The Personality Brokers | Merve Emre

Summary of: The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing
By: Merve Emre


In this summary of ‘The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing’ by Merve Emre, we’ll delve deep into the origins and surprising story of the world’s most famous personality test: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Created by a mother-daughter duo during World War II, the MBTI was based on Carl Jung’s theories of personality. Despite its lack of scientific validity and criticism from psychologists, the MBTI remains immensely popular, offering millions of people a framework for self-acceptance and self-discovery, even if it might not be entirely accurate.

Myers-Briggs: Understanding Personality Types

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test that measures a person’s behavior through four dichotomies: Introversion (I) and Extraversion (E), Intuition (N) and Sensing (S), Feeling (F) and Thinking (T), and Judging (J) and Perceiving (P). The questionnaire consists of ninety-three questions, and each answer determines a unique personality type. The test doesn’t have right or wrong answers, and each personality type has its own strengths and weaknesses. Despite its clear framework, the MBTI has controversial roots.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular personality test developed by Katharine Cooks Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers during World War II. The test measures a person’s personality based on four dichotomies of normal human behavior: Introversion (I) versus Extraversion (E), Intuition (N) versus Sensing (S), Feeling (F) versus Thinking (T), and Judging (J) versus Perceiving (P). The questionnaire asks ninety-three questions about a person’s preferences, and each answer determines a unique personality type that is a combination of four letters.

The MBTI is nonjudgmental and clear, emphasizing that no personality type is inherently better or worse than another. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, such as feeling personalities being more empathetic and thinking personalities being more rational problem-solvers.

Despite its widespread use, the MBTI has controversial roots. Critics argue that the test’s scientific validity is questionable, and its dichotomies oversimplify complex personality traits. Nevertheless, the MBTI remains a popular tool for self-awareness and personal growth.

Flaws in the Myers-Briggs Test

The popular Myers-Briggs test is based on the work of Carl Jung, who relied heavily on myths and opposing personality categories instead of empirical evidence. Jung’s theories about personality were criticized by his contemporaries, but the questionnaire was created based on them anyway. The questionnaire’s theoretical underpinnings are therefore flawed and questionable, which raises concerns about its effectiveness as a personality test.

The Man from Zurich

Katharine Briggs’ obsession with Carl Jung was the driving force behind the creation of the Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire. She revered Jung as an almost divine oracle, with his work becoming her bible. Briggs began to express her love for Jung through her writing, rebelling against societal norms by composing erotic fiction about him. Her devotion remained undimmed for the rest of her life, inspiring millions of Americans to place their faith in her work instead.

The Origin of Self-Help: Katharine Briggs & the MBTI

In 1926, Katharine Briggs penned a groundbreaking article in the New Republic, “Meet Yourself: How to Use the Personality Paintbox,” that introduced Carl Jung’s theories to the wider American public. She described each of the 16 personality types with a different color in a personality paintbox and suggested that you could arrive at a better self-understanding by identifying which color fits you best. This novel approach became the forerunner of popular self-help writing, which was in high demand in the 1920s US society that was facing a shortage of psychologists who could cater to the psychological needs of the masses. Briggs’ MBTI made self-discovery seem fun and nonthreatening, ushering in a new era of self-mastery for individuals who wished to break free from the constraints of organized religion. However, this new trend of personality typing had a darker side, as people would use it to stereotype and discriminate against those who they perceived as different.

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