The Forer Effect and MBTI

Viv pointed me to this lucid post at the Skeptics Dictionary: The Forer Effect.

The Forer effect refers to the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements could apply to many people.

It accounts for why people put so much faith in horoscopes because for various reasons we read them and find ways to see how they fit us. They give us a sense of belonging and understood that I guess we rather thirst for as human beings.

Viv suggested fans of management typologies such as Myers Briggs (MBTI) should take note and I pretty much agree. For one thing there are strong arguments that Myers Briggs doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, as this chunk of the wikipedia entry suggests.

I understand the comfort we get when we feel our feelings our validated as these things appear to do… but I also see people using them as wooden legs. Ah, the reason I am not go at so-and-so is I’m a XDRZ or a BQSD or whatever. Beliefs, or even just behaviours, get raised to the level of identities (“it’s who I am”) and the possibilities to make fresh choices or try new things are closed off.

3 thoughts on “The Forer Effect and MBTI

  1. Adrian Segar

    I’m not a fan of MBTI as a management tool (not that I’ve had much opportunity to apply it that way), but I do think it can usefully provide personal insight. It did in my case, at any rate.

    When I first took the MBTI (10 years ago this month at Jerry Weinberg’s transformative Problem Solving Leadership workshop) it gave me an important insight on my strange career path over the previous thirty years: from elementary particle physicist -> solar manufacturing business -> computer science professor -> IT consultant -> participant-driven and participation-rich event design and facilitation.

    MBTI is about _preferences_, not ability; using it to justify why you’re not good at something is a fundamental misinterpretation as to what it’s about. When I discovered that I was a strong NF (intuitive/feeling preference) despite my ability at T (thinking), my journey from careers based around thinking towards a life working with people intuitively via flattish non-hierarchical networks suddenly made sense.

    There is a classic MBTI exercise that divides a group into the four temperaments (SJ, SP, NF, and NT) and asks each group to decide on and then share what their ideal organization would look like. Try it some time if you get the chance; each group finds it easy to agree internally, and each group’s answer is so amusingly and utterly different from the others that it’s hard to maintain that the MBTI doesn’t provide at least some interesting insight into personal preferences.

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  2. Ben

    No, Adrian. Thinking creatively about yourself gave you insights about your career path.

    MBTI is about preferences of STEREOTYPES. We are all capable of achieving awareness of our preferences, and figuring those out is awesome. STEREOTYPES, on the other hand, are UNHEALTHY to identify with.

    The exercise you’re referring to is of Keirsey. The people scamming companies into setting up little exercises cannot tell the difference between MBTI and Keirsey.

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  3. Pingback: How the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory changed my life | Conferences That Work

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