Concerning The MBTI Model

Greetings, readers. Before I begin today’s random rant, let me tell you about where I am and why I missed last week’s usual anime episode review post. I have embarked on an important journey to see my best friend who lives on the opposite side of the country in California. I will stay with him for a few days. The thing is, I have severe anxiety and social phobia, and I had never been on a commercial plane before. I was so busy getting ready for the trip that I basically forgot about the existence of my blog for about a week. That’s why I didn’t update on Saturday.

As I’m writing this, it’s 4am in Phoenix, Arizona: the farthest west I have ever been. I’m in an airport terminal at a recharge station. Although my first flight was exciting and even sort of fun, I missed my final flight of the day due to a ticket error (totally not my fault). So here I am, staying overnight in the airport and working on my blog. I just wanted to brag a little about my adventure, as well as complain a little bit about my misfortune. Now, here is what I wrote while on the plane today.

It has recently come to my attention that I need to re-evaluate my views on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) model. This is only loosely related to my anime blog. I’ll explain the relation a bit later. Anyway, the issue is that my admiration of the MBTI model, and my consistent use of it for about 16 years, may in fact need to change.

To explain what I mean, I must first tell you that I consider myself a skeptical thinker. This is an extremely important part of my identity. Being a skeptic means using critical thinking and a scientific mindset, questioning things like religion, astrology, and conspiracy theories. Recently, one of my favorite atheist and skeptic public figures mentioned that Myers-Briggs is “bullshit.” (If anyone wants to know, it was Matt Dillahunty.) As a skeptic, I’m not going to simply adopt Matt’s view without thinking through it on my own. For the last several days, I’ve been thinking it over. My thoughts and conclusions are detailed below.

The first thing to do is to identify issues with the model and its contemporary usage. What is the problem with the MBTI? In my mind, there are five main problems. Number one is the fact that online tests to determine MBTI type are unreliable and inaccurate. Once you know how the model works, you can easily manipulate any online test for a desired result. Your result can also change by the day or by the hour depending on factors like mood and specific circumstances. The online tests just aren’t great. I can’t deny this fact. However, is this reason enough to throw out the entire MBTI model? I don’t think so. So, let’s look at some other problems.

The next three issues are interrelated. To begin with, using the MBTI can make others feel “boxed in.” Similarly, it can lead you and others to stereotype people based on MBTI result. Most dangerous of all, constant use of the model teaches your mind to think about people according to decided categories, which are also arbitrary.

I am quite guilty of this thought pattern. When you’re using a hammer, everything becomes a nail. In other words, I used the MBTI so much that I have trouble engaging with friends and loved ones without trying to use MBTI to explain their behaviors. Ideally, you need to engage with “your people” in an organic way that doesn’t put them into a box. Don’t try to shortcut the process by ascribing a category to the other person. Don’t cheapen their individuality by claiming they are a certain “type.” I’ll probably be stuck thinking of people in terms of MBTI for years. I will be a hard habit to break, but I’ll make the effort.

Finally, we come to the fifth major problem with the Myers-Briggs model. This one may in fact be the most important for skeptics to understand. It comes down to lack of reliable utility. According to the model, people default to one choice or the other (for example, thinking versus feeling). There is no option for “sometimes,” “in between,” or “under specific circumstances.” But this is simply not how humans work. We don’t always default or lean to one side or the other. We are more complex than that.

Additionally, the MBTI has no way of dealing with certain mental issues like Bipolar or DID, which often have people who can’t be accurately described by any singular personality type all the time. Yet another unreliability of the model is that some of the terms are not even clearly defined. For instance, sensing and intuition often overlap. And even if you asked me, a longtime studier of Myers-Briggs, to describe intuition, I couldn’t do a good job. Putting all this together, we now have a model that is wholly undependable. This means there is virtually no use for it – at least, with regards to real people.

Clearly, my skeptical role model has a point in calling Myers-Briggs bullshit. But there is one important caveat. Notice I said MBTI is useless for real people. What about fictional characters, though? I believe it’s perfectly permission to continue categorizing anime characters according to this model. With made-up characters, the issues with stereotyping and boxing people in become moot. You can be unethical in your treatment of characters. Furthermore, most characters are far less complex than real humans, meaning that it’s more reasonable to put them into categories.

The only potential problem with this approach is that it may perpetuate my habit of thinking in terms of MBTI types in general. I’ll deal with this in my own way. It may be that I eventually stop using the model on principle, even for anime characters. For now, however, I shall keep producing MBTI content on this blog. I will strive to never ask a real person their MBTI type, but you can expect more passionate MBTI anime analyses from me in the future!

Thank you for reading~


2 thoughts on “Concerning The MBTI Model

  1. An INTP’s thoughts on MTBI. LOL!

    All personality tests are arbitrary. They are examples of pie slicing. The MTBI slices the human pie into 4 slices, measures the volume of each slice and assigns it a binary property. Other personality tests slice the pie up into more or fewer slices, depending how how many different traits are thought to be “fundamental.

    Regardless of how you slice it, or how you measure it, it’s the same pie. How you slice it is more a matter of convenience. You could have each of the slices divide into 3 instead of making it a binary division. Or maybe you make each of your slices into little bell curves. Then maybe introvert-extrovert is dominated by the hump in the middle. Or maybe you make them into spectrums with equal weight at all positions.

    The slices themselves? What makes them fundamental? Maybe there another slice and we’ll call it executive function. Do the combinations possible under the MTBI account for executive function or are there examples of high and low executive function within all combinations? What if there are really 16 fundamental traits? Can you go simpler and just say everyone is a type A or a type B personality?

    We slice a personality pie out of convenience because our brains would explode otherwise. Unfortunately that leads to pigeon-holing but humans are lazy and how we work.

    The guy who gave me the test thought for sure I was an INTJ. But I’m not even slightly judgmental about most things. He was just reading his bias into me based on my politics. I’d been labeled incorrectly by a presumption. And that’s why I hate labels and identity politics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your eloquent thoughts. It really got me thinking. As for me, I love organizing abstract things and assigning categories. That’s why a system like MBTI is so appealing. :/

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s