The History of the Myers-Briggs Test (and Which Celebs Got What)

Myers-Briggs test

Find out how the Myers-Briggs test originated and see 8 famous people’s results.

For some of us, it was for a job interview. For others, it was at the request of a curious date-candidate trying to haze us. The odds are, we’ve all had to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) at some point or another. If you’re like me, you find yourself retaking the assessment at regular intervals, double-checking you’ve not suddenly swapped an E for an I, or a T for an F. Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. Well, if you’ve ever wondered what the Myers-Briggs test is, or where this whole thing came from, read on to find out…

The MBTI questionnaire, otherwise known as the Myers-Briggs test, was the brainchild of Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. After witnessing the difference between her prospective son-in-law and the rest of her family, Briggs Sr., in perhaps the most extreme case of overbearing parenting I’ve ever heard of, was inspired to see if she could find a way to describe the differences between people’s perspectives on the world (basically, she was trying to figure out how to psycho-filter the guy). She set about reading heaps of biographies and eventually came to the conclusion that you could roughly categorize people into four personality types: meditative (or thoughtful), spontaneous, executive and social. Upon realizing the similarities between her work and that of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who had developed a similar but far more extensive theory in his book Psychological Types (1921), she decided to come up with a way to make Jung’s ideas more widely accessible. The result was the Myers-Briggs test (the “Myers” part came from Isabel’s husband, Clarence Myers — they were married in the end, so I guess he passed the test). To this day, the test is used across the world for personal and professional purposes.

Myers-Briggs test

Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers

In the test, you answer multiple-choice questions by ranking the degree to which they agree or disagree with a series of statements. Based on these results, the test assigns you with a personality type out of a list of 16 possible categories. These are defined by a combination of personality traits indicated by your responses. The test then decides if you exhibit one or the other of the following pairs of characteristics: “Extraversion” or “Introversion,” “Sensing” or “iNtuition,” “Thinking” or “Feeling,” and “Judgment” or “Perception.” Each person, then, arrives at a group of letters that is their “type.” For example, you could be ENFJ (extraverted, intuitive, feeling and judging), otherwise known as “the teacher.” Or you might be ISTJ, “the inspector.” The combination of letters you receive signifies certain general and specific attributes of people in that category.

It has to be said, there’s something very suspicious about the idea of being able to fit people into boxes. By now, quite a number of scientists and bloggers alike have unpicked the somewhat arbitrary basis for a lot of the questions. At a time when the number of discussions about the social constructedness of gender and race is at an all-time high, it seems a lot of us have moved on to a more deconstructive mode of thinking about identity. That doesn’t stop the Myers-Briggs test from being fun and potentially helpful, though.

So with that said, if you’ve ever felt like you’re an up-and-coming Oprah or the next Kevin Spacey, but you just don’t know how to prove it to people, well, now you can. According to an analysis of quotes and behaviors, you can now find out the predicted MBTI profile for these famous celebs. Here are some examples:

1. Emma Watson: ESTJ — “The Overseer”

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As UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and campaigner for the UN HeForShe campaign, which calls for men to play an active role in fighting for gender equality, Watson has exhibited clear “practical” and “decisive” personality traits typical of ESTJs (as per the description on the official MBTI website). This type is also said to have a “clear set of logical standards” and “systematically follow them and want others to also,” which also squares with Watson the activist and idealist. And maybe even Hermione, too?

2. Obama: ENTP — “The Originator”

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“Quick…alert, and outspoken” — it’s fair to say a decent number of commentators have made such claims of this recent former president. “Bored by routine” — well, I suppose after four years of eating exactly seven almonds every night, who can blame the guy? Though they’re all pretty affirming of the unique contributions made by our differences, this is probably one of the more flattering categories to find yourself in as a leader of the free world. “Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems” is about as good as it gets. He definitely nailed talk shows.

3. Larry Page: INTP — “The Engineer”

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This one speaks for itself. Google founder and CEO of its parent company, Alphabet Inc., Larry Page is, if nothing else, “theoretical and abstract” — have you seen him in this interview? Besides just casually reinventing how we access knowledge, the guy’s obviously engaged in asking some pretty big questions about modern life. Trained as a computer scientist and with a degree from Stanford, Page clearly fits the category of engineer, and with his credentials he’ll go down in history as one of the most influential.

4. Oprah: ENFJ — “The Mentor”

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“Warm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfill their potential.” That’s straight off the Myers-Briggs official site, but it could just as easily have come from Oprah’s fan page. To have coaxed that many famous people out of their celebrity skin into a comfortable conversation is task enough, let alone when you consider some of her guests and what they’d been through. I suppose her own challenging life experiences made her the empath we know and love.

5. Rihanna: ISFP — “The Artist”

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So there’s a slight mismatch in this one. “Quiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind” may well be an accurate description of Bad Girl RiRi at home, but these probably aren’t the words that come to mind when we see her work, work, work, work, work. This focused side of her fits the description that explains how the “artist…enjoy[s] the present moment, what’s going on around them,” though. I suppose this just highlights the difficulty in pinning down a stable self when so much of a celebrity’s life is about balancing public and private personas.

6. Kanye West: ISFJ — “The Defender”

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Kanye definitely seems to be defending his vision 99% of the time, but it’s also hard to say if he’s defending or, depending on where you’re standing, offending. “Quiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious” — only the last one definitely holds, but then I’ve never met the guy — I suppose he could be friendly in person. “Committed” I can get behind and “thorough, painstaking, and accurate” ring true when I think about his work ethic. If there was a clincher in seeing the connection, however, it’s got to be this excerpt: “concerned with how others feel” — yeah, about him. If there’s one thing Yeezy truly loves, it’s the spotlight. Preach.

7. Kevin Spacey: ESTP — “The Persuader”

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When I think “persuader,” I think Frank Underwood from House of Cards (2013), am I right? But alongside his acting work, Spacey was the artistic director at the Old Vic theater in London between 2004 and 2014. He is also head of his own foundation, which supports young people in performing arts. It’s probably fair to say he takes “a pragmatic approach focused on immediate results.” He clearly has a “focus on the here and now,” is “spontaneous” and knows how to “enjoy each moment that [he] can be active with others.” That’s exactly what acting is, no?

8. Penelope Cruz: ESFJ — “The Supporter”

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Definitely more of a “leader” than “supporter,” purely in movie terms, Cruz has won the hearts and minds of many over the years, especially in her leading roles in Pedro Almodovar movies such as Volver (2006). Again, this is surely a simple prerequisite of the business, but evidently the woman likes “to work with others to complete tasks accurately and on time” — unless she’s just low-key always late (I don’t recall any empty stages at awards ceremonies). I think we all “want to be appreciated for who [we] are,” but certainly there seems to be an openness and an honesty in Cruz’s acting that fits this description also.

Anyway, there you have it: the Myers-Briggs test. Maybe you’ve realized you’re not actually definitely going to be the next president. Or if you’re Kanye, maybe you’ve realized you have. Either way, let us know what you getend

 

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