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The Personality Brokers : The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing
by Merve Emre


Overview - *A New York Times Critics' Best Book of 2018*
*An Economist Best Book of 2018*
*A Spectator Best Book of 2018*
*A Mental Floss Best Book of 2018*

An unprecedented history of the personality test conceived a century ago by a mother and her daughter--fiction writers with no formal training in psychology--and how it insinuated itself into our boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world.  Read more...


 
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More About The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre
 
 
 
Overview
*A New York Times Critics' Best Book of 2018*
*An Economist Best Book of 2018*
*A Spectator Best Book of 2018*
*A Mental Floss Best Book of 2018*

An unprecedented history of the personality test conceived a century ago by a mother and her daughter--fiction writers with no formal training in psychology--and how it insinuated itself into our boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It is used regularly by Fortune 500 companies, universities, hospitals, churches, and the military. Its language of personality types--extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuiting, thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving--has inspired television shows, online dating platforms, and Buzzfeed quizzes. Yet despite the test's widespread adoption, experts in the field of psychometric testing, a $2 billion industry, have struggled to validate its results--no less account for its success. How did Myers-Briggs, a homegrown multiple choice questionnaire, infiltrate our workplaces, 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 devoted homemakers, novelists, and amateur psychoanalysts, Myers-Briggs was designed to bring the gospel of Carl Jung to the masses. But it would take on a life entirely its own, reaching from the smoke-filled boardrooms of mid-century New York to Berkeley, California, where it was administered to some of the twentieth century's greatest creative minds. It would travel across the world to London, Zurich, Cape Town, Melbourne, and Tokyo, until it could be found just as easily in elementary schools, nunneries, and wellness retreats as in shadowy political consultancies and on social networks.

Drawing from original reporting and never-before-published documents, The Personality Brokers takes a critical look at the personality indicator that became a cultural icon. Along the way it 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?

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385541909
  • ISBN-10: 0385541902
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books
  • Publish Date: September 2018
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.45 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Psychology > Personality
Books > Psychology > History
Books > Psychology > Social Psychology

 
BookPage Reviews

The four letters that define you

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.

 
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