By Josie Macdonald
Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula
[3.5 minute read]
I recently moved to California this past August, and one question I have been asked consistently since arriving here is “What is your zodiac sign?”. I had heard of astrology before, but I had never gotten much into it or discussed it with other people until moving here. Although many people believe in astrology, it is widely criticized as a pseudoscience as there is no scientific evidence suggesting there is a strong correlation between the day and time you were born and your overall personality. After all, what makes you unique if your personality is determined at birth? Does that mean that the baby who was born in the hospital room next to yours is just like you?
While astrology is a very popular topic to discuss in one’s personal life, in the workplace, people sometimes use personality tests to discuss different personality types. One of the most common ones that you will probably take at some point, if not already, is called the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI). It is a personality assessment that was developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs. The test was based on the theories of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who was a follower of a very famous psychoanalyst you’ve probably heard of named Sigmund Freud. The MBTI test published online is a list of about 90 questions, and once you are done answering them, you will be categorized into one of 16 different personality types. There are 4 main traits, and the different combinations of them are what make up your MBTI. Your answers to the questions determine whether you are an introvert (I) or an extrovert (E), intuitive (N) or sensing (S), feeling (F) or thinking (T), and judging (J) or perceiving (P). If you are an introvert, you are more likely to enjoy spending time alone than your extroverted counterparts. If you have the intuitive trait, you are said to rely on your instincts and ability to draw connections from seemingly unrelated topics, whereas people with the sensing trait are more practical and rely on the data in front of them. The third trait measured is based on how you make decisions- if you rely more on impersonal, logic-based criteria, you are thought to have the thinking trait, but if you tend to take into consideration how others will feel, you are thought to have the feeling trait. The last criteria measures whether you want a more neat and orderly life (judging), or whether you are more flexible and spontaneous, and don’t mind some disorder (perceiving).
This test is used in a lot of professional settings because companies use this information to build better teams that communicate and work more effectively. But it is not a definitive science either—neither Isabel Briggs Myers nor her mother Katherine had formal training in psychology, and they based the test off of the research of Carl Jung. Psychoanalysis has been thoroughly disproven in recent years because there is no concrete evidence of its main theories, such as that your unconscious mind and things you experienced in early childhood create irrational fears you have today and determine the actions that you make.
So, what makes the MBTI more widely accepted than astrology? I can’t walk into my job and tell my supervisor that my zodiac sign is cancer, therefore I can’t work with Aries and Sagittarius people because the internet told me I don’t get along with them. I also can’t tell them that I work best with Pisces and Scorpio people, so they need to put me on teams with only those people. So, what makes the MBTI different? Honestly, not that much. Although people have a higher degree of control over the MBTI than they do of their zodiac sign, the MBTI has still been criticized for its validity. Many people test more than once and get different results, and people have the opportunity to be dishonest about their answers. On top of that, there is no concrete measure of the questions that are asked because each person answers based on their subjective view of the world. However, tools like personality tests can give us some insight into how we are as people, and that can make choosing teams in the workplace easier sometimes.
In short, the the MBTI and other personality tests are fun to use, and there are probably some similarities between what you score and how you actually perceive yourself. But as a baseline, the characteristics outlined in the personality tests should not be used to explain who you are, and neither should the time you were born. However, these personality descriptions are a fun topic to discuss and can help you analyze yourself and consider how others see you.
Josie is an Administration and Intelligence & Cyber Operations major, with a minor in East Asian Languages and Cultures. She is a sophomore from Denver, Colorado. As a volunteer tax preparer, and she loves helping other people while also being able to learn from them. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her dogs, visiting animal sanctuaries, and meeting new people.