Opinion: Your personality is ___________?

Andrew Paulsen

Andrew Paulsen

Andrew Paulsen is a senior electronic media production major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

On Tuesday, I walked in late to my entrepreneurship class only to find that we had a guest lecturer.

Normally, I have no problem with having a surrogate instructor for part of a class. It’s usually a good opportunity to bring in a different professional to share his or her experience in the working world or to teach the class about new findings in research or business principles.

Unfortunately, Tuesday’s lesson didn’t really provide me with any interesting new answers.

What was the guest lecture about?

Personality tests.

To be fair, it wasn’t the average Myspace or Facebook “Which Harry Potter character are you?” quiz, but the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

If you’ve never heard of the MBTI before, it’s a personality inventory based off of a set of Carl Jung’s theories that were then “perfected” by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in the early 20th century. According to Briggs and Myers, there are four dichotomies of personality traits: Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition,

Thinking and Feeling, and, Judgment and Perception.

After taking a test (such as the Jung Typology Test)—which is a series of “yes or no” multiple-choice questions—you are given a combination of different traits that match your answers. More specifically, take the first letters of the traits that match you and smash them together to figure out what type you are (if you get Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling and Judgment, for example, you would be an ESFJ).

If you then take your four-letter word and compare it to other people that have the same word as you, you will apparently find a pattern of connections between you and fellow “ESFJ-ers.” The way it was best described was (and this is loosely paraphrasing) “like astrology, only with science.”

Yes, like astrology with science and throw in a touch of organized guesswork. Here are some actual questions from the Jung Typology Test:

“You feel involved when watching TV soaps: Yes / No”

“It’s difficult to get you excited: Yes / No”

“You get pleasure from solitary walks: Yes / No”

Notice how all of these questions assume you always feel the same way about one particular scenario? (Also notice how it assumes that people still watch soap operas.)

In general, the biggest question that runs through my mind anytime I’ve taken a personality test in junior high, high school and now here at Kent State is, “What if I pick the wrong answer?”

What if I’m in a bad mood and that affects my ability to think through each question? What if I’m choosing my answers based on what I would ideally be like rather than how I act? There are too many variables going into the answering of these yes-or-no questions to accurately classify someone’s entire life in one of 16 categories. Especially considering the fact that there is no grey area in multiple-choice, whereas in real life, I believe most people realize that humans change at the strangest moments. We are not consistent and sometimes have in-between responses to life’s challenges — not necessarily polar extremes.

What this all comes down to — and the reason why I’m so frustrated by these contrived test categorizations — is that as much as we’d like to predict and control what unites us as humans, there are too many underlying factors to pinpoint how someone will react to a situation or index every human being. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one rooted pattern shared by mankind: we’re all free to make our own decisions. As long as that pattern remains intact, I doubt we’ll conform to profiling arrangements.