I’d like to think of myself as a purely scientific person all the time. I wish I could say I always listen to facts and only facts… but listen, I love personality tests.
And I know there’s a lot to be said about the legitimacy of a test that claims to understand your entire life and personality through only a few questions. I know personality quizzes tend to pull off their eerie accuracy through making sweeping, vague statements that almost anyone can relate to. That’s how completely unscientific classifications like horoscopes work, but it’s more or less how more specific personality tests operate as well.
Still… I can’t help but love them.
A few days ago, I was hanging out in my dorm floor’s lounge when my business school roommate announced she was taking the Myers-Briggs personality test for a class. This sparked a conversation throughout the lounge as everyone took the test for themselves and excitedly shared their results.
The Myers-Briggs personality test creates an overview of how a person interacts with the world. It involves four categories of two possibilities each. You can either be an Introvert (I) or an Extravert (E) which determines whether you focus on your inner world or your outer world, Sensing (S) or Intuition (N) which determines whether you’re satisfied with basic information or you prefer to interpret it for yourself, Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) which determines if you approach problems emotionally or logically first, and finally Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) which determines whether you prefer to have decisions made for you or prefer to make decisions yourself. I had already taken the test years before and gotten the result of INFJ (Introvert, Intuition, Feeling, Judging).
I retook the test to the same result and found myself shocked at the incredible accuracy of the ensuing description. How did they know so much about my life, my world-view, my relationships, my goals?
Well… it’s a detailed test. But it also made me think about personality tests in general and how despite their sometimes shaky scientific merit, there’s still something valuable about them.
See, I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about myself. I assume it’s a college thing, to start thinking about the person you want to be and the life you want to live, but I think those thoughts also lead to having to think about your current life. I’ve made a lot of realizations about myself in the last two years or so that have brought all nineteen years of my life into clarity. I imagine that process will most likely continue for the rest of my life.
But it’s not an easy process. I think you become so used to the way your own brain works that it’s hard to step out of it, per se, and look at it critically. The fact that it’s taken me so long to figure out some fundamental things about myself speaks to this difficulty.
So I think there’s something to these personality quizzes. As much as they may not be the most scientific thing in existence, they do provide a pretty easy avenue to talking about yourself. It’s much easier to identify yourself as an INFJ, or a Virgo, or a Ravenclaw than someone with a lot of empathy, or someone who likes to have control over every situation, or someone who is more comfortable with books than with people.
It’s hard to sit down with other people and talk about yourself seriously – you’ve gotta overcome that modesty barrier, and you’ve gotta be brave and vulnerable. But when you’re talking in fun categories, in personality types, it takes down these barriers somewhat.
I mean, I could see that firsthand that night in the lounge. We excitedly shared deep details about how our minds work, how we view relationships and goals. I learned a lot of personal detail about the people on my floor, and it was fascinating and beautiful.
And it was all inspired by a personality test – a collection of four letters. And in that moment I was convinced that even if personality tests aren’t always based in facts, they’re still an excellent tool for self-reflection and self-discovery. And isn’t that a unique and useful thing worth celebrating?