Personality Type Myth-Busting: Is The Myers-Briggs® Test Only Useful For Entertainment?

Critics of the Myers-Briggs® test have a whole host of complaints to bring against it. The test isn’t valid because you can get different results if you retake it, it uses false/limited binaries, it doesn’t predict work performance — the list goes on and one. And at the end of these sorts of articles, the writers say, “The Myers-Briggs is useful for one thing: entertainment. … like a BuzzFeed quiz.”

Some of the criticisms are true, at least at face value (e.g. you can get different results from retaking the test). But others betray a fundamental misunderstanding of Myers-Briggs® theory (e.g. the idea that it relies on limited binaries/dichotomies). And still others arise from expecting Myers-Briggs® types to tell us something they were never designed to measure (e.g. whether or not you’ll do well in a certain job).

Clearly, I think personality types are useful for more than just entertainment or I wouldn’t be writing about them as much as I do. But do I have a good reason for thinking this? Is the Myers-Briggs® test and theory useful? The answer depends what you’re using it for. Read more

Here’s What Your Myers-Briggs® Type Can and Can’t Tell You

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Myers-Briggs®. I’ll defend it against people who say it’s useless, write and re-write posts trying to come up with the simplest introduction to function stacks ever, and spend my time musing about how type influences both real people and fictional characters. But as much as I like the Myers-Briggs® system of personality types, I also know there are things it’s not meant to do.

In fact, applying Myers-Briggs® wrongly is one of the biggest reasons it has come under so much criticism. For example, you can find quite a few articles online that argue Myers-Briggs® is basically useless in a work environment. They’ll tell you it’s not a good indicator of job performance nor is it all that useful for screening potential employees. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering those aren’t the test’s purpose. And it’s unfair to dismiss a test for not doing something it wasn’t meant to do in the first place.

Here's What Your Myers-Briggs Type Can and Can't Tell You | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Brodie Vissers via StockSnap

So what is the Myers-Briggs® test supposed to tell you? And just how much can we apply what we learn from finding our type to real life?

This Is Your Brain On Decision Making

The Myers-Briggs® test is designed to measure how people’s minds work. It describes their preferred mental processes or “cognitive functions” (to use the technical term). Contrary to what so many critics of the test think, it doesn’t force people into dichotomies. Rather, each type has a “stack” of preferred functions. So an ENFJ type isn’t someone who’s 100% extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. They’re a type that prefers making decisions with Extroverted Feeling, learning new things with Introverted Intuition, and then also uses Extroverted Sensing and Introverted Thinking to a lesser extent (click here to learn how we get from the four letter type to the functions).

These characteristics of Myers-Briggs® theory means that taking the test can help you: Read more

Transgenderism: So Much More Than A Bathroom Debate

I’m late to the topic of Target and Transgenderism, but at least that gives me the benefit of seeing how the Christian boycott and other reactions are playing out. To date, the AFA boycott pledge has 1,301,411 signers and American Thinker estimates the boycott has directly cost Target upwards of $9 million (though Target’s CEO denies this).

Describing the boycott as “Christian” isn’t entirely accurate, though. There’s been plenty of mixed reactions within the faith as well, ranging from extreme to apathetic to somewhere in between. We have a Bible-waving woman walking through Target yelling, “Are you gonna let the devil rape your children?” and a straight, conservative preacher’s wife still shopping at Target. There’s no consensus even here.

Transgenderism: So Much More Than A Bathroom Debate

While I don’t like the idea of a man walking into my bathroom, I think the whole transgendered bathroom debate is distracting from a larger issue. Society treats transgenderism as a lifestyle choice, but it’s not. It’s a mental disorder, and pretending this is a civil rights issue rather than a psychological one robs people of the help and support they need. Read more

The Essence of Star Trek

A couple days ago, we finally got a new trailer for Star Trek: Beyond that felt a bit more like “real Star Trek.” Now, there are Trekkies who will say none of the new films are “real Trek,” but I’m not one of them. Though parts of Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) irritated me as a life-long Trekkie, overall I thought they were good stories and I’m nothing but pleased with the cast’s performances of my favorite characters (especially Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy).

The Essence of Star Trek | marissabaker.wordpress.com
image credit: my screenshot from Star Trek Online

I did, however, feel these films were missing a focus that has always been core to the idea of Star Trek. Star Trek’s mission is about exploration, science, new cultures, and ideas. It’s not a space-battle heavy type of science fiction nor was it a “crisis of the week” type of show. It’s much more thoughtful than that. The new movies engaged with ideas of this nature to a certain extent, but they were also fast-paced, explosion-heavy, and largely earth-centric blockbuster films. The first trailer for Star Trek: Beyond made it look like the new film took that to an extreme. It was so bad that Simon Peg admitted he “didn’t love it” and told Trek fans “hang in there, be patient.”

In this new trailer we get discussion about Kirk’s motivation and character. We finally see hints of exploring new worlds, engaging with different cultures, and wrestling with tough ideas. This makes me happy because, at its core, Star Trek is about people trying to do the right thing in complicated situations. Trek should engage with current cultural topics in a unique way. It should support the idea that “good” and “right” are a real things rather than abstract concepts while also acknowledging it’s not always easy to know what’s the good and right thing to do.

Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about. I could list many others (the TNG episode “Measure of a Man,” for one), but for the sake of space I limited it to three episodes. *Spoilers for all episodes below*

TOS: City on the Edge of Forever

Written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, “City on the Edge of Forever” is regarded by many as hands-down the finest episode in the Original Series and perhaps all of Star Trek. After Doctor McCoy inadvertently alters earth’s history, Kirk and Spock travel back to the 1930s to repair the time-line, at which point Kirk (predictably) falls for a woman who needs to die for history to play-out as it should. Edith Keeler is a social-worker who runs a soup kitchen and seeks peace for the entire planet. In the correct timeline, she dies in a car accident. If Doctor McCoy saves her life, her peace movement delays U.S. involvement in World War II.

Kirk is the product of a society with the type of peaceful, one-world government Edith dreams of and fights for. He agrees with her ideologically, but he also knows that if she lives Germany’s victory prevents the formation of his unified future-earth. The whole episode grapples with the ideas of responsibility and accountability. Letting someone die is wrong, but letting a planet’s future die would also be wrong. Which is the lesser evil? Can we allow one personal tragedy in order to prevent a global catastrophe? Those are questions we’re still wrestling with today.

DS9: In The Pale Moonlight

While not one of my favorite episodes, “In the Pale Moonlight” is a good example of what we’re talking about today. The story is set during the Dominion War, and the Federation is losing. To borrow from Memory Alpha’s description, “Captain Sisko enlists Garak’s help to ‘persuade’ the Romulans to join the Federation/Klingon alliance to win the war. Sisko unwittingly learns that to save the Federation, he may have to sell his soul and the values Starfleet stands for.” Sisko, and the audience, wrestle with the question of how far the “good guys” can or should go to win a war. He begins with “good intentions,” but they’re the sort that proverbially pave a road to hell.

As the plan becomes ever more complex, he moves from spying, to fabricating false evidence, to paying off dangerous criminals with the ingredients for biogenic weapons, and finally he becomes complicit in an assassination. But Sisko hasn’t gone off the deep end — he simply came up with a plan, received approval, and kept moving forward with sanction from the Federation. Though the assassination wasn’t part of the original plan, there aren’t any repercussions for it. Romulus declares war and the Alpha quadrant is saved. Mission accomplished. But not without great moral wrestling. The episode ends with Sisko staring into the camera ending his personal log with the words, “So I will learn to live with it…Because I can live with it…I can live with it.”

STC: Lolani

Star Trek Continues really feels like a 4th season of the Original Series, and it continues Star Trek’s rich history of dealing with complicated ethical questions and current cultural issues. In this episode (click to watch), the Enterprise rescues a frightened Orion slave girl from a damaged ship. Having been taken from her family and enslaved, Lolani’s situation is very much akin to trafficked victims here on earth. You might think freeing her is the obvious, moral thing to do, but Star Trek is never simple. The episode wrestles with other issues as well, such as whether or not Lolani’s victimization can excuse her crimes and to what extent Kirk and his people can legally help her.

Since the Orion system isn’t part of the Federation and their law demands any slaves found revert to Orion control, the Federation insists Kirk return Lolani rather than risk an international incident. Kirk initially complies, then chooses to rescue her in violation of Starfleet orders. Before he can, Lolani kills herself and her master by destroying the ship. It’s too late for his change of heart to help; for his moral core to over-ride his nation’s law. That saves the Federation from war with the Orions, but what does it do to Kirk’s soul?

I’m hoping Star Trek: Beyond and the new series coming next year continue Trek’s history of tackling complex ideas, pushing us outside our cultural comfort zones, and looking at issues and ideas from multiple angles. I want more stories that make us think while they’re entertaining us.

When Should We Value Human Life?

In the abortion debate, one of the things people like to argue is at what point the fetus qualifies as a living human being. Is it when the heart starts beating around 3 weeks? Is it when we can detect higher brain functions at at 22–24 weeks? Is it when the fetus is “viable” without the mother? Or after the baby has been born?

There’s plenty of science to indicate that a unique human entity is created either at the moment of conception or at cellar division about 24 hours later. The zygot, and then the fetus, is alive when a genetically unique cell forms that can grow, metabolize, and respond to stimuli. You can click here to read an excellent white paper on the subject written by Maureen L. Condic, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She concludes,

This view of the embryo is objective, based on the universally accepted scientific method of distinguishing different cell types from each other, and it is consistent with the factual evidence. It is entirely independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos. Indeed, this definition does not directly address the central ethical questions surrounding the embryo: What value ought society to place on human life at the earliest stages of development?

I was on a pro-choice action network website, and they’re perfectly willing to admit that the fetus is alive and that it’s human (click here for the article I was reading). What they contend is that the fetus isn’t a human being yet (they distinguish “human being” from “human”). They also contend that a fetus does not have the right to live parasitically at the expense of its mother if she doesn’t want to carry to term because her person-hood and right to choose is not in dispute. They’ll then turn the argument to the “rights of the woman,” asking why we’re so ready to sacrifice her right to decide whether or not to have a baby on the altar of a fetus’s “hypothetical” right to be born.

Even at this point in the argument, you can see it really isn’t about science or objective fact. The facts are that the fetus is genetically unique, human, and alive from the moment of conception. That’s not in dispute. In reality, the question we should be asking is not, “When does the fetus become human?” but rather, “At what point do we value human life?”

When Should We Value Human Life? | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: “hello in there!” by Adrienne Bassett, CC BY via Flickr

The main leg the pro-life movement has to stand on is convincing society that we should value the life of unborn people so much that killing them is legally considered murder. We can use the science, but ultimately that’s not going to convince people to fight against abortion. People who support the legal right to terminate pregnancies know fetuses are alive — they just don’t think it matters. Our battle needs to be fought on philosophical and moral grounds.

Recent polls show that while more American’s describe themselves as pro-choice than pro-life right now, 51% think abortion should only be legal “under certain circumstances” verses 19% saying legal “under any circumstances (Gallup Polls). Getting into more detail about exactly what this means, we see 84% of Americans want tight restrictions on abortion: 25% say it should be legal in the first 3 months, and the others are divided between only in cases of rape or incest, to save the life of the mother, and not legal at all. (Marist Poll).

The Marist Poll also reports that even though only 13% of respondents favored banning abortion under every circumstance, 60% believe abortion is morally wrong. In today’s America we hate the idea of imposing our morality on other people, but we still do that every day we continue to (rightly!) maintain that murder, rape and pedophilia are wrong. Why is it so hard for us to extend that moral stand to protecting unborn life? And how far are we going to let this go? When we as a society set arbitrary limits on what makes a human life qualify as a human being, we’re on a very slippery slope. In 2011, two researchers in Australia published a paper titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” I’ve not read the whole paper, but this is the researcher’s own succulent abstract statement of what their work is about:

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

While these researchers were not widely supported and later claimed their argument was taken out of context, it was a step in a disturbing trend. Informal evidence suggests college students are increasingly in favor of “after-birth abortions” up to 4 or 5 years old because they believe children that age aren’t “self-aware” yet (never mind that psychologists say children become “self-aware” between 1 to 3 years, usually 18 months).

It’s ridiculous to suggest that a fetus suddenly becomes a human being at 3 months, or at birth, or whatever age you decide to go with, but that he or she isn’t a human being a few minutes, hours, or days earlier. When you take such an argument to it’s farthest extent, you either have to believe human life is precious from conception or arbitrarily define a point at which humans are protected and before which they are not.

While we’re on the subject of valuing human life, I want to point out that a pro-life argument should never be anti-women. As one blogger who works with at-risk women points out, “Abortion isn’t so much about a woman having a choice — but a woman feeling like she has no choice at all.” While I want abortion to be illegal because I firmly believe no human being has the right to decide they can kill another, I also want to create a world where women don’t feel they have to or should have abortions. Where violence against pregnant women who want to keep their child stops. Where people are honest about what actually happens to both the mother and unborn child during an abortion. Where we consider the physical, emotional and psychological risks to the mother and stop pretending abortion is pro-woman.

It is our right and it is our duty to stand up to injustice, to speak out against moral wrongs and fight to correct them. And if we’re Christians, this is doubly the case. We’re called to “choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19). God talks about knowing His people pre-birth and calling prophets and judges “from the womb”  (Judg. 13:5; Is. 49:1, 5; Jer. 1:5; Gal 1:15). Other verses talk about Him forming children inside the womb and being involved in birth (Job 31:15; Ps. 22:9; 139:13; Is 44:2), and about in-womb children reacting like and being treated as people (Gen 25:23; Luke 1:41). For Christians to say that murder is wrong but killing an unborn child is not just doesn’t add-up. There are certain areas in which we cannot be like our culture, and this is one of them.

Myers-Briggs: Fad or Science?

Friends who know I blog about Myers Briggs types sometimes send me links to people critiquing the MBTI and ask what I think. The arguments in videos like “Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless” and articles such as “Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die” tend to follow a similar pattern and hit the same points:

  • Kathryn Brigs and Isabel Briggs Myers had no formal training.
  • The test doesn’t allow for complex personalities or that someone can be a little bit of an extrovert and a little bit of an introvert at the same time.
  • Similarly, the judging-perceiving, thinking-feeling, and sensing-intuition “scales” don’t allow for people who use both.
  • About 50% of people who take the test twice within 5 weeks get different results.
  • Test fails to predict success in various jobs and doesn’t provide meaningful data.
  • The test remains popular because it only gives positive results. These results are vague and hard to argue with, much like astrology and pseudoscience.

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

Setting aside the first arguments for now, I think these points are a good criticism of some of the free tests going around which make people pick just between the four letter groups. None of this, however, takes into account the science behind Myers-Briggs. In fact, if the critics would bother reading Isabel Myers’ book Gifts Differing,* they would find most of their points have nothing to do with actual Myers-Briggs theory.Myers-Briggs: Fad or Science? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The Truth About Extroverts and Introverts

The video I linked above correctly states that Jung’s theory allowed for people who didn’t fit neatly into a single category. But then they say Kathryn Briggs and Isabel Myers “took Jung’s types but slightly altered the terminology and changed it so every single person was assigned only one possibility or another. You couldn’t be a little bit of an extrovert or a little bit of an introvert.”

In fact, this a complete misrepresentation of Myers-Briggs theory. Read more