want.”

I loathe the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with a fiery passion that is totally dormant as long as nothing reminds me of the test’s existence, which is how I prefer things. Once aroused, the fervor of my loathing takes a while to die down, which is why I’m blogging about it now: this week brought the test to my attention quite a few times.

One way was that on Facebook, a bunch of people were posting this thingy defining the different types of hell for each Myers-Briggs type. (As I say in the post on my blog, hell for me would be having to take the test and act like the results are meaningful.) Another was that in an ex-Mo Facebook group, someone posted a link to the one of the imitation (and therefore free) versions of the test and asked to people to take it and post their types, in the hopes of discovering if any correlation existed between leaving the church and a certain personality type.

This is a group that values skepticism pretty highly. And it was shocking to me that in such a group, there was so little skepticism about the test.

That shock ramped up a notch when I did a bit more googling about the test and found this lengthy December 2012 article in the Washington Post discussing the “cultlike devotion” the test and its results arouses. The quote in the title of this post is from that article.

Certainly there was a hint of such devotion on display in the conversation I participated in. There may or may not be some correlation between certain personality types (what they are and how they should be categorized and tested is another matter entirely, of course) and leaving the church, but given that there is some correlation between business and devotion to the MBTI, and also some correlation between being Mormon and wanting to go into business (that accounting program at BYU, for instance), maybe there is some correlation between being LDS and valuing the MBTI.

For one thing, they both use initials a lot: LDS can take the MBTI and get a designation that is also a bunch of letters, just like RM or RSP or EQP or whatever. Maybe some people really like to be told authoritatively who they are, and maybe some people don’t know how to interact with others unless they know, via some externally applied label, everyone’s relationship to orthodoxy.

Or maybe not. Maybe those are utterly specious connections unworthy of further attention.

But it is worth noting that leaving organized religion doesn’t necessarily mean that you are automatically freed from all “cultlike devotion” or the habit of orthodoxy.

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11 Responses

  1. Daylan Darby says:

    I’m an engineer, I don’t need no stink’n test.

  2. Donna Banta says:

    Holly, thank you for this.

    Years ago when I was working at a public library in TX our director mandated that the entire staff take a personality profile test and then attend an accompanying day-long help session. It wasn’t Myers-Briggs, but it was similar in that it divided us up into stereotypical categories. The teacher was a charismatic woman who made several overt religious references. (“There was only ONE perfect man,” etc.)

    The entire day was torture. But it was only the beginning. After that, every time there was a disagreement amongst the staff our director would ignore the actual issue and draw on the stupid personality test. For example: “The problem is you’re an amiable and she’s an analytical.” So what should have been a discussion about interlibrary loan procedure, etc. devolved into petty personality debates. But the director was incapable of seeing this. She was a true convert.

    So my point, and I do have one, is that you’re absolutely right, IMO. Hell is having to take the test and then treat the results as meaningful.

  3. chanson says:

    Another was that in an ex-Mo Facebook group, someone posted a link to the one of the imitation (and therefore free) versions of the test and asked to people to take it and post their types, in the hopes of discovering if any correlation existed between leaving the church and a certain personality type.

    The funny part is that he seemed to be hoping that it would show that people leave the church for logical rather than emotional reasons.

    Yep, relying on a totally non-scientific test like this one is a great way for us exmos to demonstrate our superior logic skills…

  4. Holly says:

    @2: oh, goodness gracious me (I resort to saying things like when I when I don’t want to rely on my habitual interjections like “oh my god” or “oh lordy” or “oh heavens” or anything else churchy), Donna–that really does sound hellish.

    I get wanting tools to help us understand ourselves and how we approach conflicts and relationships. As I mentioned in the post on my blog, I’ve played around with astrology for that–though I tried not to swallow the whole ideology.

    But too often just what you’re describing happens, and what was supposed to be the means to understanding becomes an end in itself. Instead of using the tool to help us understand relationships, we use relationships to help us understand the tool.

    That’s one reason I rolled my eyes and curled my lip rather than laughing when in response to my criticisms, someone cracked a joke like “oh, you’re reacting that way because you’re an ABCD”: It privileges the test above people, whom it reduces to examples of how awesome and useful the test is.

    @3: yeah, it was weird. I don’t want to discuss that conversation in any but the most general terms–I really like that group and assume they have rules prohibiting discussing the details of what goes on in the group, and I don’t want to give them a reason to kick me out. But the contradiction was pretty obvious if you took a step back.

  5. Zach says:

    Sigh, if you don’t like myer-briggs, it’s because you don’t understand the depth complexity and reality contained within this system. It’s all about the functions vs the retarded stereotypical crap that gets thrown around the internet.

    It’s 100% real. It’s definitely describing our minds. It’s extremely evident and empircal. People of the same type WILL look extremely similar more often than not. Because personality and looks are unanimously inseperable. Most of the time it takes me under a minute to identify someone’s personality type, and I’m rarely wrong even after much time observing them has passed.

    The one minor critique which I’ll give you it that, it’s abundantly clear to me that there are way more one type of ESTP or ISTJ. Each one type of the sixteen likely has inumerable variations within itself. So, it’s not that we’re all one of 16. We are basically one of a kind even still within it. MBTI is extremely brought. But that’s alright, it’s designed for identification effieciency and practically, not extreme precision. The other biggest problem is when retards take it super literally honestly believe that the descriptions that they read are EXACTLY how every person of a single type WILL and MUST be or else they aren’t of that type, or something is wrong with them. I’ve encountered that, A LOT actually. I’ve spent a long time in the MBTI community.

    And what’s with the notion that every and anything that gathers and garners a community is accused of being a religion! WTF? First off, it’s retarded to instantly label anything larger than one as a religion, second, what’s wrong with a religious worshipper? Didn’t you used to be one yourself? How can calling something a religion be an insult and demeaning like you intend? Religion is someone that you devote your whole life to. It’s a serious commitment. It’s someone that requires your whole hear might mind and spirit. It requires determination and perserverence. There’s almost no going back. What in the WORLD do you have against people who are like that? Hmm? You’re committing the same sin of the thing you hate! You’re marginalizing and shaming people with the capability to be religiously and passionately devoted to something, and on that notion I say FUCK YOU!!!! Because that sir, or ma’am is what I am, and what MANY successful people are like, So fuck you, and have a nice day, sir/ ma’am /tips hat.

  6. Holly says:

    @5: tl;dr beyond the first few sentences, but I will say, thanks for proving my point @4!

  7. chanson says:

    I can’t tell it @5 is satire or not. Either way, Zach, please don’t call people “retards” here — see our commenting policy.

  8. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    Since there are 16 types, everyone gets to belong to an exclusive club. How cool is that.
    Rah, Rah, you’re valuable and rare.

  9. Holly says:

    @8: Yeah, it’s like when everyone gets a gold star just for showing up.

  10. chanson says:

    @8 & @9 Actually, one of the things that always bugged me about the test is that every time I’m in a group that’s comparing types, half the group seems to get the one that’s supposed to be super rare.

    I know probability can be counter-intuitive (eg. it’s quite possible for something to really be rare, and yet I personally happened to encounter it many times), but in this case, it raises legitimate doubts that can’t really be set at ease (since there are no statistics on this — it’s more a party-game than anything).

  11. Holly says:

    @10 it’s more a party-game than anything

    This nails quite concisely what bugs me: it’s a party game–a not very fun party game–treated like actual science.

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