Whether on a corporate retreat or killing time on the internet, who among us hasn’t quenched their thirst for self-knowledge through a Myers-Briggs personality test?
You know the one. (How very ISFJ of you to pretend otherwise.)
Referenced in everything from elementary schools to dating apps, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been the de facto personality test for generations. In Merve Emre’s new book, The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, the author goes in-depth on the fascinating history behind Myers-Briggs.
Emre introduces us to the mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of homemakers who made up for their lack of formal training in psychology by perceiving an unexpressed desire within human beings for self-affirming answers to the question of self-knowledge. Originally designed to popularize the writings of Carl Jung, the type indicator took on a life of its own, honed by some of the 20th-century’s greatest creative minds as it traveled across the world.
In this excerpt from The Personality Brokers, Katharine Briggs introduces an early version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, with all its early Jungian influence, to readers of the New Republic. In offering personality types to a public fascinated by the idea of self-discovery, Briggs was not only laying the foundation for Myers-Briggs, she was ushering in the era of popular psychology.
Katharine Briggs’s first magazine article in nearly a decade, “Meet Yourself: How to Use the Personality Paint Box,” spoke to readers of her conversion experience to Jungian psychology. The article appeared in the New Republic in December 1926, its title a combination of the profound and the prosaic. One could hear echoes of the maxim inscribed in gold letters on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi — “Know thyself” — and the dawning of a deep and revelatory self-consciousness. One could also hear an invitation to a children’s game of arts and crafts. To meet oneself, she explained, was to embark on an epic journey of self-discovery whose end was not some abstract notion of truth or freedom but one of Jung’s sixteen personality types — “sixteen ways of growing from infancy to maturity,” she wrote. Each type was represented by a different shade in the “personality paint box” of life. To discover the shade that best suited you, Katharine urged her reader to write down each type and its traits on a 3″ x 5″ …read more