Trust Me I Got This: MBTI pseudoscience for the soul

"Trust Me, I Got This" is a weekly column by staff writer and senior Christopher McDermott on surviving senior year, guided solely by this unconventional advice.

Fundamentally, the results of your MBTI have about as much definitive value as those from the Sorting Hat. (casajump/Flickr)

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is the world’s most popular personality test, a favorite among captains of industry and leadership gurus, and it’s also a pseudoscience.

Allow me to preface all of my MBTI talk with a very clear disclaimer: this is not science. Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs were smart and devoted but not psychologists. The theory is based primarily off a creative reinterpretation and oversimplification of Carl Jung’s theories of psychological types. It’s about two notches above phrenology.

But the again, the word “pseudoscience” contains the word “science.”

The basic premise is that different individuals process the world differently, which is fair and sounds logical. The MBTI contends that you can explain a person’s type in terms of four key preferences. This leaves you with four questions, and you have to pick one of two options (a trait) for each. Each trait is represent by a letter.

Once you’ve made all these binary decisions, you’re left with a four-digit code that assigns you one of 16 archetypes. The unique archetype is derived from how the four different traits function in tandem.

If you’re introverted, sensing, thinking and perceiving, then you’re an ISTP. ISTPs are practical but adventurous tinkerers. They love taking things apart and putting them back together.

If you’re extraverted, intuitive, feeling and judging, you’re an ENFJ. ENFJs are charismatic idealists with a deep desire to help people.

No type is better, per se, than any other one. All of the types are typically described in neutral, if not positive, terms.

Test takers are convinced that they belong to one of the 16 archetypes through a mix of generalization and flattery. (“Socrates was an INTP?! And Einstein?! And I’m one too!? Well, I guess these witch doctors must be on to something!”)

But there are holes here. Some people fit a type really cleanly. Others may be dissatisfied with their results and or get different results at different times.

Frank Underwood from “House of Cards” is an obvious ENTJ; he applies rational theories to working with (some might say “using”) people towards the ultimate goal of establishing his personal kind of order. A commonly stated “place of improvement” for ENTJs on most tests is being less of a tyrant.

But what about, let’s say Qui-Gon Jinn of “The Phantom Menace.” Would you say he’s more of an ENFP championer of idealistic causes through relentless compassion, or more of an INTJ rational planner intent on solving problems through innovative means? You could make a strong case for either. (Saying that “The Phantom Menace” is garbage is irrelevant.)

The 16 archetypes are hypothetical personalities, but not everyone is going to fit any of them cleanly. There could be situation in which you function as an extravert and others in which you’re a definite introvert. The same goes for every other binary.

And you could argue fairly that some of the binaries are simply wrong. Thinking rationally and feeling have extensive overlap, as do absorbing facts and absorbing theories.

During the phase that I was devoutly preaching MBTI, I was unsettled by how often someone else would ask me what Hogwarts House I thought I would belong to. How dare they compare fictional magic to real pseudoscience?

But fundamentally, the results of your MBTI have about as much definitive value as those from the Sorting Hat. Even the MBTI shtick generally includes language that no one should be forced to take it, the best determiner of your type is your own choice, and no one should be granted or denied a job (or relationship, grant, etc.) based on their results.

Still there’s some value in looking at yourself analytically and introspectively, and the MBTI can be a good jumping off point. Pick and choose what you care for, plus, it’s fun. As far as Internet personality quizzes go, the MBTI is a solid and interesting one. Give it all the respect due to a “Which Ninja Turtle Are You?” quiz.

And before you accept anyone’s talk of Myers Briggs first check to make sure they’re not trying to sell you something.

Trust me, I got this; I’m an INTP Ravenclaw A-positive

Chris McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at