Redditor gives advice on how to properly criticize personality type sorters

Found this on Reddit. (See link below)

Getting more personality-oriented, here’s another example: I can easily say that there are people who prefer to read books in a hard copy and those who prefer to read them on a computer screen. I’ll just make it a scale of 0 to 1, and the percentage of leisure time you spend reading either one is mapped to a ratio on that spectrum. Simple, easy, and hard to deny. The problem? It’s not useful. If you were to attack this method by saying I can’t divide everyone into two categories, you would be 100% dead wrong. What you probably mean by that, though, is that this classification isn’t useful. It lacks details that matter in life and I would not be able to draw many useful conclusions from the spectrum I defined. If I wanted to type personalities based on that, it would be a very shallow and unhelpful system.

So dissenting opinions against MBTI usually require reading between the lines to understand. They usually pick the wrong targets.

The 16 types exist pretty by definition of the 4 spectrums. They have simple descriptions and stay fairly core to what we consider a person’s personality. They that are somewhat obviously basic to what we expect out of human nature. (I vs E and T vs F are obvious to anyone with two eyes. The other two could debated.) They are incomplete, to be sure, but the goal of MBTI is not to be fully comprehensive.

If you do disagree with one of those dichotomies (aka, spectrums), then bring it up and debate whether it exists or not. For example, you need to say “there are people who have no notion of introversion or extroversion, the concept doesn’t apply to be whatsoever.” (Note that the argument is over whether concept applies, that’s different from just being middle-ground). But you can’t assert that people don’t fit into the final permutations. If the dichotomies are valid, so are the permutations. That’s unavoidable.

So rather, you have to attack the effectiveness of the 16 types. How well do they work? How detailed are they? After that, you can attack the conclusions. Ie, are the descriptions reasonable deductions from those initial data points?

As an INTP, I understand and appreciate the desire to try to systematically describe something so complex as the variety of human personalities, but let’s be real–this is just an elaborate party game.

Following from above, MBTI descriptions really aren’t that detailed. They are all about general patterns of preference. They’re removed by something like 3 layers of abstraction from actual physical actions. There is a lot that MBTI says nothing about. Have you read the official type descriptions? The long ones are about two pages.

MBTI’s ambitions are far less than what most people make them out to be. MBTI doesn’t try to describe why everyone does everything. It doesn’t seek to explain every bit of their feelings, preferences, or abilities in life. Its goals truly are very simple.

Here’s the bottom line (or tl;dr):

  • Generally when people complain that the 16 types can’t pigeon hole everyone, they think that MBTI is being more specific than it is. It is valid to attack a 16-category system for being too detailed about categorizing everybody on earth. But MBTI isn’t as detailed as one might think.

  • Or they think that MBTI is claiming that you can’t be any more granular than it itself is (eg, there are only 4 spectrums worth measuring for personality). But it makes no such claim.

(I think people subconsciously assume that MBTI is supposed to encapsulate everything they think about personalities, or something.)

So, I’m still not sure what irks you about MBTI. To criticise it, select one of these:

  • Criticizing the 16 types for claiming too much detail.

  • Criticizing the 16 types for claiming too little detail.

  • Criticizing the 16 types for not encapsulating enough detail.

  • Criticizing one of the dichotomies as being non-existent.

It’s an incomplete theory, but still useful. I’m sure neuroscience and psychology will produce better theories in the future.




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