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An unprecedented history of a personality test devised in the 1940s by a mother and daughter, both homemakers, that has achieved cult-like status and is used in today's most distinguished boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It has been harnessed by Fortune 100 companies, universities, hospita An unprecedented history of a personality test devised in the 1940s by a mother and daughter, both homemakers, that has achieved cult-like status and is used in today's most distinguished boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It has been harnessed by Fortune 100 companies, universities, hospitals, churches, and the military. Its language - of extraversion vs. introversion, thinking vs. feeling - has inspired online dating platforms and BuzzFeed quizzes alike. And yet despite the test's widespread adoption, experts in the field of psychometric testing, a $500 million industry, struggle to account for its success - no less to validate its results. How did the Myers-Briggs test insinuate itself into our jobs, our relationships, our Internet, our lives? First conceived in the 1920s by the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of aspiring novelists and devoted homemakers, the Myers-Briggs was designed to bring the gospel of Carl Jung to the masses. But it would take on a life of its own, reaching from the smoke-filled boardrooms of mid-century New York to Berkeley, California, where it was honed against some of the twentieth century's greatest creative minds. It would travel across the world to London, Zurich, Cape Town, Melbourne, and Tokyo; to elementary schools, nunneries, wellness retreats, and the closed-door corporate training sessions of today. Drawing from original reporting and never-before-published documents, The Personality Brokers examines nothing less than the definition of the self - our attempts to grasp, categorize, and quantify our personalities. Surprising and absorbing, the book, like the test at its heart, considers the timeless question: What makes you you?


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An unprecedented history of a personality test devised in the 1940s by a mother and daughter, both homemakers, that has achieved cult-like status and is used in today's most distinguished boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It has been harnessed by Fortune 100 companies, universities, hospita An unprecedented history of a personality test devised in the 1940s by a mother and daughter, both homemakers, that has achieved cult-like status and is used in today's most distinguished boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It has been harnessed by Fortune 100 companies, universities, hospitals, churches, and the military. Its language - of extraversion vs. introversion, thinking vs. feeling - has inspired online dating platforms and BuzzFeed quizzes alike. And yet despite the test's widespread adoption, experts in the field of psychometric testing, a $500 million industry, struggle to account for its success - no less to validate its results. How did the Myers-Briggs test insinuate itself into our jobs, our relationships, our Internet, our lives? First conceived in the 1920s by the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of aspiring novelists and devoted homemakers, the Myers-Briggs was designed to bring the gospel of Carl Jung to the masses. But it would take on a life of its own, reaching from the smoke-filled boardrooms of mid-century New York to Berkeley, California, where it was honed against some of the twentieth century's greatest creative minds. It would travel across the world to London, Zurich, Cape Town, Melbourne, and Tokyo; to elementary schools, nunneries, wellness retreats, and the closed-door corporate training sessions of today. Drawing from original reporting and never-before-published documents, The Personality Brokers examines nothing less than the definition of the self - our attempts to grasp, categorize, and quantify our personalities. Surprising and absorbing, the book, like the test at its heart, considers the timeless question: What makes you you?

30 review for The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    In reading for pleasure do you (a) Enjoy odd and original ways of saying things or (b) Like writers to say exactly what they mean” To which I will add my own three questions. Feel free to give me your answers in the comments and I can provide you my own unofficial but carefully researched Goodreads Myers Briggs Type Indicator. When you have finished a book do you (c) look for ways to engage with others who have read the book or (d) look forward to losing yourself in the next book When writing a In reading for pleasure do you (a) Enjoy odd and original ways of saying things or (b) Like writers to say exactly what they mean” To which I will add my own three questions. Feel free to give me your answers in the comments and I can provide you my own unofficial but carefully researched Goodreads Myers Briggs Type Indicator. When you have finished a book do you (c) look for ways to engage with others who have read the book or (d) look forward to losing yourself in the next book When writing a review do you consider it most important to (e) think how to represent the book as accurately as possible or (f) consider how other readers (or even the author and publishers) might feel about your review. Do you think that arranging for your bookshelves to be carefully arranged according to some scheme (such as alphabetically by author) is (g) vital to your literary peace of mind or (h) somewhere between unnecessary and sad ——————————————————————————————————- This book is an excellent review of the history of what is now the world’s most popular personality test and in particular its creators Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers. This is a subject which interests me as despite its flaws, this test (which I have probably undergone on at least half a dozen occasions from business schools, to work team bonding sessions to church discipleship groups) is one I enjoy discussing, one where I recall my type without effort, and one I have on an occasion even used (I would argue very carefully and for a very specific purpose) as a recruitment tool. Even while reading the book I Googled to check if there was an article on using type to predict the type of book you enjoy and found I was a lover of literary fiction. Confirmation bias perhaps, as I may have ignored the article with a different result, but I would say not entirely. The book makes no attempt to hide the lack of scientific rigour at the base of the test, or of statistical validity. Nor to disguise the really at times quite bizarre history of its creators. Katherine’s psycho-sexual, quasi-religious obsession with Jung and her sinister fixation with one of her first subjects - the daughter of her husband’s colleague. Isabel’s brief career as an award winning novelist of casually racist detective novels. Later her eccentric and paranoid behaviour when her test came under the auspices of the Education Training Service (purveyor of the SAT). Interestingly it places the role of the test and of the wider fields of personality profiling and testing, as being intrinsic to the post war development of a corporatist ethos in the white collar workforce in America (as effectively a capitalist antidote to the threat of socialism) - but with a smaller group of researchers concerned that the ideas of classification strayed too close to fascism. The author also draws out its links with reinforcing areas of social, gender and racial discrimination. I have two criticisms. At times the book can be surprising in its parochialism; in a way which reminded me of the World Series I was rather caught by surprise and then humoured when a reference to the test making the transition from “East to West” turned out to reference the two coasts of the United States. The book features various other figures in the history of personality testing/profiling who played an important role in the development of the profile of MBTI. At times MBTI itself can seem almost incidental to these chapters, which while interesting (showing how both Big Brother shows and the Stanford Prison experiment had their origins in this field, decades earlier) are too detailed for the casual reader. But the book is nicely balanced; opening and closing with the author (so as to access papers she wanted for her book research) being required to attend a 2 day Myers Briggs accreditation. There, despite her cynicism at evangelical nature of the true believers, she sees some of the ways in which understanding their type enables people to make sense of their lives, characters and relationships and concludes Despite all the challenges to its validity and reliability, despite all the criticism of its origins and its uses despite its silky, ironic appropriations, the indicator continued to operate as a powerful technology of the self even in its twenty-first century incarnation. ——————————————————————————————————- In case you are wondering my own answers are: (c) but marginally so (a) strongly except in some areas of non fictional writing (f) and increasingly so (g) fiction by author, sports books by sport, history books by chronology Which matches, even in its nuances, my much tested Type.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robin Bonne

    3.5 Stars. The beginning really tried to sell me on the mystery of the author’s journey to uncover the history of MBTI. After such promise, it slowed down for awhile, which is why I can’t rate it higher. Then it took a turn toward the bizarre when Katherine had a strange relationship with Mary “Tucky” Tuckerman. Overall, it was fascinating and there were moments of, “What did I just read?” Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Hedwig

    The Personality Brokers combines a conceptually sophisticated intellectual history with a thrilling narrative. It takes a special kind of talent to make ideas this interesting. The "personalities" covered come to riotous life--Hitler, Jung, Truman Capote, to say nothing of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers themselves. Emre is always witty and always sharp, but never condescending to her subjects, no matter how eccentric they can be. An amazing book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A book that goes into the history and the provenance of the Myers-Briggs test. Mostly, it's a history of fraud and cult like behavior from the very beginning. Created by a Progressive era crackpot, it became a cause celebre of big business, but there does not appear to be any actual scientific evidence behind it. Sounds about right.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I was totally engrossed in the story of the mother and daughter team behind Myers-Briggs. This test is nearly one hundred years old, and it's fascinating to see how it continues to impact huge institutions from the CIA to Fortune 500 companies. Highly recommend.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda O.

    My friend lent me her advance copy and I finished it in a week! The Personality Brokers is the fascinating history behind the Myers-Briggs test and the mother-daughter duo who created it. The book was incredibly well-written and well-researched and raised interesting questions about personality psychology, which interest me greatly. I also loved how it delves into the history of the test - how it weaves together the psychological frameworks of Jung and the made-up parts by Isabel Myers and Kathar My friend lent me her advance copy and I finished it in a week! The Personality Brokers is the fascinating history behind the Myers-Briggs test and the mother-daughter duo who created it. The book was incredibly well-written and well-researched and raised interesting questions about personality psychology, which interest me greatly. I also loved how it delves into the history of the test - how it weaves together the psychological frameworks of Jung and the made-up parts by Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs - and the widespread use of it across institutions like the military, universities, and churches. It uncovers the corporations behind the type indicator test and how they strive to protect the legitimacy of it. What I loved most about the book was how it challenged this widely-accepted personality test and shows how it's flawed. People who love and live by Myers-Briggs may not like to read about it, but it's an important book and it's written for those people as well. An overall fascinating read that will serve as a great talking points in future Myers-Briggs conversations!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    My background is in psychology and I've always found personality testing fascinating, if dubious. Emre's exploration of the history of Myers-Briggs and the mother-daughter team behind it makes me think even more about how dubious they are -- and how dangerous they can be when used as tools to sort, assess, and direct people in personal and professional lives. I never realized it was so heavily influenced by Jung, and I never realized the fact that types are meant to be unchanging; it's this, the My background is in psychology and I've always found personality testing fascinating, if dubious. Emre's exploration of the history of Myers-Briggs and the mother-daughter team behind it makes me think even more about how dubious they are -- and how dangerous they can be when used as tools to sort, assess, and direct people in personal and professional lives. I never realized it was so heavily influenced by Jung, and I never realized the fact that types are meant to be unchanging; it's this, the idea of it being unchanging, that maybe bothers me the most (after, of course, the fact they're based on the ideal straight, white, cis, able-bodied male in American culture as "norms" for all 16 types). It was interesting to think about the time period when the test was created, too. The 1950s, post-war, when money became more flush and white Americans enjoyed far more leisure time and opportunity to "find themselves" (even though this never met that critical mass until the 1980s, it was the dream of the creators). The audio was solid. (INTJ, if you're wondering).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    Weirdest true story ever! If you have any experience with the Myers-Briggs test (who doesn't?) or are just interested in the idea of personality testing, definitely check out this book. This bizarre and compulsively readable history will make you think a little more deeply about all the professional development activities or Tinder profiles you come across that reference MBTI results. Super fun and informational read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This book was riveting and impossible to put down. A friend loaned me a copy and I finished it in three days even though I'm a slow and distractible reader. It's a fascinating history of the mother and daughter who developed the MBTI (much earlier than I would have imagined), and a broader examination of other personality tests, theories and research. It grapples with the question of why we as Americans, or maybe as humans, are so drawn to these types of categorical tools to sort ourselves and de This book was riveting and impossible to put down. A friend loaned me a copy and I finished it in three days even though I'm a slow and distractible reader. It's a fascinating history of the mother and daughter who developed the MBTI (much earlier than I would have imagined), and a broader examination of other personality tests, theories and research. It grapples with the question of why we as Americans, or maybe as humans, are so drawn to these types of categorical tools to sort ourselves and define our lives. And the writing is brilliant. The author powerfully and convincingly makes her arguments while simultaneously painting vivid and interesting characters. I found myself wanting to binge watch episodes of this book on Netflix.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5/5

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dahnoor Noviansyah

    Last year I took this test and the result was INTP. After I read this book then I took the test again and surprisingly the result was INFP. Deep down I know that I’m a logical person but you know, people change.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I'm an INTP on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI). The Logician. So is Gandalf and Yoda and Dumbledore. "INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities" (Wikipedia). I'm also the astrological sign of Cancer. A water sign. So is Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel and Arianna Grande. "Deeply intuitive and sentimental, Cancer can be one of the most challenging zodiac signs to get to know" (Astrology Zodiac Signs.com). I I'm an INTP on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI). The Logician. So is Gandalf and Yoda and Dumbledore. "INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities" (Wikipedia). I'm also the astrological sign of Cancer. A water sign. So is Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel and Arianna Grande. "Deeply intuitive and sentimental, Cancer can be one of the most challenging zodiac signs to get to know" (Astrology Zodiac Signs.com). I was born in 1976, the year of the dragon. I'm a fire dragon, in fact. So is Peyton Manning and Reese Witherspoon and Benedict Cumberbatch. "Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and if left on their own, are usually successful" (Chinese Zodiac.com). So, what does all this mean? Barring how these arbitrary, pseudoscientific designations might lead to self-fulfilling prophecies, absolutely nothing. They're silly anti-Enlightenment parlor games. This is the focus of Merve Emre's investigation of the MBTI The Personality Brokers: that truth about the ubiquitous personality questionnaire, which we all assume must have been developed by two psychologists named Myers and Briggs, is that it "is not scientifically valid; that the theory behind it has no basis in clinical psychology; and that it is the flagship product of a lucrative global corporation, one whose interests sit at the shadowy crossroads of industrial psychology and self-care” created in the kitchens of two "proud wives, mothers, and homemakers with no formal training in psychology or psychiatry". In the best parts of the book, the prologue and epilogue, Emre details her own attempts to gain access to the truth about the MBTI and the roadblocks she encountered from interested parties making a lot of money from running training and personality workshops (and planning the kinds of horrendous, soul-sucking "retreats" only corporate MBA types could dream up). In fact, Emre would have had an even better book if she'd focused more on the keeping of this secret--the MBTIs lack of validity and reliability as well as its dubious origins--rather than on the lives of the mother-daughter team who repurposed the ideas of Jung into their highly successful personality type indicators. To be fair to Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, although they're sometimes portrayed as dilettante housewives, they were both brilliant autodidacts who were limited not by intellect but by confirmation and selection bias. Emre does a good job of portraying both women as complex characters, equally brilliant, driven and...well, a little nuts. It's a portrayal that's well-supported and persuasive. All in all, it's a pretty good book. The first half is pure biography and is a little too exhaustive; the second half focuses purely on the indicator and gets a little tedious by the end. Again, Emre's own lack of access seems to be the most interesting detail but is relegated to brief mentions at the beginning and end of the book. I also enjoyed sections where Emre applies some of Adorno's best ideas about standardization, fascism and neoliberal capitalism, but this too lacks the space devoted to biographical details of the lives of Briggs and Briggs Myers. INTPs will enjoy reading it quietly somewhere while ESFJs will have plenty to discuss in their social circles.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick Richtsmeier

    This is a strange thing to say about a biography of the two women who created MBTI, but I desperately needed this book. I have been wrestling--after years of using psychographics like MBTI--in my work with the consequences for both individuals and groups for being broken into types. I have watched as we use these tools as short-hands for a person, putting them into boxes and weaponizing our toolkits to put people in their place when they try to be something which makes us uncomfortable. I have s This is a strange thing to say about a biography of the two women who created MBTI, but I desperately needed this book. I have been wrestling--after years of using psychographics like MBTI--in my work with the consequences for both individuals and groups for being broken into types. I have watched as we use these tools as short-hands for a person, putting them into boxes and weaponizing our toolkits to put people in their place when they try to be something which makes us uncomfortable. I have sat through meetings where leaders use typologies as a way to bully their managers into firing employees, putting types up on the screen and asking, "Would we EVER hire someone who had this type again? NO. We wouldn't. So why are we keeping them?" All of this, for many years, seemed to me as just an abuse of a perfectly good toolkit. And, to a certain degree, I still hold this to be true. BUT, something in me began to wonder if the toolkits themselves had a mercenary edge to them which predisposed them for such purposes. Then I found "The Personality Brokers." Emre is a fair historian here (although with a vague bias), clearly showing the popular appeal of MBTI and its ability to make people feel vaguely good about themselves and their unique personality, even if that good feeling has no grounding in actual science. She is not ruthless in her exposure of the founders racism, or of the gender biases inherent in the types' applications. But she does pull back the cover on decades of back story showing that MBTI has more validity as a tool for self-delusion than it does for self-discovery. The founders wrote it as way of hero worshipping (and wildly skewing) Jung's work on personality, but more importantly as a way of escaping the misogyny of their day. The book doesn't need to go into great detail on the scientific invalidation of type (other books do that better) but rather the story of why that invalidation has never seemed to matter. Apparently we as modern humans so badly want to put ourselves and each other into categories, it doesn't even matter if the categories are completely made up. I will go so far as to say that this book is important. In an era where we are all one Facebook quiz away from discovering our true selves, perhaps it is finally time to realize that there is no reason to believe our true selves are to be found anywhere near a multiple choice examination.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Varga

    I picked up this book after hearing a fascinating NPR interview with the author. Her voice comes through most in her introduction and conclusion, where she describes going through MBTI training. One of my fav moments is when she's asked to draw her personality as a room and considers drawing the Red Room of Pain from 50 Shades of Grey. Her voice is less vivid during the the actual book. Emre steps aside to focus on the creators of the test and the facts of their lives. Katherine Briggs and Isabel I picked up this book after hearing a fascinating NPR interview with the author. Her voice comes through most in her introduction and conclusion, where she describes going through MBTI training. One of my fav moments is when she's asked to draw her personality as a room and considers drawing the Red Room of Pain from 50 Shades of Grey. Her voice is less vivid during the the actual book. Emre steps aside to focus on the creators of the test and the facts of their lives. Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers are both quite unpleasant, and I didn't enjoy spending time with their racism, classism, and Jung obsessions. I wanted to spend more time with Emre calling them out on their shit. I think Emre succeeded in being academic and monitoring her biases, but I would have preferred-dare I say it?-a little more personality. That being said, I've always felt frustrated by the Myers-Brigg test (Humans are complex! We don't all fit into binaries!) so this book was a validating read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I was hoping for a more intriguing story. The story I got certainly seemed well researched, but I lost interest about halfway through. I vividly remember taking the Myers Briggs in college when I was unsure what I wanted to major in. I was an ISFJ and I also clearly remember that the "test" told me that meter reading might be a good job for me. I still wonder if I should have pursued meter reading (JK, not really). I learned a lot about the development of the tool, but by the end I just wasn't t I was hoping for a more intriguing story. The story I got certainly seemed well researched, but I lost interest about halfway through. I vividly remember taking the Myers Briggs in college when I was unsure what I wanted to major in. I was an ISFJ and I also clearly remember that the "test" told me that meter reading might be a good job for me. I still wonder if I should have pursued meter reading (JK, not really). I learned a lot about the development of the tool, but by the end I just wasn't that interested.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Cronin

    The Personality Brokers is an engaging read that takes the reader on a journey of a mother and daughter’s passionate and challenging pursuit to bring the concept of “Type” into society at large. The various settings of experimentation—from dream analysis to house parties, and Type’s clash with psychological and organizational thought leaders, makes every chapter uniquely captivating. This book isn’t just history—anyone who reads it can’t help but think of their own personal discovery of Type and The Personality Brokers is an engaging read that takes the reader on a journey of a mother and daughter’s passionate and challenging pursuit to bring the concept of “Type” into society at large. The various settings of experimentation—from dream analysis to house parties, and Type’s clash with psychological and organizational thought leaders, makes every chapter uniquely captivating. This book isn’t just history—anyone who reads it can’t help but think of their own personal discovery of Type and how it has shaped and continues to impact their lives.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tina Panik

    This well researched, wild ride of a story follows the mother-daughter team (with no psychological training) who design and influence contemporary culture with their personality theories which succeed through a serendipitous combination of timing and tenacity. Combine their hysterical passion with some Jung, the Nazi resistance, and Truman Capote, and you’ve got a completely astonishing tale.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy Johns

    This book was interesting, especially in its description of how the type indicator coincided with “modern” psychology development and understanding and the pursuit of the “best self.” I might have enjoyed more anecdotal discussion of the different types as well as the implications of the indicator.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    The first third of the book was interesting. The rest of the book could have been 25 pages total.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    Fascinating account of the history behind the Myers-Briggs personality test, and the women who developed it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Disliked the two women being profiled so much I had to stop reading the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Really interesting book about the women behind the personality test. I had always assumed they were men.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Don Heiman

    Merve Emre’s 2018 book “The Personality Brokers” is a biography about Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabell Briggs Myers who co-developed the popular and very controversial Myers-Briggs Personality Type Index. In the book Merve explains the various ways the Index helps us understand how we inherit and self-create personalities that evolve throughout the timeline of our lives. I found the book fascinating and well worth reading. (L/P)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    Fascinating! This was not just about Myers-Briggs, but also about the way the study of psychology has infiltrated and affected the culture at large. I wish I had read this with a book club--so much to think about and discuss!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amber Daugherty

    What's your type? Bet whatever type you are - ENFJ, ISTJ - you didn't realize that the Myers-Briggs test got its start in the early 1900s when Katherine Briggs began 'training' her daughter Isabel and other children in her neighbourhood to be obedient. She documented everything, recording how Isabel walked, talked, responded to games and experiments, certain that she could help impact how Isabel's life would evolve. As Isabel grew older, she became fascinated with the experiments her mom did and What's your type? Bet whatever type you are - ENFJ, ISTJ - you didn't realize that the Myers-Briggs test got its start in the early 1900s when Katherine Briggs began 'training' her daughter Isabel and other children in her neighbourhood to be obedient. She documented everything, recording how Isabel walked, talked, responded to games and experiments, certain that she could help impact how Isabel's life would evolve. As Isabel grew older, she became fascinated with the experiments her mom did and worked with her to create personality types based on Jung's research as a way to better sort people - into jobs, marriages, hobbies. Both Katherine and Isabel's lives intersected with some of the biggest names in psychology (including their hero, Jung) - many who looked down on the mother-daughter duo for their lack of scientific knowledge and expertise. But what they lacked in those areas they made up for in energy, enthusiasm and a neverending belief that their test could make a positive impact in people's lives. After decades of difficulty finding people to sell and share the test broadly, a million tests were sold in 1979 to institutions and individuals and today it's used by people all over the world as a method of self-discovery, job placement and more. Such a fascinating journey of struggle, family, obedience and the refusal to back down, even when everyone is saying you should. Would HIGHLY recommend this book if you're interested at all in the birth of personality testing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    The history of the MBTI is a very interesting subject and the book was compelling enough to keep going with it even though it dragged quite a bit.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Matt Schindel

    Strange story about the even stranger concept of personality testing. The writing made an already wild story even more interesting. WILD!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lyndsay

    I was really interested in this book. But the more I read/listened to it, the less I cared. It was maybe a bit too long and I just felt like the author was taking a long time to get to the point. Maybe it was a little too over my head, but I really think the author just didn't have a clear focus and was trying to tackle too many things at once with this.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    To investigate the history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most popular personality inventory in the world, is to court a kind of low-level paranoia. Files disappear. Tapes are erased. People begin to watch you. The first start of this book made me think of scientology, how closely guarded and paranoid they are, and it turned out to be right all along this story. However, this book is not about the mechanics that surround what makes the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type test, but its core, its To investigate the history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most popular personality inventory in the world, is to court a kind of low-level paranoia. Files disappear. Tapes are erased. People begin to watch you. The first start of this book made me think of scientology, how closely guarded and paranoid they are, and it turned out to be right all along this story. However, this book is not about the mechanics that surround what makes the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type test, but its core, its beginnings, and its life through its makers and where it's ended up today, as a kind of fortune cookie that's entirely made without basis in science, still used by major companies and institutions. Although they were not the only figures in the history of personality psychology to pose these questions, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, were among the first to perceive how hungry the masses were for simple, self-affirming answers to the problem of self-knowledge. As proud wives, mothers, and homemakers with no formal training in psychology or psychiatry, they believed they could craft a language of the self that was free from judgment and malice; free from the coldness and impassivity that, in their minds, characterized the attitudes of professional clinicians. Their first subjects were the people they loved the most, their husbands and their children; their first workplaces were their homes. While they did borrow much of their language of type from Carl Jung, their relationship with him was vexed: at times mutually admiring; at times dangerously, even sexually, obsessive. No matter what obstacles or disappointments they faced, they believed they could overcome their amateurism with a stubborn, sometimes infuriating dedication to their cause, a belief that persisted even when it cost them their friendships, their marriages, their sanity. Their personal lives were everywhere bound up with the life of their invention, so much so that once it passed from the private into the public realm, they would eventually become eclipsed by it, in much the same way that the name “Frankenstein” has come to stand for the monster rather than his creator. Emre does a good job in navigating the reader through the home-styled makings of the "type", and permeates the innards of how a highly bizarre and damaged mother turned her daughter into making the test with her, while being obsessed with Jung. Katharine spent the next five years doing little else but scrutinizing every word of Jung’s book, copying paragraphs from it into her notebooks with the quiet determination of a monk in his cell. To say there are a lot of parts of Jung in the Myers-Briggs test is a complete understatement; the family wont to justify the simplification of people into stereotypes, where one can—simply by identifying the existence or lack of a single letter in one's "character" as defined by Myers-Briggs—know who to glom to or avoid, is everywhere, based on obsession and also om psychological transference; Katherine Briggs (the mother) wrote erotic fiction about Carl Jung even. This book started veering a bit boringly towards the last third, but still, it was interesting. Its author is also laudable for listening to in radio interviews. Check this book out, it's likely to charm, and mainly, to in a gentle and scientific way expose the Myers-Briggs test for what it is: a vehicle made not for scientific purpose, but to make money.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nicolette

    Felt a weird, tense, stomachache of emotions reading this book because trying to sympathize or relate with the mother-daughter duo that was detailed, so precisely, was uncomfortable. They aren't relatable and I don't think it's the time period, necessarily, or even the historical context. The desires to go beyond a limited station in life, to contemplate one's path, are reasonable. Bringing oneself up to the level of a doctor, a licensed psychologist, or other roles to justify making up a fun qu Felt a weird, tense, stomachache of emotions reading this book because trying to sympathize or relate with the mother-daughter duo that was detailed, so precisely, was uncomfortable. They aren't relatable and I don't think it's the time period, necessarily, or even the historical context. The desires to go beyond a limited station in life, to contemplate one's path, are reasonable. Bringing oneself up to the level of a doctor, a licensed psychologist, or other roles to justify making up a fun quiz based on a smattering of understanding of the fields and, at points, the subtlety of an 8 ball with answers, is plain strange. Some it felt like a creative outlet, which the author made fantastic points about, and some of it is definitely to justify the personalities and neuroticism of Katharine and Isabel in their own minds to deal with their position of subservience. I'm baffled by the letters written to Jung, and that he wrote back. It's insane that these standardized tests, now fully in the realm of making people and personalities a billion-dollar business, have roots in a woman that was going after a vulnerable child to try to save her soul. It has the window trimmings and veneer of a cult, like a fanciful pyramid scheme made in a lab to try to capture people like animals in traps. To say it nicely, these are incredibly eccentric and self-absorbed people trying to "save" others with the intensity of a proselytizer, and it begs the questions: Are there people who should be in charge of others, and be allowed to draw the lines in the sand of "enlightened?" and "non?" Do we not see these types of people run companies, invent devices and ideas and paradigms and cures, convinced it's all for the common good? Run countries and install governments, even? If my opinion is unforgiving, it's because I'm skeptical and sometimes dually irritated and fascinated with personality quizzes. It's relaxing and alluring to look at horoscopes and imagine that the answers float the surface easily - that's what we want, isn't it? Easy answers? The faux spiritual quest involved in Katharine's doggedness of pursuit is also totally unsettling and frustrating. What blows me away is how ingrained it's become in actual institutions and the ramifications of that - educational testing, mindless internet quizzes morphing into talking points, determinism in workplaces - it's ludicrous. Musing on workplaces, a manager of mine has her results from some red-and-green leadership type-IQ-nonsense pasted up in her cube. The undercurrent of anger I have about it is admittedly driven by skepticism and irrational anger that someone in a position of power is leaning on a quiz to understand the "self." On the other hand, if we start thinking about all the ridiculous things we use as crutches in the pursuit of self, we'll be angry all the time. You should read this book.

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