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Merve Emre

The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing

3.9 (78 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre explores the fascinating history of Myers-Briggs personality test and how it became a cultural phenomenon despite its scientific flaws and questionable origins.

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    The Personality Brokers
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    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator uses an easily understandable, nonjudgmental approach to understanding personality.

    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) holds the crown as the best-known personality inventory. You may have taken it as part of a recruitment process for a job or simply as a way to get to know yourself a little better. But for the uninitiated, let’s start by taking a look at exactly what this popular test entails.

    Our story begins during the Second World War, when a mother and daughter, Katharine Cooks Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, developed a questionnaire that later became known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This test measures a person’s personality according to several binaries of normal human behavior – common traits contrasted with their opposite, making them easy for most of us to understand.

    They are: introversion (I) and extraversion (E); intuition (N) and sensing (S); feeling (F) and thinking (T); and judging (J) and perceiving (P).

    In order to assess where someone’s personality lies along these four dichotomies, the questionnaire asks ninety-three separate questions about respondents’ preferences, each of which is associated with one of the test’s categories.

    For example: “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world, or your own inner world?” assesses introversion and extraversion, whereas “When you make decisions, do you initially consider consistency and logic, or do you first consider people and particular circumstances?” evaluates thinking and feeling.

    According to Myers-Briggs, your answers to questions like these determine your personality, which can be any one of 16 four-letter combinations. For instance, you might be an ENTJ (an extraverted, intuitive, thinking and judging personality type), or you could come out as an ISFP (an introverted, sensing, feeling and perceiving type).

    Importantly, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator isn’t a test with right and wrong answers. Rather, every personality type has its own strengths and weaknesses – no type is inherently better or worse than another. People with feeling personalities, for instance, are thought to be better at empathizing with others, whereas thinking personalities are more rational problem solvers. The creators designed the indicator this way to ensure that test-takers would not worry about being regarded as inferior to others once their results were known.

    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is renowned for this nonjudgmental and clear framework. But people might be less enthusiastic if they knew the thoroughly unscientific roots from which this test grew.

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    What is The Personality Brokers about?

    The Personality Brokers (2018) explores the origins and enduring appeal of the preeminent personality test. Drawing on detailed historical research, as well as recent psychological insights, these blinks detail the origins of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and what the test can really tell us about the nature of human beings.

    The Personality Brokers Review

    The Personality Brokers (2018) explores the fascinating world of personality testing and its impact on our lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Provides an in-depth examination of the creators of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), shedding light on their motivations and the influence of their theories.
    • Explores the limitations and controversies surrounding the MBTI, challenging readers to critically evaluate the use and validity of personality testing.
    • Offers a thought-provoking perspective on the intersection of psychology, society, and the quest for self-understanding, making it a captivating read that encourages reflection.

    Who should read The Personality Brokers?

    • Anyone interested in psychology
    • Those who enjoy stories about inspiring women
    • Sociology buffs looking for new insights into twentieth-century society

    About the Author

    Merve Emre is an author and an associate English professor at the University of Oxford. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker and The New Republic. She holds an MPhil and a PhD from Yale University.

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    The Personality Brokers FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Personality Brokers?

    The main message of The Personality Brokers is how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) became a cultural phenomenon.

    How long does it take to read The Personality Brokers?

    The reading time for The Personality Brokers can vary, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Personality Brokers a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Personality Brokers is worth reading for those interested in personality psychology and understanding the history of the MBTI.

    Who is the author of The Personality Brokers?

    The author of The Personality Brokers is Merve Emre.

    What to read after The Personality Brokers?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Personality Brokers, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Divided Self by Ronald D. Laing
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    • Personality by Daniel Nettle
    • Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger
    • Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow
    • Leadershift by John C. Maxwell
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