ASK PH: Are There Better Systems than MBTI?

Hi Personality Hacker,

I retook the personality quiz after eight months, and it came out INTP again. I’m very clearly INFP. But I’m disinhibited (“goal-oriented ambiversion” if you believe in such things), high IQ, and intellectually interested in the things most INTPs/INTJs would be interested in (philosophy/physics/strategy/organizational theory/ etc.). I’m a poet/musician/photographer/designer who started his career doing M&A on Wall Street. I’m a practicing (if heterodox) Mormon and very strongly in the mystical camp in terms of non-linear “magical” creative processes. I think the 5w4 “iconoclast” classification from the enneagram is the most accurate description of my personality type (a small % of 5w4’s are INFPs — maybe 15%; there are more INTP 5w4’s). My big question is this: how do you avoid bias if a test subject knows what every single question on the test is driving at and is in a position to manipulate the results just based on how they are feeling? When I take a test or engage in an intellectual discussion, I go into accuracy mode, so this could skew the results as well. It just seems very arbitrary — hard to create replicable/reliable results — especially without the crystal ball of abstract intuition to aid the assessor. Hence academics find themselves obliged to steer more towards Big 5 / Neo Pi-R in lieu of MBTI.

Now I’ve never taken a psych class before so I can hardly claim any expertise in this area, but I wonder if we would be better off adopting Steven Buser’s eight spectrum typology as it is tied to the DSM and therefore must have a more serious academic underpinning we could rely upon. To the extent Neo Pi-R / Big 5 haven’t been encapsulated in this framework, expand it to include them and then redo all of this typology stuff on steadier footing. I do love the MBTI stuff and use it every day to assess every person I come into contact with, but it would be nice to have a more robust typology. Perhaps Steven Buser’s work could be a starting point.





Hey, B-

Okay, so here’s my take on all personality psychology: Use them as they are effective for you, and throw them out when they cease to be.

I’m not terribly concerned with the personality models I work with being acceptable to a broader academic world. There needs to be a world that vets things super carefully before adopting them into general infrastructure, and the push/pull relationship science/academia has with typology is an appropriate one.

That said, there are a lot of things we’re only starting to discover harder scientific evidence for (like introversion/extraversion potentially observable traits from our DNA, etc.), and I’m patient enough to allow other components of Jungian patterns to emerge over time.

In the meantime, I’m totally fine with seeing things like MBTI as philosophy (since that’s the root of all things, anyway) and adopting it as a model of convenience.

Maps and models aren’t intended to be objective truth. As Alfred Korzybski said, “The map is not the territory.” But they are handy as guides through life. If one map is failing you, seek a different map for the territory you’re exploring.

It’s okay if you’re an INFP that has training in and proficiency with Introverted Thinking (“Accuracy”). That’s not a ridiculous concept. My ex-husband, a truly special human being that I still adore to this day, is an INFP that can very much hold his own in an Accuracy (Ti) conversation with me.

The system has space for variance. There are 7 billion people on the planet and 16 types. It HAS to have space for variance. And, of course, all of the other typology systems, as well as understanding other mental circuitry and imprints, give us a more fleshed-out understanding of who we are as people.

Pick and choose the ones that provide you with the deepest insight and opportunities for growth. That’s what I do. ?



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Showing 2 comments
  • Yanling

    Hi! I believe that my dominant one is INFP but because my P is only slightly higher than my J so I can swing to an INFJ very easily as well. I used to always get INFJ when I was younger. Nowadays I take the test and do it fast without much thinking and always get INFP. when I re read the whole personality thing for both on the website again it’s when I finally realized the one that’s affecting me more and is happening more when I get into my unconscious habits. Which is more towards INFP. Maybe it was because I had always felt the need to be “right” or “accepted” by the people I care about most so I started to hide my talents and started to take on responsibilities at a young age. Trying to become a parent to my younger siblings everytime my parents went away. I’d also beat myself up even when I’m not wrong but because others said I was. Innately I knew I was right but because no one believed i ended up creating internal conflict. Not sure if I’m originally INFJ or INFP because INFP tendencies only came out during secondary school. But i know both relate to me very accurately and well. Previously i didnt think i was INFP because i looked down on it as i always wanted to be an organized person. Until there came a time i felt so enclosed and restricted in my external environment and what others ideals have put onto me that I started resisting and vengeance started coming about. The 3 yr old part especially on INFP is so me haha! Funny how it took me so long and this much self reflection and awareness to finally figure out my dominant one lol!

  • Teresa

    I think the system can be used regardless of scientific validity or academic status. I’s like literature. If a story moves you, changes your outlook, makes you think differently, then it works.

    Tests, though, are another matter. I have a suspicion that most MBTI tests are rather poor. But the point is, no one makes you label yourself with your test result. The test is simply a pointer in (hopefully) the right direction, your type is the best-fit type you choose for yourself. Whereas for the more scientific systems such as the Big Five, the tests themselves are vetted for statistical reliability.

    So keep being an INFP if the stories fit you, if seeing yourself described in terms of Authenticity and Exploration helps you to know yourself better. But stay away from the tests as soon as you know your best fit.

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