strawberry theses

the personality contradiction

Myers-Briggs types create an illusion that they describe and encompass personality in a manner that would be "compatible" with people like they are, so long as we describe "compatibility" as being true to how people would describe one another and act like day-to-day; subjectively, typology systems should aim to describe facets of character that are fluid in people--facets that would be consistent, definition-worthy, and ultimately describable--and many incorrectly assume (usually implicitly!) that the four factors Myers-Briggs "dichotomizes" can be separated into "sixteen different personalities" with "equal weight" in that each factor holds the same weight in determining not only a personality type for someone but also in describing the personality behind said given personality type, which if I would so daringly suggest be a virtue for typology as a whole.

By assuming "equal weight" and constraining ourselves to a strictly logical analysis of the system, we in turn should also be able to claim the following:
~ each factor is equally important in defining a person's Myers-Briggs type
~ each factor can therefore be observed solitarily
~ each factor must measure a unique continuum of opposite traits, since each preference holds equal weight in determining a type
~ each factor must consequently not measure traits that may belong to any other factor at the risk of attaching "extra meaning" that may shift the weight a letter carries (i.e. measuring factors a-b, c-d, e-f, and g-h where c-d, e-f, and g-h have a tendency to lean toward a measured along factor a-b, highlighting dependency, inseparability, and weighted importance) -- we would shift the weight because the more significantly a preference is prevalent through process of self-correlation, the more definitive a preference becomes in influencing the meaning behind a type and its four components
~ and by claiming so, we must observe an equal distribution of the eight possible preferences along the various combinations of our four factors regardless of the curve that fits these preferences on their scalar dimensions

But because we define "equal weight" to essentially mean "preferences with individual, separate meanings without overlap, and with equal merit in defining both a type and the personality behind it," the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is unable to fulfill the idea of describing a personality accurately even through scalar interpretation; the meaning behind scoring a particular strength value along a set of two opposing preferences on a factor remains ambiguous.

But why doesn't MBTI satisfy our "equal weight" requirements? Population distribution analysis would suggest that certain preferences are more likely to appear alongside other particular preferences.

According to data released by the CAPT:
For every 49.4 extraverts, there are 50.9 introverts.
For every 26.9 intuitives, there are 73.4 sensers.
For every 40.4 thinkers, there are 59.9 feelers.
For every 46 perceivers, there are 54.3 judgers.

These likelihoods being the same for all sixteen types would potentially fulfill the requirements for "equal weight," being invariable in preference in any particular manifestation; we would then have to examine the individual scores to understand how strongly people scoring a preference lean toward a particular preference, but we unfortunately cannot solve that problem with the data currently available. It would be most preferable to have overall strength of preferences for each of the sixteen types averaged out, but we have only been given "rounded" preferences where any leaning toward a letter becomes an absolute binary preference for that letter.

Let us assume, however, that the averages of these preferences are the same (absolute) value (away from) in all sixteen types and their distributions. With "equal weight" in mind, ENTP (2.4% with (49.4/100.3)*(26.9/100.3)*(40.4/100.3)*(46/100.3)) and ISFJ (11.9% with (50.9/100.3)*(73.4/100.3)*(59.4/100.3)*(54.3/100.3)) would therefore respectively be the least and most common types. But in reality, our population distribution values reflect that INFJ (1.5%) and ISFJ (13.8%) are the least and most common types respectively.

Such results may seem strange but through further analyzing, its reasons become more clear:
~ extraverts are 1.18 times more likely to be intuitives, 1.06 times more likely to be feelers and 1.06 times more likely to be perceivers than the entire sample population
~ intuitives are 1.18 times more likely to be extraverts, 1.03 times more likely to be feelers and 1.54 times more likely to be perceivers than the entire sample population
~ feelers are 1.06 times more likely to be extraverts, 1.03 times more likely to be intuitives and 1.08 times more likely to be perceivers than the entire sample population
~ perceivers are 1.06 times more likely to be extraverts, 1.54 times more likely to be intuitives and 1.08 times more likely to be feelers than the entire sample population

A major self-correlation is demonstrated through the dramatically high likelihood of being an intuitive perceiver (or a sensing judger) in this sample population, with 19 perceivers for every 7.9 judgers among intuitives and 46.4 judgers for every 27 perceivers among sensers. Though no other dramatic "auto-pairing" shows in this sample, another interesting fact to note lies in our polar type distribution: 19.7% of the sample is either ISTJ or ENFP, 17% of the population is either ISFJ or ENTP, 15.6% of the population is either ESFJ or INTP, 10.6% of the population is either INTJ or ESFP, 10.6% of the population is either ENTJ or ISFP, 7.9% of the population is either ENFJ or ISTP, and 5.8% of the population is either INFJ or ESTP.

A fascinating divide we see through this analysis is the ISTJ/ENFP divide--not only does it show here in the polar distribution analysis, but when each of the preferences' likelihoods to show with another preference are assessed separately, a very clear ISTJ/ENFP separation comes about, where E is more likely to show in N, F, and P types, N is more likely to show in E, F, and P types, I is more likely to show in S, T and J types, S is more likely to show in I, T and J types...and so on.

But does it mean anything? If this demonstrates anything, it shows Myers-Briggs' inability to describe "real" personalities like people would so describe themselves. If ISJ and ENP existed as separate archetypes, then it would be likely that a great 36.7% of the population would be able to identify with either. These are classical personalities that we are able to identify as everyday archetypes, showing not only in people and in the media, but also through other psychological categorisation systems like the left brain (ISTJ) / right brain (ENFP) dichotomy or blood type personalities (type A = ISTJ, type B = ENFP). Whether these personalities are a product of nature or nurture are debatable, but the idea of these archetypes permeating our society is practically unfalsifiable, even though many other archetypes accompany these two major ones.

A brief list of ISTJ/ENFP-fitting dichotomies:

Can you do this so easily with INFJ/ESTP? It's much harder to come up with commonly used personality dichotomies used to describe divides between extreme INFJ and ESTP personalities on each end. They don't really go together, do they?

So we then beg the question: how does Myers-Briggs relate back to "true-to-life" personalities? Does the "INFJ" personality have a "realistic" archetype? And the STP types? ENFJ? These are--theoretically and realistically--unusual combinations of traits that do not show in our everyday lives like they're described in these "wholes." Does it make sense that an introverted, sensing, and thinking personality would also be a perceiver? Would an extraverted, intuiting, and feeling personality end up being a judger? These are obviously not impossible combinations, but what these types describe personalities that are less entirely fluid than they are "fluid with a contradictory side.

"He's a, b, c, and d, but also has an e side."
"She may be h, i and j but she's actually got a really k side, too!"

Is there a way to fix it? There might be! Instead of speaking in absolutes--i or e? j or p?--it does us more good to acknowledge the idea of loose preference through scalar interpretation, which already effectively in official use despite "resolution" in type prevailing over potentially necessary ambiguity within a factor for the sake of "untelling accuracy." Instead of sacrificing accuracy for the sake of resolution, an idea we can potentially introduce separate scales to highlight the priority of holding certain preferences within certain factors above others, seeping into a more fluent and tangible idea of personality where previous contradictions begin to make slightly more intuitive sense. Surely we must differentiate between those strongly identifying with both thinking and feeling traits and those identifying with neither in particular, instead being more centered around other preferences within the remaining three factors.

But in the meantime, it seems silly to analyze personalities solely through the scope of Myers-Briggs, a system that appears to be somewhat removed from how we commonly describe people. Though its separate factors can certainly be identified in people (to an extent, actually, since overlapping traits cloud their separation), Myers-Briggs' scope in describing personalities seems to be limited, not necessarily just making us think "I never thought of it that way" but more so making us ask "is this how I'd really describe myself?"

lily ives gossamer