STARRED REVIEW
September 2018

The four letters that define you

By Merve Emre

People love personality tests, and they tend to believe the results, even if the tests are seldom reliable or even backed up by any scientific research. If you know your Myers-Briggs type—are you an ENFJ, or maybe an ISTP?—you know the appeal. In this fascinating survey of the popular Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and its passionate originators Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, Merve Emre delves deeply into these women’s personalities and those of the many others who spread their ideas far and wide over the course of nearly a century.

Share this Article:

People love personality tests, and they tend to believe the results, even if the tests are seldom reliable or even backed up by any scientific research. If you know your Myers-Briggs type—are you an ENFJ, or maybe an ISTP?—you know the appeal. In this fascinating survey of the popular Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and its passionate originators Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, Merve Emre delves deeply into these women’s personalities and those of the many others who spread their ideas far and wide over the course of nearly a century.

Relying on meticulous research, Emre reveals the vulnerable mindset of young housewife Briggs when she happened upon Carl Jung’s psychological theories in the 1920s. Inspired by Jung’s theories—but with no real psychological credentials and a background in fiction writing—Briggs and her daughter obsessively attempted to sort everyone in their lives into categories using a multiple-choice questionnaire they created.

It was truly an obsession, Emre shows, and one that didn’t stop with the Myers-Briggs family. On the contrary, the Myers-Briggs type theory was used to analyze everything from the dire economic situation of the 1930s to Hilter’s personality. It informed the first employment tests, and it may have influenced the beginning of the arms race in the 1950s. Indeed, type theory has never gone out of fashion and is still incredibly popular today, fueling a multibillion-dollar industry. Emre engagingly follows all of these paths to illustrate the deep and broad impact one test has had on people the world over.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

The Personality Brokers

The Personality Brokers

By Merve Emre
Doubleday
ISBN 9780385541909

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!