Random AsidesSkepticism

Bad Chart Thursday: Who Are You?

I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality inventory, in high school, and when I got my horoscope results, I admit that I was pretty amazed at how well it described me—and, apparently, Hitler.

Then I read the results of other people in my class, and I was amazed at how well their results described me too.

Years later, I learned about the Forer effect, based on an experiment conducted in the forties by Bertram Forer and frequently repeated since then with similar results. Forer, a psychologist, gave a personality test to his students, then had them rate the accuracy of the assessment. The students didn’t know that they all received the exact same description of their personalities, yet the average evaluation was a 4.26 out of 5 (with 5 meaning the assessment was an “excellent” description of them).

Yet personality tests hold an endless fascination for many of us. We like to learn about ourselves, think about ourselves, and get compliments from “objective” sources. Internet quizzes, like those on Buzzfeed and Clickhole, have similar appeal. Who doesn’t want to know which Saved by the Bell character they are or what their celebrity cat name is? The only difference, really, is that people tend to take personality tests seriously.

Case in point: this chart, which supposedly shows the connection between Myers-Briggs personality types* and political philosophy, with some bonus philosophies around the edge, like existentialism and, um, mathematics.

Myers-Briggs and politics

I could not find the original source for this image (which I got from imgur), so I do not know the methodology used to decide where to place everything in these quadrants. If the creator of this chart wants to take credit for it (and for the magnificent clipart), please let me know and I will gladly update this post.

So instead, I thought I would take this a step further, using what I am guessing is a similarly rigorous methodology to further elucidate who YOU really are based on some real Internet quizzes.

Let’s start with the most important of these existential questions: Are you a summer, autumn, spring or winter? What colors look best on you and how does this connect with whether you’re an introverted survivalist who likes to ponder metaphysics or an extroverted mathematical fascist?

MB.politics.season

(Sorry, imperialists. Apparently no color palette makes you look good.)

The quiz that really gives the MB test a run for its money in terms of deep personal insight, however, is obviously Which Buffy character are you?

MB.Buffy

(Eerily accurate, isn’t it?)

Finally, the quiz that reveals the true connections between personality, political philosophy, and the root of who you are beneath it all: Are you a potato?

MB.potato

This chart really has endless potential for your journey of self-discovery, provided that journey involves placing yourself into smaller and smaller nesting dolls while squinting and waving your hands around.

But enough about you. I have a very important quiz to take about whether I’m a morning person, a night person, a 1:33pm person, or a person floating in orbit with no sense of time. The answer may shock me.

*The Myers-Briggs acronyms represent the following characteristics: E (extraversion) or I (introversion); S (sensing) or I (intuition); T (thinking) or F (feeling); and J (judging) or P (perceiving).

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Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer who just moved to a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband and two young kids. When not counting how often the words "pride," "liberty," and "freedom" are used in local business, road, and pet names, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and raising her two kids to be critical thinkers. She is the managing editor of Skepchick Events, a Grounded Parents admin, and a Skepchick contributor. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Google+

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11 Comments

  1. When I was a ICI sponsored student I got sent on a course where they gave us a Brigs-Myers type test then put us into two role playing sessions. In the first they put the like personality types together, in the second they had balanced teams.

    The bogosity of the test was evident from the names they gave the groups, ‘Resource Investigator’, ‘Chairman’, ‘Completer-Finisher’, ‘Plant’. I scored in the last one which was an incredibly silly and demeaning name to give to the group that the engineers fit into. At the time the test was written, engineering had second rank status in the professions. In a company built on engineering like ICI, engineers were never second rank, most of the senior managers were engineers. The principal objective of the event was to recruit engineers because they were in greatest demand.

    So anyway, the point of the experiment was meant to be that people are happiest working in a balanced team. And that was true for five out of the six teams because all the imaginative types that drive a project along were in the ‘plant’ group. And we were having a great time thank you very much. So the intended lesson was a flop.

    When it came to the second exercise, found the group rather dull and just wanted to get through it as fast as possible. So I dropped down into my chairman persona despite the fact that I (and everyone else pretty much) had essentially scored zero on it.

    1. The strict dichotomies of the MB types are the worst flaw, as though we all always fit into perfect categories, unchanging, discontinuous. When I took it in high school, the teachers used it similarly, to put us in diverse groups for projects. I don’t remember it making any difference at all. We were always changing groups for different projects, and it was a class of motivated students who got along well, so any group was fine. The idea of it being used in employment is pretty scary to me.

  2. I’m a corporatist Summer Xander non-Potatohead. No wonder I didn’t fit in well with the rest of my college’s SDS chapter steering committee. I guess I should have eaten more starchy breakfast food (i.e. home-fries.)

    1. I don’t fit neatly into a quadrant if I take everything into account (even with the original chart). I suspect I’m the hamster inside running on the wheel.

      You raise an interesting question, though, about self-identified potato cannibalism.

    1. I wasn’t talking about validation. Takers’ self-assessment just points to the flaws in these types of tests. I’m not sure how they would look at the correlation over large samples without getting some kind of self-assessment from the takers, though.

      And the MBTI does have a problem with consistency over time, largely because it sets up personality types as dichotomous and discontinuous. If you barely fit into the E category on one test, you could easily fit into the I category on the next, for example. This paper talks a bit about the problems: http://melindabrackett.com/Myers%20Briggs%20article.pdf

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