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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 23.4 > The Gadfly

The Gadfly

Do You Have Traits or Are You a Type?

EVERY FEW YEARS, ANOTHER INTREPID, well-informed journalist writes an exposé of the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBPI). Malcolm Gladwell took a shot at it in 2004 in the New Yorker.1 Eleven years later, Vox ran its incarnation of this eternal story, by Joseph Stromberg and Estelle Caswell, with a headline that could not have been clearer: “Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Totally Meaningless.”2 In case anyone missed the headline, pull-outs in the story emphasized the point:

● “Analysis shows the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success at various jobs”

● “The Myers-Briggs rests on wholly unproved theories”

● “About 200 Federal agencies reportedly waste money on this test”

And now Louis Menand of the New Yorker has taken a shot: “Are assessments like the Myers-Briggs more self-help than science?”3 You can guess his answer. You can also guess the answer to this one: How many of the more than two million people a year who fill out the MBPI—in businesses, colleges, churches, couples’ retreats, motivational seminars, and matchmaking programs—read those articles and said, “Aha! I always suspected it was ‘totally meaningless’! Give me my money back”?

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About Skeptic

WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING? COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Health Freedom, Right to Try, and Informed Consent, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Do You Have Traits or Are You a Type? by Carol Tavris • SPECIAL SECTION ON TACTICS FOR DISCUSSING CONTENTIOUS ISSUES Personhood and Abortion Rights: How Science Might Inform this Contentious Issue, by Gary Whittenberger • How to Teach Evolution to Religious Students, by Surat Parvatam • The Arguments for Creationism and the Arguments for Evolution: A Study in Contrasts, by Ralph M. Barnes • Meeting Our “Enemies” Where They Are: The Advantage of Understanding Your Adversary’s Arguments, by Andrew Cooper-Sansone ARTICLES The Grandest of Questions Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? by Michael Shermer • Reports of Mysterious Attacks on U.S. Diplomats Continue: Separating Fact from Fiction by Robert E. Bartholomew • The God Damners: The Now Not-so-New Atheism by Michael Cohen • Quackery in America: An Inglorious and Ongoing History, by Morton Tavel, M.D. • What Is It like to Be a Human? by Colin McGinn REVIEWS Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress • The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution • The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will • SCAM: So-Called Alternative Medicine • Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life • The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are JUNIOR SKEPTIC Secrets of the Ouija Board, by Daniel Loxton