WHAT’S YOUR TYPE?

THE STRANGE HIS­TORY OF MY­ERS-BRIGGS AND THE BIRTH OF PER­SON­AL­ITY TEST­ING

The Oldie - - MISCELLANEOUS -

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.’

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