Merve Emre completed her PhD at Yale, her BA at Harvard and is currently Associate Professor of American Literature at Worcester College, Oxford. She is Senior Humanities Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and has written for The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine and The New Republic, among others. Her first book was Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America (2017). She'll be talking to Kim about her new book, What's Your Type?: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, which looks at the world's most popular personality test and the mother-daughter team who conceived it almost 100 years ago.
United States


00:00:00if you are an E. N. T. P. or N. I. S. A. J. you will have done a Myers Briggs type indicator analysis which will have assigned you to one all of sixteen for lesser personalities Hanks based on a combination results whether your extroversion or introversion %HESITATION sensing
00:00:28or intuition will thing can go feeling on judging and perceiving the Mayas breaks was developed by a mother and daughter team Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers last century and it is still used by companies and universities associate professor of English at Oxford university midday Amara says is
00:00:52based on a number of myths in the book is cooled the path now as he broke because the strange history of Myers Briggs and the birth of personality testing and she describes how something that started in a Michigan living room became a cultural phenomenon at sway Katharine Briggs
00:01:12held what she cooled the coals make club boric tree of baby training yes that's a very evocative phrases in it so you know Catherine was an extraordinary women she went to college at the age of fourteen this is in the late nineteenth century she graduated top in her
00:01:33class from Michigan agricultural college and she married the man who graduated second and when she finished school there was never any expectation that she would do anything with her life other than becoming a mother and a white and she had three children two of whom died in very
00:01:53early infancy and one of the things that this motivated her to do was trying to figure out what kinds of experimental settings might be most conducive to raising children ought not just so that they would survive but so that they could flourish and so that's when she opens
00:02:11what she calls her cosmic laboratory of baby training %HESITATION and the idea is that she will train her remaining child her daughter Isabelle as well as the neighborhood children to figure out how they can grow up to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be
00:02:29am and she believes that if one can excavate a child's innate personality then you can figure out at a very very early age how that child should specialize in their life %HESITATION what it is that they should do professionally what character traits they should cultivate and that this
00:02:48will not only ensure their happiness but it will also insure their salvation there's that a religious angle to this as well ET ends and curiosity with the two most important trades to Catherine but I don't understand how she got those two diametrically opposed V. choose to may yes
00:03:14so she would referred to herself as an obedience curiosity mother and for heard the two most important disciplines that a child could cultivate word to be obedient to to obey I hierarchical orders to know their place in the world and to be curious to let their imagination %HESITATION
00:03:36work on the world around them and I think you're right she didn't quite realize that those were diametrically opposed %HESITATION ways of interacting with the world but she believe that I you could be obedient say to your parents or to the authorities at school on at the same
00:03:56time within those parameters of obedience you could find ways to be creative so she tries to manifest this in the in the way that you raise in her daughter Isabelle so from a very young age she has is the bell doing all sorts of drills %HESITATION one of
00:04:11which she calls the no no drill so she takes baby Isabel's hand and she places it above an open flame and if the baby tries to grab the flame she slaps her hand and she says no no and if she doesn't have she resists she %HESITATION rewards is
00:04:28a bell with stories about the furniture and the objects around the house she animates them and they come to life and tell is a battle of their origin so in some ways curiosity was for her the reward for being an obedient child citizen is about how the remarkable
00:04:44childhood and and grew up to be quite a remarkable individual when the aids what Catherine walls doing mash in to the first send balloons %HESITATION Maya's breaks type in the case that very early on Catherine actually starts designing questionnaires for the children that she brings into her cosmic
00:05:11laboratory so not just is about but children around the neighborhood and children I who I she meets through friends of her husband's who's working in the government in Washington DC in the early twentieth century and one of the things she does when she brings these children into her
00:05:28laboratory is she administers a questionnaire to their parents and the questionnaire very similar to Myers Briggs is forced choice which means that it has two options a and B. and you have to choose one of them and the questions are all directed toward having parents assess the personalities
00:05:44of their children so they ask questions like is your child calm or impulse in does he get very upset when you leave the room or not that upset at all it easy social with other children or does he prefer to play on his own and you can see
00:06:01the ways in which these questions map quite nicely onto the categories that the Myers Briggs type indicator is also looking for like extraversion and introversion %HESITATION or thinking and feeling so I I think it's origins really live with with those child rearing tools that Catherine was developing in
00:06:22her home I well before the indicator was ever patented in the nineteen forties one of the social contexts over the time I mean around this time you had their behavioral psychologist Watson saying that we can change any child into anything we want then malleable eight school niche is
00:06:52Catherine and indeed laci Isabel are they saying that it's actually %HESITATION nature and it's just a question of chiseling around to find out what that nature rates yeah I think that's a really lovely way to put it on chiseling around it reminds me of Michelangelo thinking the sculptures
00:07:15he made were already innately present in the marble and all he had to do was chip away at it in order to expose its its true form %HESITATION I think that's a really %HESITATION vocative metaphor and you know someone like what's in the behaviorist psychologists %HESITATION very much
00:07:34believed date you could modify people %HESITATION by simply training them to behave in certain ways and you can see how Isabel's cosmic laboratory in the obedience curiosity drills that she did with her daughter at least did traffic in that a little bit but later on in the twentieth
00:07:52century in the nineteen twenties sorry later on in the nineteen twenties Catherine discovers the writings of Carl young and young believes that innately people are up people are born with certain %HESITATION they develop very early on in infancy certain habitual attitudes toward life certain psychological mechanisms are functions
00:08:13as he calls them I didn't really set people's personalities and that behaviorism can't really ever change or behavioral training can't ever really change those are innate attributes those in need preferences that people have for how they interact with the world and so once Catherine discovers the writings of
00:08:34Carl young she really starts to embrace this idea that there is such a thing as a determined psychological type in each child each person %HESITATION and that that type is set at birth it is immutable and the best thing that any person can do is find out what
00:08:51their type it is I and once one finds out what their type is live life according to the strengths and limitations of that particular tech I'm the reason I guess that we find that difficult to day E. to countenance is that we live in a time old apparently
00:09:15infinite aspirations we teach our children that they can be anything they like %HESITATION do we I'm not sure where we're rations because at the same time we've got a whole strand of young person saying you know I am what I am which is presumably what Catherine what it
00:09:35said I become confused at this point you can tell well I think it's confusing because it's both it's both and I mean I I think on the one hand telling somebody that they are a particular type really encourages them to you as Catherine wrote in an article in
00:09:52the new Republic it encourages you to me yourself %HESITATION and it encourages you through self knowledge to become the master and the arbiter of your own destiny so to say yes this is who I am but now that I know who I am look at how I can
00:10:08take control of my life so I think what's so compelling and indeed I think this really explains the appeal of psychological indicators like a personality Decatur's like the Myers Briggs type indicator is that it's really giving you both it's saying look here is some understanding of who you
00:10:29fundamentally are here is a way to anchor yourself in the messiness of the world and the incomprehensible lady of many of the decisions we make are the desires we have here is who you are on the other hand now that you know who you are look at the
00:10:45capacity you have to live up to that potential you look at the capacity you have to change your life in order to embrace that version of who you are and and you know longer have to apologize for it so I think what's so appealing about this language of
00:11:03type as it was developed you know early in the twentieth century and is as it has sort of look flourish now %HESITATION is that it offers both the stability %HESITATION of something essential %HESITATION innate a fantasy of the self as I'm changing and it also offers the possibility
00:11:22of I. as change within within reason %HESITATION based on that personality type do you see it as any different from as stroller G. I do you I mean I think %HESITATION I don't see it as different on a you know scientific level I mean my book sort of
00:11:42takes for granted that scientifically something like the Myers Briggs type indicator is neither valid nor reliable and and indeed I'm I'm suspicious of all personality testing not just on scientific purposes but on %HESITATION you know on a custom a logical ones I I just wonder whether it's possible
00:12:02to really know people in the way that they claim %HESITATION you know the way I think it's different from astrology is that historically it has been such an integral part of the way that corporations schools in the military the clergy I think about organizing people who work under
00:12:23their auspices so you know when the type indicator was patented in the mid nineteen forties it was assumed that it could help employers match workers to the jobs that were right for that and although we are you know suspicious of anything that claims to match people so easily
00:12:40today it still is used by many fortune five hundred companies to screen prospective employees I to shuffle employees around once they are already working for the company %HESITATION or just as a basic team building tool to help people working in large corporations figure out how it is that
00:13:03they can work better in collaborative situations %HESITATION and we don't really use astrology for that so if I go into a workplace nobody tells me %HESITATION you're a Virgo so you may not work especially well with this gem and I but in corporations across the world that certainly
00:13:21is how people use the language of the type indicator to identify and even preempt problems that might arise in the workplace or two screen candidates for for work so I think the reach of the type indicator %HESITATION and the kind of the ardor with which people cling to
00:13:41it as a useful tool makes it quite different from astrology is is your main reason for saying it's me the valid no reliable the fact that it has been shown that people can do online as breaks type indicator over time as soon as the times and they will
00:13:59come up with different findings each time you know that's part of it %HESITATION part of it our various complaints going back to the fifties about its validity which is to say it doesn't actually measure the things that it claims to measure I so for instance extraversion and introversion
00:14:17are often just measures of talkative ness I thinking and feeling often operate as measures of of liberalism in in one's decisions about the world %HESITATION so it's partially that it's partially the statistics about its reliability but it's partially the history that I tell in the book which is
00:14:36that the way these categories were arrived at was by a mother and a daughter is obsession with young Ian theory which isn't based on anything itself and then the way in which the instrumental lives young theory was really by sitting around at their tables asking their friends and
00:14:56family members are the kinds of questions that are on the indicators so when Isabel's husband would come home she would ask him %HESITATION I would you prefer to talk to me about your day or would you prefer to retreat to your study and be alone and it's really
00:15:11through these sorts of but now all right but not all questions that they generated that she generated the questionnaire that was used to then identify people's tight so you know it's a combination of both its present day applications and the data that does not support %HESITATION its validity
00:15:31or reliability and it's partially I in my skepticism is partially informed by just knowing how the instrument was design sometimes I I see light leaping to the supporters of Catherine and Isabel I mean okay so Catherine was obsessed beyond obsession with your own and that's always a bit
00:15:51Dortch box like you I kind of wanted it to be a story of of feminist triumph and the idea of these women sitting in their living room over a table try to work something out so avidly it's it's endearing and I feel like cheering now and again no
00:16:11I do too I mean I'm deeply sympathetic to those women and as I write in the book I eat you know became even more sympathetic to them the more that I learned about them and you know I also became a mother in the course of writing the book
00:16:25%HESITATION and one thing that I really want to stress is that the discipline of psychology was really very very new at the time they started out so what is a bell and Catherine were doing was not actually that different from what the men in the psychological clinic at
00:16:42Harvard were doing and it's certainly no less scandalous than what Carl young was doing with his patients %HESITATION and so I think the distance that we measure between these domestic spaces of creation and these more sort of properly professional life institutional spaces of creation that distance is much
00:17:03much much smaller in the nineteen twenties than it is today and so I think the I think the argument that people often make you know that that %HESITATION these were just two housewives and that's why we shouldn't take the indicator seriously is is incredibly sexist %HESITATION you know
00:17:20the argument that I make in the book is that we should take it seriously because people continue to believe in it despite all of the evidence that it isn't scientifically valid or reliable and it's actually that believes that to me is evidence of the extraordinary nature of what
00:17:40Katharine Isabelle created that it persists in the face of all of our doubts about it now the reason I don't think it's a story of feminist trying necessarily is because Katherine Isabelle never had any real understanding of feminism as a politics %HESITATION they were very interested in how
00:17:59individual women %HESITATION could self actual lies how they could become the best versions of their types that they could be but a lot of their thinking about what it is that women are doing in society and how it is that women are treated by various sort of structures
00:18:16of power a lot of their thinking around those questions is really quite retrograde nine need that neither Kathryn nor Isabel could be described as feminists that at any stage in the in the feminist story I'm no I think that I think that's right yeah just your book %HESITATION
00:18:33depends in a very sinister way and is and did some it describes the difficulty you had in researching the archives of the educational testing service in Princeton which was the first publisher of the Myers Briggs indicates that can you describe that to me please well you know the
00:18:56educational testing services they were actually %HESITATION quite a they were generous at times of the archives but when I went in there %HESITATION when I went in there to try to see some letters that is the bell had written to the head ETS in the fifties D. arquebus
00:19:13to actually remove the folders containing the letters before I even got there and when I asked why it was they had removed the letters they were quite quite about it and then when I went home I received a a message on Twitter I got a notification on Twitter
00:19:29from somebody who worked to ETS linking to an article that I'd written about Myers Briggs and saying great article by this lady I was instructed to creep on this morning and so I suppose he had been instructed to sort of watch me your survey only while I was
00:19:45looking through the while I was looking through the archives they had given me access to %HESITATION but what it reminded me of really was you know I had worked very very hard to try to gain access to Isabel's personal papers which were housed at the university of Florida
00:20:01and which required permission from the center for the application of psychological type C. H. T. T. access and I'd gone through an almost year long negotiation with CAP team which ended with them asking me to go to a re education program so that I could learn to speak
00:20:17the language of type properly is that with the colder to re education program they that's what they were for it they can refer to it when I started taking it but later when I wrote to them to ask %HESITATION why they hadn't given me access to the archives
00:20:32they did refer to it as a re education program yes and what does that I will you know it was a week long my breaks training where we were taught how to you as they said speak the language of tight there were certain rules of type that one
00:20:47had to learn %HESITATION the first was that type never changes %HESITATION the second was that all types are created equal and I the third was that the Myers Briggs type indicator is not a test it it's an indicator %HESITATION because the test is something that has a right
00:21:04or wrong answers and an indicator they said only indicates to you what you have told the questionnaire it's sort of wonderfully got tautological in that sense and they thought it was very very important for us to learn how to speak this language of type in order to dispel
00:21:21any of the I and all of the misinformation that was out there about about Myers Briggs and so I went to this you know week long program and afterwards I wrote to the C. A. P. T. and I said you know I've completed this program can I please
00:21:35come in and have access to these archives and they said no we we decided that we no longer I believe you should have access to that %HESITATION and then later on when I published an article about it they wrote about how I was sort of untrustworthy and how
00:21:49they had seen things about might they had seen things are things are revealed to them about my personality and the training program that they didn't like %HESITATION and I never learned what those things were but it's interesting since this book has come out need now they've sort of
00:22:04change their claim and they said well the reason we can give our access is because the materials and there were very fragile %HESITATION but that you know obviously seems like seems like nonsense to me since many archives have fragile materials in these only date back to the mid
00:22:18mid twentieth century so they can't be in that bad shape but yeah you know I I left that experience thinking I have to write this book because there is something that the people who profit from this indicator don't want no and I think that interestingly enough as much
00:22:38as they sort of extol Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother is these geniuses dates you are quite worried about or have a kind of knee jerk sexism that makes them worry that people will no longer take the indicator seriously if they learned that it was designed by two
00:22:53women with no formal training in psychology or sociology Hana war what did you do wrong and the re education program do you think or do you think that they would just setting that up with some kind of barrier and never thought you do it's when you did it
00:23:08they had to come up with another reason I think they thought I would I think they thought I would do it I mean I was very committed to this project at that point I had had lunch in New York with the vice president of CPC who had flown
00:23:21up to visit her son who lived in New York and I had lunch with her and her husband %HESITATION I'd spoken to the head psychologist at CAP T. for hours I had you know written up proposals for them %HESITATION and your describe how it was that I wanted
00:23:36to use the materials in the archives so I think they knew that I was committed at that point I don't know I mean I think during the training there were certain things I shared with others about the history of Myers breaks that perhaps made them uncomfortable so for
00:23:50instance one day when we were discussing the history of the answer sheets I I told the instructor and the other program participants that for the longest time there it actually been to separate answer keys for men and for women out because Isabel Briggs Myers had believes that women
00:24:08were more biologically predisposed to thinking than men %HESITATION and so you could actually I evaluate them on the same on the same scale thing the thinking or feeling I'm sorry women were more %HESITATION were more predisposed to feeling yeah than men well and so you have to evaluate
00:24:27them using two different sets of answer keys %HESITATION and I remember the instructor looking at me a little bit out little bit askance when I shared that or you know I tell the story in that book about how one of the exercises we had to do was draw
00:24:41our personalities as rooms go ahead I found you know I'm I'm an English professor so part of what I teach is interpretation and I could already sort of see the really kind of your it's heating interpretation that would come out of this exercise which is somebody would draw
00:24:59a living room and the instructor would say oh my gosh you're so extroverted look at the scene of people socializing and it's sort of annoyed me and so I wanted to draw a room that would defy interpretation and so I drew this time with this woman sort of
00:25:16parachuting onto it and these sort of fat little salt two hamsters surrounding the tents and I thought there's nothing that can be done and you know I have to give credit to the instructor who came up to and she immediately said all this is you know this is
00:25:31so this is so appropriate for your E. N. T. J. type by many anti J. E. N. T. J. type you know you want just parachuting from above and you want to sort of change and reorganize everything and you don't want to sort of do the do the
00:25:45work of building consensus from the ground up you're a visionary but that really has its drawbacks like you might not be able to get the people under you to cooperate and I was like you know you're a witch how did you did you do that but I didn't
00:25:58give you thought I was giving you something that would be completely I'm you into this sort of to the to the technological interpretation yeah but but that you know that just proves that you'll sub conscious was doing something that you had no control over and you are totally
00:26:17revealed as extravert intuitive thinking in judging me like that I really like that reading I think that's the I think that's a very young you know that that reads it against the grain of how how I want to see it %HESITATION and and the really interesting I think
00:26:36observation to come out of that reading is that I people who are good at wielding the language of type out will always find a way to transform your resistance into evidence of the fact that you are actually the type that indicate that you are and I think this
00:26:53is one of the kind of extraordinary things about the history of the indicator to me is the way that any objection to it is actually immediately absorbed into it into its theory of type so %HESITATION you know we you earlier you mentioned test retest reliability the fact that
00:27:12often when people take the indicator again they get a different result and Isabel Briggs Myers was very attentive to this as early as the fifties and her argument was that the questionnaire is so powerful that it actually reveals to you I your type it actually trains your it
00:27:32it it offers a kind of language of revelation to you %HESITATION where you become aware of your psychological functions in a way that you never were before and that's actually why you changed because where is the first time you took it in this relatively online self conscious state
00:27:51the second time you take it you're suddenly much more attuned to the categories it's taught you to use and so you become more comfortable with you feel more liberated by it and you become more comfortable with expressing or indicating the the real you to the questionnaire rather than
00:28:08the version of you that was going into the into the questionnaire blinds and so I think that capacity to always absorb criticism is another thing that makes the indicator incredibly powerful and that I it makes people defended at such a at such a high pitch so the man
00:28:27for a tie never changes this is really tight never changes except when it does exactly yes and you know the other is sort of amazing way that the that the people who run these Myers Briggs assessments are programs have of deflecting criticism I is to say well the
00:28:51only measure of the indicators validity is if you believe if you agree with the tight that it indicates that you are %HESITATION so they did this amazing thing where they kind of re frame validity not as a statistical measure but as a kind of measure of individual satisfaction
00:29:10with one's tight end so if your type changed that means that you are just taking the indicator in a you're taking the indicator in a mindset that is more suited to the true use so if it if you take it the first time it had an agreed with
00:29:27your type that maybe it was because you were taking it as your work cell or maybe it was because you were taking it as your social self or your parenting cell but if you take it again and it reveals something different than the explanation is given as %HESITATION
00:29:40you're probably taking it as a truer version of who you are and if you agree with that new type well that's the only measure of the lady and I'm putting that in in airports right now that's the only measure of validity that matters I'm talking similar they and
00:29:54read about his book about the Myers Briggs type indicator analysis so this knowledge he is seen as a musical but the concept is not as he is is really a civilian Leeson's isn't well it depends so I think our definition of personality which is the characteristics that make
00:30:20an individual distinct is quite recent I mean that's that's really a nineteenth century invention %HESITATION if you go back in time there are many Sir different understandings of personality so so one you know is the sort of fifteenth century understanding of personality as that which distinguishes human beings
00:30:40from animals or from objects so what it means to have a personality is to have personhood %HESITATION and even earlier it's sort of the thirteenth century understanding of personality is a theological line %HESITATION it's the it's the it's three different aspects of god that come together in the
00:30:56holy Trinity R. his personalities and what's interesting to me is how those earlier definitions of personality do kind of wind their way through Katharine Isabelle understanding of personality so Catherine who has this sort of deeply spiritual understanding of personality and its relationship to salvation does often look back
00:31:16to those earlier models of personality as the aspects of of god or what distinguishes people from animals as part of her justification for why it is that we need to get people to understand and specialize their personalities that that is what distinguishes what she calls the more enlightened
00:31:35men from the lower orders of men and of course there's a kind of you know racist in classes I angle to her thinking here %HESITATION and then even for Isabel that earlier understanding of personality is what differentiates human beings from animals or objects becomes quite interesting when she's
00:31:54designing the indicator in the forties because she believes that there are certain types of people who do not get to have personalities who can not have their personalities adequately differentiate it so for her new body with an I. Q. under a hundred I is is has the cognitive
00:32:15capabilities to differentiate their personalities and so they're not worth testing she believes %HESITATION or she believes that the people who seem to have the most strongly differentiated personalities are incredibly educated white and wealthy men and one of the things that I don't think she fully realize it is
00:32:38and you know I think it's something that only becomes apparent much later on with critiques of psychometric testing and intelligence testing %HESITATION is that many of these tests or indicators are basically only reaffirming the social hierarchies that already exist in the world so it's no accident that it's
00:32:58the men who are white and wealthy and have access to power that are the ones who seem to have the most differentiated personalities I mean they're often doing the jobs where they are told you are a strong individual you are a creative individual you get to stand apart
00:33:14from the crowd and so it's it's no accident that the indicator basically props up the hierarchies that already exist in the world I'm talking to me that I am right about the mine is Briggs type in the case so what do you think is not as he is
00:33:33I mean do you subscribe to that the famous great Gatsby suggestion that it's an unbroken series of successful gestures or does it go more character yeah that's a really good question I mean for me personality is a fiction that we invented about ourselves I and that is its
00:33:52relationship I think two character is that all of these occasions for talking about our own personalities are occasions for us to construct these grand narratives of ourselves and their ways for us to look back at our past and try to reconcile them with our presence in their ways
00:34:08for us to project ourselves into and on no will bulls future and so for me personality is always up a story that we tell about who we are %HESITATION and I think that story can be based on things that up here NA %HESITATION and I've been thinking about
00:34:31this a lot as I the parents because I have two children now one who I had when I started writing the book and one who I had at the very end of it and it was kind of extraordinary to me that I have spent you know twenty one
00:34:44months basically writing this critique of the way people think about personality only to have these two sort of relatively unformed creatures in front of me %HESITATION who did seem from the beginning extraordinarily different from one another and I saw a lot of time trying to figure out whether
00:35:02that was just temperament and ultimately person their personalities would really seem more similar than dissimilar to me %HESITATION what's the difference was between temperament and character and personality and when one shaded into the other and so I suppose one of the reasons I told you at the beginning
00:35:22of our conversation that I became more sympathetic to Katharine Isabelle over time was because I was being initiated into a a new process of knowing of knowing people that was very different from the kind of critical habitats that I inhabit as a as a professor %HESITATION or as
00:35:41a cultural critic and so I started to become very open I think to the idea that there was something in me and whether or not that was personality or whether or not it was something else that ultimately became routed into personality through a more kind of complex series
00:35:58of procedures that you know I I don't think is is a question that I feel like I've fully resolved in my own mind although I lean towards the the latter rather than the former that there are so many things that happen to us between when we are born
00:36:14and when we actually start to self consciously conceptualize of ourselves as having personalities and telling the stories of our personalities that it can't just be in a when you'll have to give them a Myers Briggs indication I am Wayne brown well you know my I have to wait
00:36:34for a little bit they say that the indicator is really only to be used by people who have reached at least a seventh grade reading level %HESITATION so you know I have a couple of years before but I have a couple of years before I have to subject
00:36:46them to it you do make it sound a little like Scientology would you regard this as a cult I think I don't regard it as a cold because I don't think it's totally immersive in the same way that most cults are I mean to join a cult you
00:37:03really have to you I I I think you really have to belong in a more daily sort of ritualistic way you know most cults have a sort of cult leader a charismatic leader who is is is organizing the systems of belief that the called the people the members
00:37:23of the cult describe to you they usually have some sort of place of worship %HESITATION colds I think are institutionalized in a more concentrated way and I think what makes the Myers Briggs type indicator interesting to me is that it is much more dispersed %HESITATION you know people
00:37:40take it once or twice and yet the hold that it has on there and Naji nation in do yours and it's it's precisely that sort of dispersal combined with the %HESITATION with the intensity of the belief that in some ways makes it even more interesting for me than
00:37:59a call %HESITATION because I'm a cult is like I said it's it's immersive I mean it's easy to understand why it is that people get sucked into it and how they stay sucked into it this for me is a little bit harder to understand because people's connections to
00:38:15the indicator ultimately become so remote and yet it doesn't seem like their belief actually weigh ins %HESITATION and also you know this is a cold with no I mean this is that this is a form of belief with no sort of charismatic leader at its head I think
00:38:29it's only very recently years since I've written a book and since it's come out that people have discovered who it is that was behind the indicator and and Katharine Isabelle are the kind of people that inspire sort of all our curiosity but I don't think they inspire reference
00:38:48in the same way that many cult leaders do %HESITATION give gifts given that a tight can make you feel that you don't have to take responsibility for changing anything is is that the danger you see in it because you have said that it's potentially dangerous I mean I'm
00:39:08less concerned about dangers on the individual level although I will say since %HESITATION you know since writing the book I have received emails from many many people who share with me their kind of traumas with type my concerns about it are more at this sort of social level
00:39:26you know I am concerned that this idea about personality continues to be marked by all kinds of social hierarchies surrounding race and class and gender and I worry that it continues to be used by employers and even by universities %HESITATION to flatten out people and to shuffle them
00:39:48around and I worry too that is used especially by corporate capitalism %HESITATION to convince people that day should be working longer and harder things because those are the things that jobs are the tasks that are best suited to their innate personalities and so I worry that it compels
00:40:09people to bind themselves to work freely and gladly and to launch their sense of self ever deeper in their professional occupations and I think we have become so are we we've started to treat as natural the idea %HESITATION that work should be a place for self actualization that
00:40:28we should love what we do and I really want to encourage people to sort of step back from that myth that fantasy dead our labor should be a source of you know psychological and even spiritual satisfaction I so I think there are really many things to worry about
00:40:46where the type indicator and with psychometric testing in the field of industrial or organizational psychology more broadly so why you're skeptical about its use by organizations you do say that it can be individually liberation Yenisei you say on the last day of your re education session %HESITATION that
00:41:08you saw flashes of Tiffany for the individuals that were not in any sense on tree yes no I I think that's absolutely right I mean I I think that on an individual level %HESITATION people find it immensely clarifying I when I was at that program I became quite
00:41:29good friends with the woman who works for the department of defense in the United States who had just gone through what sounded like a fairly acrimonious divorce and you know what she and I went out for a drink one night after the training program and she started talking
00:41:43to me about how the the program and the entire language of type had really made her feel so much better about the divorce rate had given her a framework within which to understand why she and her husband could not be reconciled and I think they in these moments
00:42:03of deep deep complexity and messiness and potential unpleasantness in our relationships with other people and even in our relationships with ourselves having that kind of clarity I can can prove very very %HESITATION it can prove liberating %HESITATION it can teach you how to say or train you how
00:42:23to say look this is who I am I don't want to apologize for who I am and I I I no longer going to and this is who the other person is and this is why our attempts to change one another I could never have worked and you
00:42:38know some people might describe that as a kind of false consciousness but I I think for the people that I spoke to it was it was it was in no way false it was in an extraordinarily real experience of coming to terms with who they were and how
00:42:53they wanted to lead their lives %HESITATION and so I don't want to discount that in any way and I think I can't discounted because it's so essential to understanding why it is that the indicator has has ignored and you know even in the fifties and the sixties when
00:43:09the educational testing services was betting the instruments and thinking about whether or not they should be %HESITATION publishing at are the head of each yes at the time a man named Henry Chauncey Wright state his statistical team in the statisticians say we can't we we can't validate this
00:43:25it's not valid it's not reliable he writes to a statistical team and he said maybe it doesn't matter out maybe it doesn't matter because people are so compelled by the type descriptions and they find them so useful to understanding their lives that maybe we could just offer it
00:43:42as a kind of self help tool and what would be wrong with that and so I think the difficulty of telling the story up tight is balancing out it socially pernicious aspects with it individually sort of useful %HESITATION liberate Tory ones and that's really the story that I
00:44:01set out to tell in in the book you mention that since you wrote the book people have been in touch describing that Truman's with tight what kind of things have they been telling you so people have written to me to talk about how I they were given the
00:44:20indicator by a psychologist during a couple's counseling session and how that psychologists been wielded against them to show that they weren't being truthful or they were answer accurately describing their feelings are the situations that they had encountered %HESITATION I've had people write to me to tell me how
00:44:39the indicator was used to deny them jobs or promotions %HESITATION I've had them right to me to tell them how it was used by their college counselors when they were graduating from college and set them on the path to the wrong to the wrong job %HESITATION and you
00:44:55know who knows who knows whether these experiences were actually specific to the type indicator or whether these were these more kinds of traumatic psychological experiences that people had and now they can kind of they have an object to to pick those experiences to arms but it is interesting
00:45:13to me that it activates people's imaginations in that way that it inspires %HESITATION this incredible investment of energy either positive or negative in it and I suppose the other kinds of emails that I've been getting which I also find interesting are from people who have designed their own
00:45:29personality tests and want me to take them in the great folks in the hopes that they can you know change my mind personality testing in general if they offer me a a more scientific version of a personality test and that seems you know quite funny to me because
00:45:48I'm you know the the book is obviously skeptical of the entire enterprise of quantifying quantifying one self quantifying one's personality in the first place out of them might have missed the point on that one but how easy is it to game the in the case that I always
00:46:06want to say test but you can use the indicator if an employer or potential employee a gives it to you isn't it easy enough to I mean they don't want an inch of it they want to next of kin everybody one thinks of it say you did the
00:46:23extra this thing is not easy %HESITATION I think it's pretty easy I mean I you know I think you don't even have to take it twice in order to do it I think as you're taking it you can easily start seeing the patterns in the questions and then
00:46:37you can start answering them as you as you want %HESITATION as you believe the best possible employer for this job might want although it's not true that employers always want extroverts %HESITATION you know my sister interviewed for a very sort of cultish hedge fund in New York and
00:46:56she had to take the Myers Briggs type indicator in the first round of her interview and she was told that they were actually looking for introverts %HESITATION in part because I think they ascribe to a slightly different understanding of introversion than the one we are familiar with today
00:47:11which is you know the introvert as the quiet or the shy or the anti social figure compared to the loud and boisterous and a social extrovert you know what when young initially articulated those definitions for him the extrovert with somebody who is always adapting their performance of self
00:47:32to suit the external circumstances so the extrovert was a somewhat unreliable Camille Yanick actor who would always change the type of person they seem to be based on who was in the room she and the introvert was someone who was so committed to their own subjectivity and their
00:47:47sense of self that they would never changed to suit the external circumstances and so the really evocative example that young gets here is that on a blustery day an extrovert is the person who will immediately donned his cat is hot and it's code before going outside and the
00:48:03introvert is the person will who will say let the elements do their worst I'm not going to change I in order to protect myself from that and so you know one entry I'd say the engine that they just stay home no no no not at all I mean
00:48:22and this is one of the kind of interesting counterpoints to the idea about personality being an eight is that there's nothing innate about these definitions of extroversion and introversion and so to claim that extraversion or introversion are themselves innate characteristics of one's personality seems already flawed because as
00:48:40categories they are always man made they're always socially constructed and their definitions shipped based on what institutional setting they're being used in %HESITATION and so I think that sort of is a really interesting way of showing %HESITATION how what we think of as personality and it's essential features
00:49:01are always already defined by by people and their and their interests who do you think that your book will deter anybody any organizations from employing the Myers Briggs I kind of doubt it I mean I'm certainly you know in some ways my book is much more sympathetic than
00:49:25earlier books on the topic %HESITATION and it's definitely more sympathetic than the articles that come out you know pretty regularly like once every six months talking about why the Myers Briggs type indicator is garbage and I don't think that those articles are those previous books have really made
00:49:43a dent in the use of the of the indicator I mean I think if there's anything that would make a dent it's that we seem to want to move away a little bit from typological thinking %HESITATION in in sort of corporate settings and towards more sort of fluid
00:50:02or narrative ways of thinking and so part of me just wonders if the type indicator will be supplemented by something that seems to offer more flexibility and new ones %HESITATION I but I don't see the book itself as making as having any kind of impact really on sales
00:50:19of the indicator the interesting thing about your book of course is that apart from its its critique of Myers Briggs the the biography of Katharine Isabelle gives really interesting context to it yeah I actually think it's impossible to separate the biography from the design of the indicator I
00:50:42I think and I think the biography just so to my mind so perfectly illustrates D. I. the attentions inherent in the indicator so when we started our conversation talking about obedience and curiosity in child rearing I think that you can see that dynamic of obedience and curiosity tracking
00:51:01all the way up to the to the present uses of the indicator which is that on the one hand it uses this incredibly art flattening and rigid system of thought to tell you this is who you are believe it and on the other hand it's as well now
00:51:16that you know who you are why don't you think creatively why don't you use your imagination to figure out how it is that you can live up to this version of yourself and so I think embedded in the appeal of the indicator even today are those twin forces
00:51:32those twin forces of obedience and curiosity France move them right whose book is cooled it is now he broke his the strange history of Myers Briggs and the business %HESITATION prisoners his his thing

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