By Chloe Pudjo (22S03G), Edna Lim (22S03F), Faith Ho (22A01A), and Sophie Goh (22S07B)
50% of RI students believe that MBTI (Myer-Briggs Type Indicator) is an accurate representation of themselves.
That’s the result of a survey that we recently conducted. While this percentage may seem large (or small, depending on who you talk to), it’s a nod to the growing popularity and trust Rafflesians have in this personality diagnosis.
Our school is home to a diversity of the different MBTI personalities, from the more common INFJs to those of the rarer ESFJ breed. (Interestingly, the percentage of personality types is in stark contrast to worldwide MBTI trends).
For those who have taken the personality test, you’d likely have resonated with the descriptions written about each personality type. Reading about how your fellow brethren, too, have the habit of keeping all 67 tabs open “in case you need it” or hop from interest to interest on a termly basis, can strike a chord in one’s heart.
That being said, the accuracy of the test’s outcomes is contentious: are such coincidences due to confirmation bias, the result of statements about each personality being general enough to apply to a large majority, or are they legitimately accurate personality traits?
M for Mostly Accurate?
The test relies on the premise of four categories: introversion (I) or extroversion (E), intuition (N) or sensing (S), feeling (F) or thinking (T), and judging (J) or perceiving (P). Each individual is assigned one of the two traits in each category. However, this method of assessment merely relies on limited binaries to capture the complexities of human nature.
In our survey, we found sentiments such as “I am split 50-50 between a number of categories” and “My categories are mostly 49/51%” rather common. Quite clearly, the MBTI gives us an oversimplified version of human personalities. Can anyone be said to only be introverted or extroverted?
In the words of Tjan Yi Xin (22S03F), “…in certain aspects, my MBTI does eerily portray my personality and character traits very accurately… However, the MBTI cannot hope to accurately describe the intricacies of one individual fully, and likewise, there are many things that my MBTI does not capture about me. For example, the MBTI only focuses on the two extremes, [such as] Extroverted v Introverted, but what if I was an equal mix of both?”
An alternative way of measuring MBTI would be to use an MBTI or Jungian “function stack”, as opposed to a binary scale as commonly measured on popular sites such as 16personalities. Under this theory, feeling and thinking (termed “judging” traits), and intuition and sensing (termed “perceiving” traits) are assigned extroverted and introverted types (e.g. Introverted intuition, extroverted feeling etc), termed as “cognitive functions”.
Instead of measuring your inclination towards a certain trait, your 4-letter MBTI type is generated by comparing the dominance of your different cognitive functions. For example, RI’s most common INFJ type (according to our survey results) would have a function stack of introverted intuition, extroverted feeling, introverted thinking, and extroverted sensing, in order of decreasing dominance.
Such a way of measuring could possibly be more effective at preventing radical changes in personality type, often as a result of tipping just slightly over the halfway mark of the scale. This phenomenon seems to be rather common, with one student from our survey reporting that they had “gotten two contrasting results within three months of [each other].”
These MBTI functions also help to provide a more in-depth and arguably nuanced understanding of ourselves, as compared to relying on overly-broad labels such as “Introverted” or “Sensing”.
However, these labels may still fail to fully encapsulate or represent the vast diversity of personalities amongst the school, and world, population. Many of us may not necessarily fall neatly into the prescribed function stacks of the 16 personality types.
“Everyone has varying degrees of each function, so I wouldn’t say my MBTI fully represents me as a person, but rather it represents certain parts of me.”Ashley Peng (22S03L)
In spite of the tool’s various flaws, many still look to MBTI to explain one’s vastly different personalities from another.
Why? Because people have an innate need to make sense out of the chaos that is our society. Many of us are drawn to categories to explain why we act the way we do, whether those are zodiacs, enneagrams or MBTIs.
Tool, Not Determinant
The key to making full use of MBTI is to treat it as a tool, rather than a definitive marker of identity.
As psychologist Ms Woo Mei Hui from the Raffles Guidance Centre (RGC) said, “What I personally like about the MBTI is the framework and the language it gives me to understand others.” She elaborates, “When dealing with others, it helps me greatly to be able to see their point of view using the MBTI. For example, [a student] probably doesn’t like rigid deadlines because he is a Perceiver and he prefers things to be more spontaneous, but as a Judger, deadlines make me feel more secure.”
Another way she thinks MBTI can be used is to evaluate a work team—similar to how we evaluated our PW groups using the “4 bird types” quiz in our earlier lessons. Understanding each others’ types can allow for better understanding of how one functions when dealing with others, potentially decreasing conflicts when working with one another.
“There are no good or bad types—all types have some natural strengths and some possible pitfalls or blind spots.”Ms Woo, RGC Psychologist
On an individual level, MBTI can help one boost your self-awareness. Reflecting on the questions asked and answering them honestly when using such personality profiling tools can allow students to become more aware of their instinctive reactions and thoughts. The results may also point to certain blindspots.
Even so, Ms Woo cautions against the capabilities of the free MBTI tests online, which tend to give less accurate results than the proper ones that cost money.
Even as we use them as tools, we must be careful not to place too much value or emphasis on personality types. It should not be a means of stereotyping or labelling others, making excuses for actions, or predicting or estimating another’s competency.
In A Nutshell
For some, MBTI is a highly accurate source of self-knowledge, while for others, its reliability may still be somewhat questionable.
Regardless, it’s worth looking at it as a tool and framework to understand ourselves, and others, better. It’s not so much a fully accurate depiction of a person as much as a possible explanation and prediction of certain actions.
After all, personality doesn’t make the whole person.