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

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

by Merve Emre

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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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101974148
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 368,690
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

MERVE EMRE is an associate professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New YorkerHarper's Magazine, Bookforum, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Baffler, n+1, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she is senior humanities editor.

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Introduction: Speaking Type
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Personality Brokers"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Merve Emre.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction Speaking Type xi

Part 1

Chapter 1 The Cosmic Laboratory of Baby Training 1

Chapter 2 Women's Work 20

Chapter 3 Meet Yourself 34

Chapter 4 An Unbroken Series of Successful Gestures 53

Chapter 5 Desperate Amateurs 71

Part 2

Chapter 6 The Science of Man 89

Chapter 7 The Personality Is Political 105

Chapter 8 Sheep and Buck 120

Chapter 9 A Perfect Spy 140

Chapter 10 People's Capitalism 159

Chapter 11 The House-Party Approach to Testing 177

Chapter 12 That Horrible Woman 201

Part 3

Chapter 13 The Synchronicity of Life and Death 227

Chapter 14 One in a Million 245

Conclusion True Believers 262

Acknowledgments 271

A Note on Sources 273

Notes 275

Index 293

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