On Types of Typologies

My MBTI type is “the type of person who did some looking into it years ago and knows that the MBTI is neither particularly scientific nor particularly consistently applied”. Or, as it’s also called, INTJ

I’m sick of people hating on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The argument against Myers-Briggs is that it’s not scientific. The argument for Myers-Briggs is that I’m also the kind of person who did some looking into it and realizes that MBTI is neither scientific nor consistently applied, and I also test consistently as INTJ, so clearly something is going on here. And every time I read a description of INTJ I have to facepalm because I so consistently recognize myself in it.

(Yes, I’m familiar with the Forer effect and have compared it to descriptions of different types. Yes, I could totally believe there is a Forer + placebo effect where knowing that you have been assigned a certain type makes it sound more relevant to you than other types you read. Yes, I’m still impressed with how well descriptions of INTJs fit me. Also, I notice that people on Less Wrong, ie people like me, are seven times more likely to be INTJ than the general population. That seems like a nice objective result.)

I think it’s easy to reconcile “Myers-Briggs is not scientific” with “Myers-Briggs is a useful and real descriptive tool”.

When we say a personality type theory is scientific, part of what we want is certainty that it describes the world in the correct number of categories in the correct way. For example, MBTI has four different variables, each of which has two possible values. This could be interpreted as an implicit claim that there are four dimensions to personality, and only two types of personality within each dimension. And Myers and Briggs had no basis on which to make such a claim and just sort of armchaired it. Interpreted that way, the theory is pseudoscientific and dumb.

We compare it to the more scientifically accepted five-factor model, which used lots of data and a statistical technique called factor analysis to clump out what dimensions people actually varied on. They got five, only one of which (extraversion) is obviously the same as any of Myers-Briggs’ dimensions (although I’ve read other sources saying MBTI intuition is very highly correlated with FF openness). Now it’s not clear the five-factor people got it right; there’s a small cottage industry in finding correlations among the five factors and reducing them to fewer factors, such as two factor or one factor models. But clearly the five factor people are trying in a way the MBTI people aren’t.

But I don’t think MBTI needs to try to be scientific to do what it does. It’s not obvious that MBTI gives you any more than you put into it, and it’s not obvious that it should.

By this I mean that you answer a lot of personality questions on a test, like “Do you like spending time around other people?”, and you say “no”, and then later the test tells you “You’re an introvert”, and then you think “Oh my god, this is amazing, it’s like it’s known me my whole life!”

The claim that MBTI gives you new information would be a bold scientific claim and would require bold scientific evidence. I don’t know to what degree the MBTI people make this claim, but I don’t think it’s necessary for me to enjoy the test and consider it useful. All it needs to do is condense the information you put into it in a way that makes it more relevant and digestible.

To say it does so perfectly would be a bold scientific claim. To say it does so at a nonzero level would be an antiprediction, and one that I’m perfectly happy to hand to it.

So let’s talk about European countries.

European countries were created in a very unscientific way: some people conquered some other people, and then some organizations like the Congress of Vienna drew a lot of little borders. If we interpret European border-drawing as an attempt to capture “types” of Europeans, it makes some obvious errors – Basques thrown in with Spaniards, Switzerland having Germans and French and Italians, Belgium making NO SENSE, et cetera.

On the other hand, it is massively better than nothing. If I say “Andreas is Greek, but Franz is German”, you can make a lot of stereotyped but useful assumptions about them. Andreas probably has darker hair and eyes. Franz is probably more likely to be a rich banker. Andreas drinks more wine, Franz more beer. And so on.

Compare the two-factor model of European classification. We break down variance among Europeans into two dimensions. We find that Andreas is (38, 24) and Franz is (52, 13). That’s…nice. Now when I tell you the two dimensions are latitude and longitude of their location, you feel like you know what I’m saying. But it’s not very human-processable information. If I told you that Maria was at (46, 6) and asked you to describe her, probably your first impulse would be to check a map and see what country that corresponds to – in other words, abandon the perfectly logical Two Factor model and go back to the awful, unscientific Metternich-Bourbon Type Indicator.

Five Factor and MBTI are trying to do fundamentally different things. Five Factor is trying to give us a mathematized, objectively correct version of personality useful for research purposes. MBTI is trying to separate people into little bins that put continuous personality space into discrete and easy-to-think-about terms suitable for human processing, and even very poorly drawn bins will do a pretty good job, just like European countries.

If you want Five Factor to compete with MBTI for some purpose – and really, I’m not sure why you’d care, but some people seem really into this – then it has to compete in the “useful discrete bins” field. Invent a binary opposition between OCEAN – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism – and SUIDR – Shutness, Unconscientiousness, Introversion, Disagreeableness, Relaxedness. Then let me tell people I’m OCIDN, and they can be like “I’m OCIDN too, it’s like I’ve known you my whole life!” And we can make a web form called “The OCcIDeNt” or something where only OCIDNs are allowed, and talk about how no one else understands the problems that OCIDNs have to face.

Then make a gif about what Harry Potter character each of the thirty-two possibilities corresponds to. Realistically, combine two of the five factors so there are only sixteen possibilities, or else you’re going to be scraping the bottom of the Harry Potter barrel: “My type is Charity Burbage’s pet owl!”

I would be interested in seeing if such a system catches the popular imagination the same way Myers-Briggs does. I would be interested in seeing whether it gives the same intuitive right answers, like having certain types massively overrepresented on Less Wrong. My guess is that it would. But I don’t think MBTI does too much worse in that regard or that the differences would be worth stressing out over.

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121 Responses to On Types of Typologies

  1. Symmetry says:

    My girlfriend circa 2005 had a love of Harry Potter, an academic interest in personality, and corresponding Strong Opinions about how the various houses corresponded with different Five Factor traits. I’m very sad I’ve forgotten what they were.

  2. Phil R. says:

    …go back to the awful, unscientific Metternich-Bourbon Type Indicator.


    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This made me bite my wrist so I didn’t laugh out loud at work (bmwsidlolaw, use it in all your chats). ‘Metternich-Bourbon Type Indicator’ might displace ‘relatively non-swashbuckling’ as my favorite phrase by Scott.

  3. Typhon says:

    « The claim that MBTI gives you new information would be a bold scientific claim and would require bold scientific evidence. I don’t know to what degree the MBTI people make this claim »

    Many people seem to think that they learn new information from it. Also, many people seem to think one type is intrinsically better than the others.

    It’s like that thing I’ve seen pop up over the internet where people say they are an Introvert (or an Extrovert), enumerate a few things about it, and cue a long discussion about whether it’s better to be an Introvert and an Extrovert, as if it was set in stone for all eternity that everyone was either one or the other, as if they were different species, whereas you could easily replace those labels by “elves” and “dwarves” and it’d make about as much sense.

    I find the human willingness to not only create stereotypes all the time, but also to conform to them, to enforce them not only on others but on themselves, a bit sad and definitely frightening.

    I guess that’s because I’m a french INTP elf.


    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      The new information I felt I got from MBTI was that a lot of my introverted behavior is textbook introverted behavior. That is, I saw a question where one of the choices was ‘you can speak to strangers if it’s about certain topics’ and realized that I’m not a weird-sometimes-introvert because I’m comfortable speaking to strangers on my favorite topics, that’s normal for introverts.

      • Matthew says:

        Introversion != social anxiety.

        I look at it this way. An introvert’s baseline is an overstimulated brain (by social stimuli). They can only take so much of other people’s company before they need to recover. Extroverts’ baseline is understimulated (by social stimuli), so they do poorly when kept away from external stimuli for too long.

    • Elves are obviously better than dwarves why are we even having this conversation.

      More importantly, people enjoy belonging to groups of the like-minded, which is why the INTJs all hang out together at LW, and once they do so they all comment on how alike they are and revel in their alikeness. This is especially true of characteristics that are less socially discoverable than others, such as introversion, which makes a lot of introverts feel like they’re the only one, and feel quite happy when they realize that it’s a thing.

      • Kaminiwa says:

        Only if you’re going DPS. The net -4 CON for an elf makes them super fragile, and the +DEX just doesn’t benefit healers or tanks.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Is there some actual elf/dwarf personality typology I should know about?

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I mean, there are the usual elf/dwarf stereotypes, but neither seems particularly more introverted/extroverted… also there’s the general problem with using opposing stereotypes as a scale, which is that you’re mashing lots of dimensions together…

        • AJD says:

          It’s alluded to in Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, at least. I don’t have a copy of the book at hand, but the basic idea is that elves are creative, theoretical innovators, while dwarves are diligent, practical implementers.

        • nydwracu says:

          Elves are German; dwarves are English.

      • ozymandias says:

        Yes! To quote TVTropes:

        Randy Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson divides the world into Elves (ingenious, calculating and highly motivated people, like his business partner Avi), Dwarves (hard-working “plodders,” like himself), and Men (everyone else outside the realm of nerds that he inhabits).

        • Anonymous says:

          I think in the book there were also wizards (like Randy’s grandfather, the mathematical genius) and hobbits (Randy’s ex-girlfriend’s social circle).

    • Nornagest says:

      Nonsense. Everyone knows nerds are dwarves.

      • Vulture says:

        Does that mean that geeks are elves?

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t usually distinguish between the two in my own writing, although I recognize that others can get pretty heated about it.

          The Neal Stephenson routine I’m borrowing this from, though, uses the Tolkien races as a typology of career/personality traits. Dwarves don’t see the sun a lot, preferring to spend all their time indoors producing and/or obsessing over beautiful things: hence, geeks. Elves have the vision thing. Hobbits are academics and similarly sheltered individuals. Most everyone else falls under Men, although I think we’ve all met Gollum at some point.

          ETA: Heh, looks like Ozy got there before me.

    • suntzuanime says:

      But the Introvert/Extrovert axis is the MBTI axis that has actually been consecrated by the officially scientific OCEAN model! It’s the one that isn’t bullshit, to the extent that science isn’t bullshit.

      • Darcey Riley says:

        An axis means there’s a continuum from complete extraversion to complete introversion. The kind of absolutism that Typhon is describing leaves no room for “halfway in between”.

        (Also, what does “halfway in between” even mean? Being alone and being with people both exhaust you if you do it for too long? Neither of them are unpleasant for any length of time?)

        • Typhon says:

          I remember reading a criticism of MBTI that amounted to saying that most people are obviously somewhere near the middle of the 4 continuums, but the existence of the different labels means people round off away from the middle.

          So basically, if you’ve got a person who’s moderately I and T, and extremely N and P, and another one who’s moderately N and P and extremely I and T, you end up putting them both under the INTP label and assuming they have similar personalities, even though, by MBTI’s own assessment, they are more similar to some ENFPs and ISTJs respectively than to each other.


        • Josh says:

          I’m halfway between, so I’ll try to explain. There is actually a term for someone who is halfway between an introvert and an extrovert — an ambivert. An ambivert exhibits introverted traits in some scenarios and extroverted traits in others. I have times that I need to be around others and I have times that I need to be by myself.

    • Darcey Riley says:

      I have nothing to add, I just wanted to wholeheartedly agree with this comment.

  4. adbge says:

    I would be interested in seeing if such a system catches the popular imagination the same way Myers-Briggs does.

    When I expose people to MBTI and Big 5, everyone prefers MBTI. Why? Because with Big 5 traits, some dimensions are clearly better to rank higher on: it’s bad to be neurotic and disagreeable, and it’s good to be conscientious.

    So, if you wanted to popularize it, you’d need to make some changes. Need a description of a disagreeable person? We have tons of euphemisms: Honest, independent, not afraid to speak your mind, etc.

    • Troy says:

      Yes, this is definitely right. Two dissimilar individuals comparing Big 5 traits with their current names is no more fun than a 140 IQ and 100 IQ individual comparing their intelligence test scores. It’s better to accentuate the positive aspects of each of the poles if you want people to enjoy talking about their Big 5 personality types.

      • Jimmy says:

        I wonder if you could get away with a change of basis.

        Toy example: Say you have a 2 factor model where higher scores on each is obviously better. Instead of using the basis (F1,F2), use (F1+F2, F1-F2) – and maybe drop F1+F2 in problem contexts. Concentrate all the “goodness” into one dimension so you can get motivation-free answers to where they lie on an equal goodness contour.

        Now that I think of it, MBTI+goodness might already be a decent (orthogonalish) basis for the same space. Anyone familiar enough with it to know?

    • Vaniver says:

      Because with Big 5 traits, some dimensions are clearly better to rank higher on: it’s bad to be neurotic and disagreeable, and it’s good to be conscientious.

      I’ve seen at least one psych professor say that they specifically try to hire neurotics as research assistants–they worry more about making mistakes, and so are more likely to catch them–and there are articles like this one (though it doesn’t make the neurotic-relaxed comparison).

      • Multiheaded says:

        Yes; from everything I’ve read of the Big Five, I’ve formed a distinct impression that geeks who are likely to care about it respect neurotics and even hold non-neurotics in contempt. (That geeks are racist might be a confounder?)

        • Matthew says:

          Not all geeks are like that.

          (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Also, it’s, you know, true. Lesswrong isn’t representative of geeks, never mind the neoreactionaries not being representative of geeks.)

      • Darcey Riley says:

        OkCupid has a question that asks “Are you more intense or laid-back?” Those both sound like positive qualities, so I wonder if that question corresponds to the high-neuroticism/low-neuroticism divide.

      • a person says:

        Really? From Wikipedia:

        Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability, or is reversed and referred to as emotional stability. According to Eysenck’s (1967) theory of personality, neuroticism is interlinked with low tolerance for stress or aversive stimuli. Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time, which means they are often in a bad mood. For instance, neuroticism is connected to a pessimistic approach toward work, confidence that work impedes with personal relationships, and apparent anxiety linked with work.

        All of this really sounds uniquely bad. It seems like Conscientiousness would be the metric that you would want to look at when hiring a research assistant, and also the metric that would balance effectiveness with ability to relax.

        That being said, I’ve heard that too much agreeability can be a bad thing. No one wants to be a pushover or a yes man.

        • vaniver says:

          I wish I could find the original place I found that, but yes, really. If your assistant gets stressed out by the thought of something going wrong, they will do more to prevent things going wrong than your assistant who assumes things will work out. (I also suspect there’s an unspoken “and they’re easier to control with feedback, too.”)

    • Anonymous says:

      I sorta always thought N, T, and J were clearly superior to S, F, and P in Myers-Briggs; I got the impression S meant you couldn’t handle ambiguity and new systems well, P meant you were indecisive and overly passive, and F meant you’d have a really hard time being a good consequentialist. Naively E seems better than I, but I’m not sure; is part of extraversion a dislike of being alone? That could make it hard to develop skills.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        I never had this impression. I’m NTJ and I don’t wish any of those changed, but I feel like it’s just as easy to be proud of other configurations. ‘Be concrete’ is a pro-S meme, the straw vulcan is a pro-F meme, ‘decisiveness’ is a pro-J meme. (If you’re wondering how I can idealize P, I find it helps me remain calm and impartial).

        I vs. E is the problematic one; I do find in my experience that E’s have trouble being alone, which sounds horrible to me, but ‘introversion’ definitely sounds worse up front.

        • nydwracu says:

          I do find in my experience that E’s have trouble being alone, which sounds horrible to me

          It is.

        • Anonymous says:

          ‘Be concrete’ is a pro-S meme

          That makes good sense. Rigor takes a lot of effort for me; my N&J-ness has trouble with spending a lot of individual “extra” efforts, most of which won’t help, even though if you don’t you *will* get hit for massive damage by one little thing somewhere.

          (I’m also an I, but am somewhere confusing when it comes to T vs. F. Much like the old Jackdaws Love My Big Sphinx of Quartz post about the little Indian beggar girl who was unexpectedly smart and massively triggered Scott’s empathy… or like when it appeared Quirrell in HPMOR defended Hermione against Snape on a whim, at least until his ulterior motive was revealed.)

      • a person says:

        According to this article, ENTJs make the most money out of any personality type by a significant margin. Strangely, ENTPs come in second to last.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, I’ve done a couple of different online versions of the Myers-Briggs, and I keep coming out ISTJ, and it does seem to be fairly accurate to my personality.

        Things like this, for instance:
        ISTJs are easily irritated by other people’s shortcomings.

        Considering I just put up a rant on Tumblr about a politician here in Ireland talking about something I have direct personal experience of, and with whose conclusions I disagree (it is disagreement, not slander, if you say “He’s talking through his arse”, correct?) – then yes 🙂

    • ozymandias says:

      IDK. Anecdotally, my neurotic friends are mostly hella aware we’re neurotic and take a perverse sort of pride in it; I bet a similar thing is true for disagreeableness. I wonder if that relates to how neurotic/disagreeable you are: if you’re 1 stdev out, you can be in denial, but if you’re two or three, denial no longer works and you have to do the perverse pride thing.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The system might be more successful if your pride didn’t have to be perverse.

      • blacktrance says:

        Out of curiosity, what does pride in neuroticism sound like? From my experience, people proud of being disagreeable say things like “I tell it like it is”, “I don’t go along with conventional wisdom”, i.e. they generally view themselves as more authentic and honest than normal people. Is there an equivalent for neurotic people? If so, what is it?

        • ozymandias says:

          You know how whenever you get three women in a room discussing their periods the topic immediately goes to one-upmanship about how terrible your cramps, PMS, and miscellaneous other symptoms are? That, except for brains. “I haven’t managed to go to a class for a WEEK because I was too terrified!” “Yeah, well, I haven’t gone to a party in TWO YEARS because of social phobia!”

        • mayleaf says:

          Or similarly, when you have busy students complaining about their workload. “I haven’t gotten more than 5 hours of sleep any night this week!” “Eh, that’s normal, I never get more than 5 hours of sleep on weeknights.” “I have 2 exams and a huge problem set due on Wednesday.” “Yeah, well, on Thursday I have 2 essays due, an exam, and an in-class presentation…”

        • anon1 says:

          Sometimes I talk about how I just can’t *stand* a comma in the wrong place, and how other people’s errors drive me up the wall. Since this particular neurosis is why I’m good at my editing job (when I’m in a particularly good mood and my reaction to minor errors is lessened as a result, I end up doing noticeably worse), pride in it doesn’t seem perverse at all.

    • Anthony says:

      Conscientious/Unworried (Carefree starts with C, which rules it out)

      Needs a more positive synonym for “neurotic”, and perhaps one that begins with ‘N’ for the opposite of neurotic to keep the OCEAN acronym.

      • Randy M says:

        “Neat” is the best I can do, but that is probably too narrow.

      • Zathille says:


        Though I could probably avoid advertising for defunct portable game consoles if I try harder.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Indeed, there is a movement to flip the neuroticism scale and call it “emotional stability” specifically so that all the axes are positive.

      • blacktrance says:

        The problem with this is that a test telling you that you’re emotionally unstable is even more insulting than being told that you’re disagreeable. Some people take a kind of perverse pride in being disagreeable, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone be proud of being unstable (although according to Ozymandias’s comment above, people like that do exist).

        • Oligopsony says:

          Encrypted for infohazard that most people have probably already been exposed to:

          Gurer’f n ybat Ebznagvp genqvgvba bs frrvat artngvir nssrpg naq rzbgvbany vafgnovyvgl, rfcrpvnyyl jura gurl oybbz vagb qrcerffvba, nf qrabgvat terngre frafvgvivgl, vafvtug, naq nhguragvpvgl. V fhfcrpg guvf vf 1) zber gehr guna abg naq 2) onfvyvfx-yvxr.

    • Deiseach says:

      Did a quick couple of online “Big Five” tests, and it turns out I’m Closed-Minded, Disorganised, Introverted, Disagreeable, and Nervous/High-Strung.

      Now, I can’t really disagree with these, but yes – the Myers-Briggs style of tests (where you get catchy little nicknames such as “the Inspector” for being an ISTJ) has that beat by a country mile – after all, which would you rather promulgate as an image of yourself – Oscar the Grouch or Joe Friday? 😉

      Actually, I don’t mind being Oscar the Grouch – he was pretty much my favourite character on “Sesame Street”, but the point remains: which is more flattering to one’s sense of self – miserable reclusive dweller in rubbish bin, or coolly efficient, eagle-eyed, honest as the day is long sleuth?

  5. Douglas Knight says:

    One difference between MBTI and OCEAN is that OCEAN uses English words pretty close to their normal meanings. Perhaps too close so that it fools people into thinking they understand it. For example, Conscientious is not that common a word, with two competing meanings (law-abiding and thorough) and people who know one of them assume that OCEAN is about that particular one. Whereas, MBTI uses English words completely unrelated to their normal meanings, and people love being initiated into a secret code. Also, MBTI and Kiersey use the same words, but mean completely different things by them.

  6. moridinamael says:

    I think it has to do with how much of an “Aha!” you get from your exposure to the concept. How many bits of compression your brains tells you you’re earning by incorporating the concept into your lexicon.

    When I was first exposed to MBTI I instantly and automatically categorized all my friends. Like, without conscious effort. The typologies are just so *natural.* It’s like providing a system for classifying animals into birds and mammals and fish (in the absence of such a system). You’re like, wow, this makes so much sense.

    Then when I was later exposed to Five Factor I was like, hm, okay, well, I bet I can somehow use this to help come up with unique fictional character personalities. And I would sort of randomly generate fictional character personality templates, and then decide they didn’t really work for me, and go back to my old method of just doing it intuitively.

    Furthermore, there’s a vast difference between the usefulness of descriptive and prescriptive models. If you tell me you’re an INTJ, that’s all I need to know to predict how you’ll act in various situations. It’s sort of like how I know the difference between a Slytherin and a Hufflepuff. But if you tell me your Five Factor scores … I won’t do nearly as well. I don’t have a little representative Five Factor homonculus in my head that does that computation for me automatically.

    Not to dance completely away from the point, but in advanced mathematics and physics and programming lectures, professors will often refer to terms of equations as “this guy,” and anthropomorphize their behavior. “This guy cancels out. This guy goes over here.” Your brain will take absolutely any opportunity it can to compress information into an anthropomorphic representation.

  7. Vaniver says:

    Unverified repeated claim: apparently, MBTI got a reputation as unscientific, and so scientists were reluctant to publish papers using it (or found their papers rejected or so on), and then MBTI’s reputation as unscientific was supported by the lack of papers published using it.

  8. endoself says:

    Also, I notice that people on Less Wrong, ie people like me, are seven times more likely to be INTJ than the general population.

    This is probably an underestimate due to INTJs not answering this question on the census, as they believe it is unscientific.

  9. Luke says:

    I think this is roughly (a steel man of) what defenders of the enneagram try to say in defense of it. I find myself more sympathetic to MBTI, but I haven’t examined the enneagram closely.

    • MicaiahC says:

      I am more familiar with the enneagram and will agree, with the big caveat that all of the new age/religious undertones of the enneagram should be ignored to be at all useful.

    • Paul Crowley says:

      The link there is broken I’m afraid!

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, the enneagram was unbelieveably trendy in Catholic circles as a discernment tool back in the 90s; lots of male and female religious were tested on it, or recommended to use it, and I have always thought it was a load of bobbins.

      I don’t find it particularly useful and I have no idea why it became the flavour of the month for spiritual discernment, but then again – as a traditionalist, rules-bound ISTJ, I would say that, wouldn’t I? 🙂

  10. Fnord says:

    Is latitude-longitude typing ACTUALLY not human processable, or is it simply that people don’t know the right landmarks, whereas they do know more or less what traits go with what countries? I mean, the relevant information I get looking at (46, 6) on a map is “in France, right across the border from Geneva”. The first part is only relevant because of the drawing of lines in the first place, and the second would be trivially obvious if I knew the longitude and latitude of Geneva (46 12′, 6 09′).

    • Anthony says:

      Most people haven’t developed the mental database required, and damn few would have a reason to. For obscure geeky reasons, only some of which are work-related, I know *some* places to within a degree or so (40N 75W is Camden, NJ, for example), but only for those places where I’ve bothered to look it up, either repeatedly, or because it was memorable.

      It’s probably no harder than associating people with semi-random 7-digit strings, which used to be a very common skill.

      • Fnord says:

        Right, no one has the database required, because we’ve decided to go with the Metternich-Bourbon type indicator instead, so they learn that database.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think I’m making a stronger point here. Even if I gave you the map of Europe with Maria’s location marked with a dot, your first thought would still be “Wait, is that dot in France? Or Germany? Or Switzerland?”

      • Fnord says:

        I’m not sure how true that is. If you see a dot on, say, the east Baltic coast, I suspect most (American) people form the vague impression you mention, and that the further information of which east Baltic country they’re in doesn’t add much to that.

        Now, that’s PARTLY because people don’t know as much political geography of Eastern Europe. But that’s my point: we use national borders as a first impulse because we’ve already spent a lot of brainspace on knowing national borders.

        • F. says:

          The national borders usually either

          1 – are drawn to match existing cultural boundaries,
          2 – cultural boundaries come to match existing national border due to movement of people within a nation and schooling in the national language and culture.

          So it’s only natural that if you hear coordinates, you convert them to country names, and not viceversa.

          (If it’s neither 1 nor 2, you get Belgium or Switzerland, which are rarities).

  11. roystgnr says:

    You can’t even begin to talk about love or hate for MBTI until you define *which* MBTI you’re talking about. The MBTI tests I took long ago gave answers on a continuous scale: “You’re 90% I, 70% N, 90% T, 60% P”. Other (the original?) MBTI tests are binary: “You’re INTP”. I didn’t know that binary-only tests ever existed, and conversely I’ve noticed that some of the haters don’t seem to know that the continuous tests exist. This makes their criticism of the (implicitly binary) tests make much more sense; of course human personalities aren’t bimodal (or sexdecimodal), and trying to pick sharp dividing lines won’t give very repeatable results for people near the line.

  12. Multiheaded says:

    Yay! This perfectly put into words many of my own feelings about the MBTI! I’m even willing to suppress my strong prejudice against INTJs, and especially self-confessed INTJs, to express my gratitude!

    • a person says:

      If you’re going to make a comment just to passive-aggressively insult Scott and a large portion of this blog’s audience, you should at least explain why.

      • coffeespoons says:

        I assumed that Multiheaded’s comment was intended to be humourous.

        • Pthagnar says:

          A desire to be humorous and a desire to be cutting very often go together.

          I am inclined to agree with Multiheaded on this. I usually fall into INTP [although recently, I have been showing up as INFP] and, like Scott, recognise a lot of myself in the INTP psychotype, and other INTPS. I also recognise a lot to hate in both the INTJ population and psychotype — me and some INTPs of my acquaintance have come up with some unflattering names I won’t reproduce here.

          Actually, I was a little surprised at first, and now am surprised that I was surprised — I would have said that Scott was an INTP because although he was clearly an INT, he was… what is a nice way to put it… ineffectual about things. On thinking about it, I decided he wasn’t actually ineffectual at all, and that all of the things he writes about being basically not sure how to procede and being sceptical is the fruit of his Judgement! This is a mode unusual for INTJs, who mostly seem to use their Judgement as a reason to throw more action at their idee fixe.

          The upshot of this interpretation is that it seems to me that Scott is an INTJ trying hard to be an INTP, to whom shilly-shallying, scepticism [and perhaps akrasia [or perhaps being more comfortable with akrasia]] come naturally, without suffering from the problems of being constitutively like that. It also contains the worrying thought that the main thing separating us good, thoughtful INTPs from the dirty INTJs is that they are better at being ourselves than we are.

        • Oligopsony says:

          Phthagnar: pretty much exactly many of my thoughts (or at least prejudices,) with the caveats that The MBTI Isn’t Scientific (but see: this thread and post) and that my J-aversion is likely sour grapes: they get things done, and I so rarely do!

        • Pthagnar says:

          Sour grapes and ‘oh fuck, so *that’s* what happens when you take that seriously…’?

        • Matthew says:


          J vs. P is the part of MBTI that has the least support in terms of carving reality at the joints. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill here.

        • nydwracu says:

          I have never been able to get any sort of intuitive understanding of MBTI types, or any ability to sort people into categories. This is probably because I have not come across anyone who talks about MBTI who is not either an INTP or an INTJ. (I’m the only exception — the thing says I’m an ENTP.)

        • Pthagnar says:

          What you say about J v. P being the scientifically flakiest is true.

          (INT)J v (INT)P *is*, on the other hand, the main meyers-briggs division between ‘argumentative nerds on the internet who are willing to take meyers-briggs somewhat seriously, even accounting for the self-reported tendency of at least INTJs to go “beep boop that is illogical captain”‘ — look at the survey results in the OP. I am not sure what figure Scott is using for his sevenfold LW enrichment: Wikipedia gives a range of 2-4% INTJ in the general population against the survey’s 13.8% , and the 2% figure appears to be what he used. What this devious INTJ isn’t telling you is that by this same metric, there is a fourfold enrichment of INTPs. In absolute terms of people who answered, it is about a three-way split between INTJ, INTP and Inhuman Other. This is also a common trend on the Internet generally — the most *sociologically* salient split I see when I notice this is usually between INTPs and INTJs.

          Perhaps a signal could be teased out of this enrichment, or perhaps it is just gangsigns in a fight that even The Onion is fighting.

        • peterdjones says:

          “No way to prevent this, say residents if only nation where this sort of thing regularly happens”

          Sums up about 37% of everything I have ever said on the net.

        • ozymandias says:

          I’m ISFJ and I have been involved in discussions of MBTI! Indeed, I’m pretty sure me talking about it is what prompted this post. (I am not entirely clear what an ISFJ actually is– I have no idea how y’all remember what all those categories mean– but am hoping someone will provide their prejudices about the Inhuman Other.)

    • Amanda L. says:

      In the off chance you’re serious about prejudice against INTJ’s, I’m curious why. Explain? (I say this as an INTJ/INTP, but I don’t plan to get offended.)

  13. a person says:

    1. A few years ago, I used to hate on MBTI a lot, calling it astrology with a thin veneer of sophistication, and etc. Then recently I went and took a look at /r/intp for some reason and I was shocked at how much I saw a reflection of myself.

    Looking back, I’m pretty sure my dislike for MBTI came from a phase where I was doing that thing where people develop a powerful contempt for the signals of the tier in the social hierarchy directly below their own. For a while I had a really strong dislike of nerd culture and I saw infatuation with MBTI as a sort of disguised “nerd pride” thing. I felt like things like /r/intp were basically a circlejerk of “I would rather read a book than go to a party, and no one understands!”

    This post reminded me that it should be high on my priorities to read more about my type and how INTPs deal with their problems. Sometimes I feel like I am a huge weirdo and I have a very strange brain that I need to find a unique way to deal with and it would be good to be reminded that this isn’t actually the case.

    I still have a strong contempt for memes that make a sharp distinction between “introverts” and “extroverts”, but I suspect that this might be some form of Typical Mind Fallacy because I am basically on the border between the two.

    2. I feel like your analogy is flawed somewhat. MBTI types can’t really serve as cluster identifiers like European countries because no one intuitively knows what they point to, aside from a handful of nerds. If someone tells me “I’m an ISTJ”, I have no idea what that represents, other than “Well, I’m an INTP, so you’re like me, except you’re more ‘sensing’ than uh…. ‘intuitive’, and you’re more ‘judging’ than I am ‘perceiving’… whatever that means”. I know that there are websites with profiles of each type that give a more unique picture, but someone would have to put in a fair amount of actual effort in order to be able to associate the portrait with the four letters, especially given how interchangeable the acronyms are. But I guess in the end it doesn’t matter if I don’t understand the culture of the French, the British, the German, etc. as long as I feel at home in America.

    • Alrenous says:

      Amusingly, there’s only one essay length profile on the net I’m aware of, (I looked) and it’s INTP.

      • a person says:

        Holy shit. How is it possible for someone to describe me this accurately given four bits of information? @___@

        This is actually completely crazy. Every paragraph is a new “What the fuck…?” moment.

        (Of course, every so often there is something that I look at and just think “…no”.)

  14. Vilhelm S says:

    So if I want to know my Myers-Briggs type, what should I do? Apparently the official test costs money, and the top Google hits for free clones were all very short 20-binary-questions surveys, which seems would give very noisy results.

    • a person says:

      Take multiple free tests, I guess? I have seen free tests on the internet with hundreds of questions, I don’t think they should be too hard to find. There isn’t necessarily a One True Answer to this question either, as should be evident by the OP.

  15. lmm says:

    I take a similar view of the much-maligned D&D alignment system. Yes, it’s a simplification and the boundaries don’t always make sense – but it’s easy to understand and work with.

    • Are we talking about the classical 4-valued system with only lawful/chaotic and good/evil as the choices, or the 9-valued system with “neutral” added as an option for each scale? Because in theory it seems like the 9-valued system would work better, but in practice no one knows how to role-play the “neutral” characters, so I think we’d just be better with the 4-valued one.

      • AJD says:

        It’s relatively easy to find well-written characters in literature who would be easily described with a “neutral” alignment, though. Inspector Javert is Lawful Neutral, Jack Sparrow is Chaotic Neutral, Nellie Lovett is Neutral Evil, &c.

      • Amanda L. says:

        Really? Neutral seems like the easiest kind of character to roleplay. Just roleplay them as a typical non-fictional person, boom, done. It’s kind of boring, but I would guess it’s the most common personality type if we were to go around typing all the people in the world.

      • F. says:

        Neutral just mean that someone is in the middle of the range, without tilting either way. It’s very much needed, how else do you call someone who isn’t either particularly good or particularly evil, but just average?

        The Myers-Briggs types could be improved by adding “neutral” types. Then there would be 81 different types.

  16. Robert says:

    There’s a lot more I would want to say but I really think a key part of the MBTI issue is the unreliability of other studied effects and psychometrics, because of p-value fishing and N=50 poorly controlled studies and so on. Arrogant psychologists want something to criticize as a smokescreen to avoid people noticing how bad their scientific work is too. As for the direct rival scale, I’d have to agree with other commenters that social desirability bias almost certainly plays a part in Five Factors that I’ve never seen properly accounted for.

    More curiously, I think it’s very likely that MBTI is far more reliable for a subset of the general population, maybe a tenth or a fifth, clustered around INTJ and “similar” types. Part of this may in fact be that the other types, where people get more random, unreliable results, correspond to people who in a school sense don’t do “test-taking” well and won’t make an effort or respond consistently. As for real world predictions, for a long time the most astounding result I’ve ever seen considered in the psychology and personality domain, something no religious cult in the history of humankind ever accomplished, for instance, but clearly grassroots and benign, is entirely correlated to the MBTI. All available evidence indicates that at least 25-50% of English-speaking INTJs ages 18-30 (or in other words a tremendously higher rate than the general population) are part of the MLP:FiM fandom, self-identified as whatever but often bronies, pegasisters, etc… I’d want someone to explain that result before casually dismissing MBTI.

    • Nornagest says:

      25-50% of English-speaking INTJs ages 18-30 (or in other words a tremendously higher rate than the general population) are part of the MLP:FiM fandom

      That’s… remarkable if true, but I’m gonna have to ask for your reasoning here.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are 52 million Americans between 18-30 according to the American Community Survey 2012 (provided by Wolfram Alpha), and INTJ is 2.1% of the population according to myersbriggs.org. So that would be 1.1 million INTJs in the appropriate age range, about.

        Now, here is where things get wacky. There was a survey performed by a brony which suggested that 7 to 12.4 million people in the US are bronies. And 25% of them are INTJ which comes to, well, more than there are INTJs in that age range anyway.

        The reason this all falls apart is because the number of bronies is hilariously exaggerated by being based on (bad) survey data. Calculating the confidence intervals doesn’t mean that there is a 95% chance that 4 to 6.8% of Internet denizens are bronioes. It means that there is a 95% probability that 4 to 6.8% of people will answer 4 or 5 on this survey, if you give it many times. They may answer 4 or 5 because they are bronies, or because they think it’s funny to do so, or because they don’t understand the question, or because the five was closer to their cursor and they wanted to get through the survey as quickly as possible. When trying to measure a small quantity with survey data in this format, you are going to have a bad time. This clearly establishes an upper bound on the number of bronies (because bronies have an incentive to answer five, but others face no incentive to answer 1), but even if the question were, “Rate your being Hitler from 1 to 5, with 1 being not Hitler, 5 being literally Adolph Hitler, and 2 to 4 signalling that you can’t read or understand this question” you would still find many people answering in all of those categories.

        Some other random facts related to community size: Equestriadaily.com which seems to be used by many as a benchmark of the community gets somewhere between 80,000 and 800,000 unique “visitors” per month (keep in mind a visitor is a unique IP address, so each real life user represents greater than 1 unique visitor on average)(the first number is from compete.com, the second number has been reported in the brony media, but as actually reported represents aggregate unique visits to the site over some undisclosed long period of time, perhaps since inception). The highest rated episode of the show ever released had a viewership of 95,000 and 104,000 for the first and second parts among adults 18-49.

        The probability that there are 7 million bronies is very slight. As to the question of INTJs, 18,500 took the survey that gave the 25% INTJ figure, which is a pretty sizable number. It wouldn’t totally surprise me if there were 100,000 INTJ marginal bronies, making up 10% of the relevant population (you have to figure that INTJs were overrepresented in that survey, Bayesianly speaking). Which is totally not what I was expecting when I started writing this comment. That said, my point estimate for the number of Bronies is more like 400,000, with perhaps 50,000 being INTJ.

        • Nornagest says:

          So basically we’re talking Lizardman’s constant. That’s a boring but entirely plausible answer.

          (Though in this case, we might also be seeing a confounder in people that have no exposure to the fandom, but watched the show with their children or younger siblings, enjoyed it, and misinterpreted the survey question. Cartoons get a lot of exposure.)

        • Robert says:

          Hey, missed that there had been replies and someone had come back to attempt to ballpark some numbers, but unfortunately they seem rather off. For the rest of this post I’m going to refer to adult My Little Pony fans as bronies, saving a large amount of space on verbiage, no offense intended to anyone.

          The MBTI self-reports on Less Wrong is something I had never looked into and seems to explain or correlate as expected with a lot of other info (such as how people found the LW community). More specifically, the INTJ-ish numbers are “low.” The “baseline” of “college educated male actively doing anything on the Internet” for INTJ is probably something like 10-15%, Bayesianly speaking. For example, garden variety eSports communities that are thought to be nowhere near as allegedly “selective” as the Less Wrong community report far higher percentages of INTJs. Estimates of INTJs and INTPs alone being over 50% in total are not uncommon, but this is mostly an aside on the makeup of LW as referenced by others and a general plausibility reference point. Also out of curiosity something I have not seen spelled in any comments since the original post is that INTJs are often put as about 3-to-1 male (for any group anywhere). As a general point it would be nice to know if anyone had more recent evidence on general population MBTI prevalences (limited by the fact that MBTI isn’t in great scientific repute as has been discussed).

          As for the numbers you cited it seems you were overlooking that what was specified was not specifically Americans. This is particularly important to the total population estimate for bronies. Most of the brony population would be Western, true, and including Native English speakers in the non-Western world (which statistically would be mostly from India) pushes our estimates to the lower end of the range but not overwhelmingly so even assuming Indians are entirely not bronies. However an artificial limit to only Americans tremendously throws the numbers off.

          I would say we are working with an estimate of 2-3 million INTJs in the relevant word population (by age and native/fluent English again). This is not inconsistent with your numbers, just the distinction that Americans were not the limited reference population. As for the percent of bronies which are INTJ, I think there are multiple surveys out there that show that 25% as you cited in one source as a floor to the range so that estimate is good. Interestingly other commenters here seem to think Internet surveys in general underestimate the proportion of INTJs, I’m not sure I agree with that but the data on bronies isn’t less reliable or accurate than anything else done by similar methods one way or another. It’s not the point that is most contentious because any estimate at many times the general population rate results in the same conclusion for predictive validity.

          What I do have as off is your estimate of the number of bronies worldwide (made a little more understandable with the assumption that Americans were the limit of discussion)

          For a total population estimate, to start, Fimfiction has well over 100,000 user accounts, even allowing for novelties and duplicates an estimate of 50,000 unique users would be reasonable. That number clearly would be on the order of 1% of the brony population. Likewise it would seem any assumption of most given Internet sites representing a huge proportion of unique bronies is off and inconsistent with how any other demographic would be counted.

          That produces an estimate around the 5 million mark for adults worldwide, which seems in line with other evidence.

          To take a second source of evidence, we can look at Youtube video views. Regardless of confounding issues like previous copyright takedowns one can still find specific instances in the range of 20 to 30 million views. Obviously there are a ton of assumptions to deal with on making an estimate of “unique persons” from youtube views, but we can use simple comparisons instead of trying to calculate from scratch. Consider any example you like in pop culture music, to take an example I’d argue that the estimate of “the number of people who are fans of Katy Perry” would be around 20x the numbers of the bronies. That’s with years old music videos to songs in the top of the charts being in the proportionate hundreds of millions viewcount.

          So the worldwide estimate is 5 million on the low end total bronies, within the relevant age range and language categories somewhat less but the majority share (partly by definition) falling there. The least reliable numbers are the proportion of bronies who are INTJs as self-reported, which we’re taking as 25%. However even if that number is too high and it’s more like 10% that is still an interestingly large proportion of worldwide INTJs too, quite amazing of a bijection of a human population.

          What has to be understood is the relative rates versus absolute numbers. We have an estimate that 15% of LW may be INTJ but not 15% of all INTJs are members of the LW community. Similarly, just as a hypothetical example, 50% of INTJ voters in the last US election might have voted for Obama but 50% of Obama voters are not INTJs. What is impressive here is the relationship cutting both ways over a large population (millions), with 25% of bronies being INTJ and 25% of worldwide INTJs in the same demographics being bronies. These estimates are a little fuzzy, they could be higher, or even if one number is lower, closer to like 15%, the relationship still has astounding predictive validity.

    • Matthew says:

      All available evidence indicates that at least 25-50% of English-speaking INTJs ages 18-30 (or in other words a tremendously higher rate than the general population) are part of the MLP:FiM fandom, self-identified as whatever but often bronies, pegasisters, etc…

      [citation needed]

      Seriously, I place very low prior probability on this claim. I’m guessing availability bias. [I am an INTJ, admittedly a bit older than the referenced group, and unimpressed by MLP:FiM.]

      ETA: wow I must have typed this slowly to come in a full 4 minutes behind Nornagest.

  17. nydwracu says:

    If Myers-Briggs isn’t weird enough for you, there’s socionics, its post-Soviet analogue. Look at these fucking charts.

  18. Ialdabaoth says:

    Nitpick: I’ve always HATED that Neuroticism was the chosen ‘positive’ direction, and felt that they should have labeled it Stability (with Neuroticism defined as very low Stability).

    But then, I’m neurotic like that.

    • peterdjones says:

      I”ve got a bugbear about inversion being viewed negatively. Not Jungs idea (an introvert himself). I suspect it comes down to extraverts being more numerous.

      • Zathille says:

        What is a Bugbear, in this context? I’m only familiar with the Monster Manual definition of such a concept.

        • Nornagest says:

          A persistent and not-necessarily-rational source of vexation. Think “pet peeve” but with stronger connotations, and applicable to processes and organizations as well as to people.

        • Zathille says:

          I see, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a concept. I’ve also heard of Roko’s Basilisk and am starting to wonder if one could do with the Monster Manual the same thing people did with Steelmen flesh/weakmen and strawmen.

          A not terribly useful pursuit, but interesting nonetheless, I’d say.

        • Anthony says:

          The Monster Manual and the Methods of Rationality, 3rd Edition?

        • suntzuanime says:

          A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Note that the word has a few other meanings as well: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bugbear

  19. ari says:

    Here’s what I always find funny about MBTI:

    On the surface, it’s a reasonably humble model. Maybe some authors might insist that all of the axes are dichotomies, so you’ve got your N people over here and your S people over there, but others can have the opinion that the numbers are probably normally distributed as you’d expect, and they can still use the same vocabulary. In either case, there’s not so much material in it that you could try to use it to systematize everything about human nature. You’re still going to have emotions no matter how T you are, most E still want their alone time sometimes, etc., and the system doesn’t take credit for knowing that – it just doesn’t purport to know everything in the first place.

    It might not be very predictive (although personality type does correlate at least with average income, so it’s not a coin toss), but it’s at least a way for people to justify to each other that their preferences really are different, but only so different, and they can still get along.

    … and then you dig into the Jungian cognitive functions theory, and suddenly you’re in this crazy world where everything is turned around and the system is big and absolute. Or at least that’s the impression I get from just about all of its proponents that I’ve read from so far. Cognitive functions theory can take credit of explaining any behavior ever, because there’s a cognitive function for everything at some position down your stack. INTJ and INTP have nothing to do with each other (completely differently ordered stacks) and the people who think they’ve got aspects of both must obviously just be malinformed.

    Cognitive functions theory is like the Xenu story of MBTI. If someone thinks that you can make the theory-free observation that different people can honestly answer questions like “I love being the center of attention” differently, well, they’re probably right. If they think that MBTI’s axes are a uniquely powerful way to classify human personality and everyone’s supposed to at least sort of fall into a type, you might have your disagreements but they’re not saying the Earth is flat. But if they start talking about the difference between Ne and Ni and Te and Ti and what’s different about them being in the Senex and Trickster positions, you’re going to have some work to do.

  20. Tsk says:

    I mean sure, MBTI is not awful but if there are better alternatives why use it? The reasons in your post seem like a mix between rationalizations and meta-contrarianism (sorry for using that term here, to describe you).

    One problem with using it is that people sort of interested in personality see the MBTI because of its popularity, categorize themselves on that and stop there instead of using something like FF to get a better insight, and to give me more information about themselves when they inadvertently post their results everywhere. By using it and promoting it, you are contributing to that.

    Additionally, Categorizing has sequences (I see that you’ve already ignored that point in the comment section).

    At any rate, if you are into ignoring the Forer effect and using artificial categories to create a new in-group, which excludes others arbitrarily, then who am I to critique?

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      The reasons in your post seem like a mix between rationalizations and meta-contrarianism

      You didn’t even try to address Scott’s argument. If you could say why you think his arguments are wrong that would be helpful rather than simply accusing him of being biased (which is by the way one of the reasons I am pessimistic about rationalism – many people will use it as a weapon rather than a means of correcting their own thinking. Accusing someone of being biased, ignoring their arguments and then presenting your own as you have done is something that I see very often).

      instead of using something like FF to get a better insight

      What do you mean by better? The whole point of this post is that different categorizations capture reality in different ways (which is not to say that all ways are equally valid). MTBI’s purpose is to categorize people based on easy to think about axes among which people differ based how they react to different situations.

      One problem with using it is that people sort of interested in personality see the MBTI because of its popularity, categorize themselves on that and stop there

      There might be an argument in here if you think that the categories become self fulfilling. And perhaps that would be a bad thing.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know whether European borders really were placed that arbitrarily, but in any case since they had been drawn people within each country had interacted with one another much more than between countries (due to common language, common schooling, common TV etc.) If people had been split into separated communities based on the MBTI test and left like that for a couple hundred years, then knowing a person’s type would tell you a lot about them for sure.

    Also, your closing remarks sound isomorphic with, if Newton’s mechanics really wants to compete with astrology, it better manage to catch the imagination of the masses in a similar way.

    • ozymandias says:

      I don’t think there’s anything in Newtonian mechanics that says that the stars overhead when you’re born *don’t* exercise influence on your life course.

    • Anthony says:

      if Newton’s mechanics really wants to compete with astrology, it better manage to catch the imagination of the masses in a similar way.

      It’s arguable that this actually happened that way. Modulo astrology being seen as un-Christian for a very long time.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Also, your closing remarks sound isomorphic with, if Newton’s mechanics really wants to compete with astrology, it better manage to catch the imagination of the masses in a similar way.”

      Why is that your analogy as opposed to “If the Hunger Games wants to compete with Harry Potter, it should better capture the imagination of the masses”?

      Scientific theories don’t need to capture imagination. Books do. As for categorization systems, I’m not sure.

      If you don’t like the European country analogy, take US states. You get positive information when you hear someone is a Texan, or Massachussettsian, or Iowan. But the states were drawn pretty randomly (usually either based on natural features or just rectangles, often before they were even very settled) and there’s not enough blockage of movement across state borders to encourage the development of state-based cultures.

      • AJD says:

        I believe it’s fairly well-established sociologically that blockage of movement across borders is not sufficient to discourage the development of local cultures. It’s known as the principle of First Effective Settlement: the first group to settle in an area sets the prevailing culture of that area, and most later newcomers assimilate to that, unless within the span of a generation or so newcomers outnumber locals by an order of magnitude.

  22. Anonymous says:

    My first encounter with MBTI was about 10 years ago, around graduating high school. I recall on three occasions taking MBTI-based career aptitude tests and being suggested careers which… clashed fundamentally with my personality. You had one job, MBTI. That soured me on them for a long time. Anyway, this blog post made me reconsider my position, re-test because I couldn’t remember what I was (INTJ, of course), and go check out some INTJ forums. I already love the sense of community I get from more introverted groups, surely this would be 3 more degrees in that direction! Well, apparently MBTI is, in practice, a flag of pride you put on to your most abrasiveness personality traits. “People don’t get how I’m right to be an asshole to everyone I meet. Us INTJ’s am I right?” Well, whatever. I can see how labeling as such COULD be useful, I’m normally understanding of such things, but I guess there’s nothing saying people actually have to use it that way. For now I’ll continue dropping MBTI fanatics (just the fanatics!) into the same category as astrology nuts (just the nuts!), because that’s tracked for me at least as reliably as MBTI itself.

  23. Ilya Shpitser says:

    It’s easy to divide people into types, there is an entire industry devoted to this. Here’s another one with more cred than Meyers-Briggs (because it’s so old, there are traces of it in English vocabulary):


    If I say “Eliezer Yudkowsky has trouble losing weight because he’s Jovial” is that even a testable statement? Are there testable statements in human typology at all? What are types for?

    In case it’s not clear — the above type system cannot possibly be “true” as stated, since planets don’t affect glands at all, it’s standard astrology fakery. The question is, in what way is Meyers-Briggs “true” while above is “false?”

  24. Morendil says:

    I’m still listed, from years and years ago, on the C2 Wiki page http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?MyMyersBriggsTypeIs as INTJ with the following annotation: “As a Rational, I don’t believe in this stuff. But my sign is Cancer, so it’s OK to have fun with it.”

    Actually, more recent tests peg me as INTx – on a knife edge between J and P. I wish my type would make up its mind.

    I’m also French.

    Now, please derive some useful predictions about me from the above facts!

  25. Lorxus says:

    As counterpoint to all the delight over MBTI here, might I suggest a somewhat idiosyncratic type system based on three-color combinations from MTG’s color pie? Based on what a lot of other people say, I find it roughly as helpful as additional scrounged bits about a person’s character as other people do about MBTI. I am utterly serious about this and have made nontrivial predictions based on it.