• Organized Chaos

Just My Type: What's the Hype?

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Personality tests offer a fun way of getting to know oneself, and there are countless free and readily accessible ones online. Predominantly, you’re asked to rate yourself on a spectrum of agreeing to disagreeing in response to dozens of statements design to gauge personal behaviors, world-views, psychological preferences, and decision-making tendencies. The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular of these self-report questionnaires. After the ten minutes of introspection, the algorithms churn out an instantaneous multi-page report detailing your strengths, weaknesses, in more, summed up in a memorable character archetype.

Countless online testimonials and recounts from friends have described opening those reports as an empowering moment. The analytical break-downs are often so authentic and thoroughgoing that they help people feel radically seen, understood, and accepted. They present not only a life-long road-map of sorts but a rich vocabulary through which we can connect. As you probably know by now, these are the intimate and philosophical conversations I love to be in!

Now comes the grain of salt as well: a personality test, even of the most scientific and thoroughgoing kind (which many are not), is merely a tool. Its true value depends on how you use it. Dr. Benjamin Hardy—an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of "Willpower Doesn't Work" and the new book "Personality Isn't Permanent"—shared his disenchantment with mainstream personality indicators in this Business Insider article. He warns that "most personality tests (like Myers-Briggs) are junk science and can make you cling to a label—instead, focus on making meaningful change." Rethink reports as a springboard for clarifying your present situation and determining where to grow from there. Although some habits die hard, your brain is plastic, your personality fluid, and you can improve both abilities with practice!

In this bi-monthly Just My Type series, I will have myself or a friend take tests and quizzes ranging from psychometric to purely entertaining, including astrological horoscopes, Big 5, and even the Pottermore sorting hat quiz. We'll cover the results, dig into the test design, and reflect on what they reveal about us as individuals and members of society. Remembering Dr. Hardy's words, we'll also close each segment with considerations on how to take agency over your results, to the end of relinquishing labels. Thanks for joining us!

Artwork by Jeannie Phan for NPR.

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