Scan the profiles on any dating app and you’re bound to see a bio touting your potential match as an “ENFP” or an “ISTJ.” This jumble of letters refers to the results of the Myers-Briggs personality indicator test.
The 90-plus-question test, which was created during World War II by two Americans to match women with jobs, assigns respondents one of 16 different “personality types” based on their answers. The letters represent two opposing traits in four categories.
- Introversion-extraversion is represented by I or E
- Sensation-intuition is represented by S or N
- Thought-Feeling is represented by T or F
- judge-perceive is represented by J or P
So if a person is an ENTJ, that means they are prone to extroversion, intuition, judgmental thinking, and judgment.
The test recently made its way to Seoul, South Korea, reports CNN. Koreans in their 20s and 30s use their MBTI test results to thin out the dating pool and filter out those with the letter combinations they think are the least compatible with.
Using the MBTI test in this way might not help you reduce noise, says Lisa Bobby, psychologist and clinical director of Development of self-help and coaching in Denver, Colorado.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” she said. “People already judge each other based on very little information, and starting to make assumptions or making sense of personality test results will add another hurdle to developing a healthy relationship.”
Compatibility is a “false construction”
The test’s popularity makes sense, Bobby says, because it’s accessible and relatively inexpensive. And, while using it to exclude other people from your potential dating pool isn’t smart, it can help you learn more about yourself.
“Understanding your differences can help you develop tolerance and compassion for those of others,” she says. “In addition, the MBTI can help you clarify the situations and circumstances in which you will feel most comfortable and be most naturally at your best.”
However, using the test to find a mate relies on the idea that some people are compatible and some aren’t, which Bobby doesn’t believe.
“The idea of ’compatibility’ is largely a false construct,” she says. “While some pairings are more difficult than others, all relationships have differences. It’s not more important whether you are naturally compatible, because there are always differences. What matters is your ability to understand, respect and appreciate your differences.”
To many, the MBTI test probably looks like a “crystal ball,” says Bobby, which, while illogical, is obviously appealing.
“The truth is, it takes a long time to get to know someone,” she says. “It’s also true that ‘compatibility’ and harmonious relationships are found more in developing your ability to be tolerant and appreciative of other people’s way of being, than in finding someone who is more like you.”
Instead of focusing on what you might have in common, it might be more beneficial to focus on how you can support each other.
“The strongest couples are those who are grateful for how each other’s differences add value to their life together,” she says.
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