The quest for knowledge has fascinated humanity since antiquity. We are born curious creatures, stumbling around in the dark in search of an understanding of the things and people around us, and finally of ourselves. As we grow, so does our desire to understand ourselves.
A word heard often concerning this discourse is “personality”. It is a word that does not need to be explained, yet it is inexplicably hard to define.
Personality comes from the Latin word “personalis” meaning “of a person”. It refers to long-standing traits which compel a person to think, feel or believe in specific ways. Personality defines a person’s identity in a way, and how the person interacts with other individuals and the world.
There have been various attempts at identifying and categorizing personality ‘types’. The list is lengthy: from Hippocrates in 370 BC, when he attempted to classify human behaviour based on four temperaments of the body and then work was carried on by Galen, Franz Gall, Immanuel Kant, Wilhelm Wundt, and Carl Jung’s early attempts to modern concepts such as the Big Five (which is based on five major personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism ). One system besides the illustrious BuzzFeed quizzes that many people might have come across is MBTI. MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Types Indicator. It is a classification of personalities based on cognitive functions. It lies in the field of psychology and has originated from the findings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It was founded by Katharine Myers and Isabel Briggs, a mother-daughter duo. Sixteen types have been classified based on Introvertedness / Extrovertedness, Feeling/ Thinking or Intuition/Sensing and Judging/Perceiving. A person could lie anywhere between an ESTJ
(Extrovertedness, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) or an INFP (Introvertedness, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving).
This test was originally developed as a way for people to choose job opportunities which suited the way they thought, worked and interacted with the world. This concept captured the imagination of employers, who were interested in using this indicator to optimise their workforce.
However, studies suggest that MBTI is not a good way to gauge job efficiency or later success. In fact it was expressly built to judge preference not competence. The official website pointedly asks people to not use this indicator as a basis for job recruitment.
The other aspect of this indicator’s usage is simply as an instrument for people to understand their dominant personality traits. But even this must be taken with a pinch of salt.
While attempting to study any concept, we are of course forced to make categories and establish definitions. But labels exclude the possibility of change. The human mind is a complicated thing and even attempting to make generalisations is a pointless task. We must remember that to every rule there is an exception.
Aylin Ashraf and Andleeb Bilal