578: Personality Type

A Thousand Things to Talk About
578: Personality Type

What personality “typing” system (if any) do you believe is accurate? What’s your personality “type” in that system?

Full episode script

There’s a single personality test is routinely deployed by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, the US government, hundreds of universities, and online dating sites – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. That’s to say nothing about the runaway success of the Ennearam personality test, especially in Christian circles. Or the prevalence of the phrase “type A personality” in our language, or the hundreds of other options that are available out there in the world.


As author Merve Emre wrote, quote:

Type is intensely democratizing in its vision of the world, weird and wonderful in its commitment to flattening the material differences between people only to construct new and imaginary borders around the self.


While some argue that systems intended to organize, categorize, and interrogate personality are navel-gazing, others argue that these systems help us identify and understand the complex world of human interaction, communication, and psychology.


As Chris Heuertz, author of “The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth,” said in an interview:

The Enneagram helps us begin an honest interrogation of the depths of our identity, of who we really are. When we accept our inherent beauty, we find the courage to examine what makes us beautiful—to honestly encounter both the good and the bad, the shadow and the light. More than anything I’ve encountered, the Enneagram helps us do just that. A lot of other people, including Christians, are discovering this too.


You can even go back to the 1920s when psychologist Carl Jung wrote his treatise Psychological Types, He was aiming for some kind of universality, saying, quote:

Naturally, at first, one is inclined to regard such differences as mere individual idiosyncrasies. But anyone with the opportunity of gaining a fundamental knowledge of many men will soon discover that such a far-reaching contrast does not merely concern the individual case, but is a question of typical attitudes, with a universality far greater than a limited psychological experience would at first assume.


But – perhaps all of these tests have more to do with reading in what we want and less with a research-supported personality category. In 1948, psychologist and professor Bertram R. Forer devised a test given to students that reportedly measured their personality — and then gave all of them a fairly generic result to read. In that study and in ongoing studies, when asked to rate the accuracy of the result on a scale of 0 to 5, the test gets an average 4.2, or 84% accurate, reading.


In other words, no matter how you measure personality, it may be more about finding a way to describe and validate what you already think, and less about something that works for everyone.  

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.