WHAT’S YOUR TYPE?
THE STRANGE HISTORY OF MYERS-BRIGGS AND THE BIRTH OF PERSONALITY TESTING
When Evelyn Waugh was examined by an army psychiatrist he discomfited his interrogator with this Parthian shot: ‘Why have you asked me nothing about the most important thing in a man’s life, his religion?’ Waugh would certainly have dismissed the Myers-briggs personality test, used all over the world to determine a person’s type, as ‘bosh’. But, like Merve Emre, he might have been surprised to learn that the test was devised by an American mother and daughter, long dead now and largely unknown, who saw it as a tool for self-discovery, leading to happiness.
There are 16 different categories of Myers-briggs type, each identified by an acronym. Emre, now an Oxford don, was diagnosed aged 22 as an ENTJ (Extroverted, intuitive, Thinking, Judging), in her own words ‘brash, snobby, impatient, cocksure, a real bitch’. She certainly needed to be assertive when writing this exposé because, as Laura Freeman noted in the Times, ‘nosey journalists were discouraged’ by the corporate keepers of the Myers-briggs flame. The result, said Freeman, ‘is both a joint biography of the Myers-briggs creators and a critical assessment of the test and its methods, and proof – or otherwise – of its accuracy and efficacy’. And her verdict? According to Jennifer Szalai in the New York
Times, Emre neither trusts it nor trashes it: ‘It is as idiosyncratic and fallible as we all are.’