7 Reasons Why You Might Be Wrong About Your Personality Type

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 06, 2020

When I took my first 16-type test, I was in shock. “This is freakishly accurate!” I thought. “How can anyone know me this well?” Fitting into a particular Myers and Briggs personality type can fill you with a sense of reassurance and belonging. It tells you that you’re not alone, and there are other people who think and see the world in a similar way to you.

Sometimes though, you have to take several personality tests before you get any answers. Perhaps the result you’re getting doesn’t strike a chord with you, or you’re getting different results each time. Or perhaps you are really sure of your type when you possibly shouldn’t be. 

What does this mean? 

Here are some of the reasons why mistyping happens, and what it tells us about ourselves.

1. You're not being truthful on the test

As with any self-reported test, your results will only be accurate if you answer the questions truthfully. However, you might feel tempted to trick the system. That usually happens when someone does not like the stereotype associated with a particular question or answer.

Checking the box for “I like to draw attention to myself”, for example, might read as someone calling you self-absorbed or selfish. On the other hand, saying you “sympathize with the homeless” brings to mind the idea of an altruistic and empathetic person. Who wouldn’t like to see themselves in such a positive light?

Nobody wants to be seen as an argumentative cynic with an anti-social streak, especially if you’re taking the test through an employer. But if you’re scoring high on the “lie” scale, you won’t get an accurate result. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, just what best fits you.

2. You're being swayed by how you behave at work, instead of how you would behave in a neutral environment 

The answers to your personality test should reflect who you truly are, not who you aspire to be or how you might behave in one specific situation. For instance, you might fill out a personality assessment thinking only of the persona you embody at work, instead of how you would behave in social, family or relationship situations. 

Adopting a single-lens view can be completely unintentional. After all, work takes up so much of our time and energy that we often find it hard to detach ourselves from the person we present in a professional setting. Maybe you work in a high-pressure environment that encourages you to multitask, making you show this trait at work -- though is not how you’d behave elsewhere.

3. You are taking your results at face value

When you allow yourself to explore similar types and their strengths and weaknesses, you might find there’s a particular type with more accurate descriptions of your motivations and behaviors than the one that shows up on your test results.

For example, I’ve always typed as an INFJ. However, in my TypeFinder report, INTJ also appears as a very good match for my answers. I suspect that happened because, as an Introverted Intuitive, I often demonstrate the emotional distance typically linked to INTJs. I’m also aware that, despite my introversion, others usually perceive me as an Extravert because of how bubbly I am around people I love. 

The test results are a starting point for exploration, not an absolute answer. The more you read around your type, the more you’ll learn about yourself.

4. You just don't know yourself well enough to answer the questions

A common problem with self-reported tests is that, in order to give honest answers, you need to be capable of great personal insight and know yourself really well. This can be tricky, especially with younger people who are still trying to figure out who they are. As a teen, I was clueless about how I behaved and perceived the world!

This means the results of a personality test you take in high school can shift drastically from another one you take as an adult. The only way you can get a more accurate result is to keep working on your inner self, so you can understand your cognitive functions better.

5. At the other end of the spectrum, you know yourself far too well

If you’re a well-rounded individual who has been working on personal development for years, it’s likely that those weaker traits will now show up as strengths in your test. Obviously, this may lead to mistyping -- although it is important to acknowledge that we can only grow to our full potential when we embrace every aspect of our personality the good, and the not-so-good. 

Besides, psychologists have found that personality shifts do happen over time, as we acquire new experiences and get older. You can become more introverted as you reach middle age, for example, or show a preference for a more structured, organized life. 

6. The test itself focuses too much on behavior

Though personality and behavior are not the same thing, you’ll find many tests with questions that focus a lot on behavior such as “When looking for a movie to watch, do you spend a long time browsing the catalog?” or “Do you reply quickly to your emails?” 

Questions like these often lead to mistyping, as a specific behavior can change depending on your environment (work, home, etc.), who you are with, and how you’re feeling at that particular moment.

It’s also important to note your personality type shouldn’t be used as an excuse for your behavior -- you have to find ways to separate the two. Maybe you’re using your introversion as an excuse for avoiding communication, for example, or relying on the fact that you lead with your Thinking function to disregard other people’s feelings. Remember typology describes your innate preferences. How you choose to act on those preferences is a completely different story.  

7. You’re seeking some kind of validation

Can we be honest for a moment? We all seek validation, in the sense wanting affirmation that our feelings or opinions are worthwhile. But if you’ve been exploring typology for a while, you’ll have noticed how some types are seriously overhyped. 

Take the INFJ, for example. A quick Google search for this type will lead to millions of results emphasizing how rare and unique INFJs are, making us look more like super-heroes than actual human beings.

The problem with these idealized narratives is they often influence people to cheat on their personality tests, so they can fit into the “cool” type of the moment. Obviously, everyone likes to feel special, but remember each personality type is unique, and ultimately those four letters are not the end all be all of who you are as a person.

In conclusion

When used correctly, typology can be a potential tool for self-discovery and personal development. By reading about the 16 personality types and working on your own personal biases, you’re more likely to answer the questions truthfully and therefore get a more accurate result. Remember that, at the end of the day, no type is better or worse than the other, and you’re much more than a result in a personality test. 

Andreia Esteves

Andreia is an INFJ who used to think she was the only person in the world terrified of answering the phone. She works as a freelance writer covering all things mental health, and psychology related. When not writing, you’ll find her cozying up with a book, or baking vegan treats. Find her at: https://andreiaesteves.com/

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Jay Crawley (not verified) says...

This is interesting, because I have work people who totally think I'm ENTJ, and those who have never worked with me are surprised and guess ENFJ (among those who have a knowledge of MBTI).  I have also tested as at the completely different ESTP on two tests!  I feel ENFJ is the most consistent, but I can turn off emotion professionally and totally make decisions without feeling and using only facts.

Lori Sly (not verified) says...

I found this information helpful.

I have been tested as an INTJ many times but as an older adult retest occasionally as INFJ. I think it's partially from some slow changes in personality on my part (for instance, intentionally learning to communicate more compassionately).

But it also helps to know that tests which emphasize behavior over preference might mistype me because I'm thinking about specific instances where I choose to leave my preferences behind. 

And honestly, a tiny bit of wishful thinking might be eking in there, because I like thinking of myself as unique.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thanks Lori, glad you found this post useful :)

I'm FiNe (not verified) says...

The insights that you share are due consideration.  There are other ideas that I have that I think also play into swaying results in a less accurate direction.

The MBTI is, as mentioned above, an instrument presented in words in the English language put together by people who have a distinct definition of the words and phrases coming from an American context.  The people taking the test may not come from that context, may not have English as their native language, and may have different ideas associated with the words and phrases contrary to what was intended by the people who wrote the instrument.  The instument isn't a contraption strapped to one's head from which concrete data can be captured and interpreted with objective clarity.

The MBTI seeks to provide classification of cognitive personality traits.  The questions, however, may spur thoughts of motivational personality, more the playing field of the Enneagram.  People may answer more from a motivational rather than cognitive part of their personalities.  This can lead to answers suggesting more of a T response than an F response or J response rather than a P response for example.  This can also lead into providing answers of what one believes one should be rather than what one is.  Although true that there are no right or wrong responses (excpting one consider lying to be a wrong answer) one can feel at one's core that answers deviating from what one believes oneself should be is a wrong answer.  Thus one migh answer based upon what one thinks one should be.

Thank you for the article.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thank you for your insightful comment :)

Mr Cheese (Asian ENTP) (not verified) says...

Sorry for the late comment, but I am an Asian living in Asia and the culture here encourages people to blend into the public, live a conservative life and obey authority without question. As a result, many people here test as xSxJ even though some can be intuitives, perceivers or both suppressing our true selves (like me). My feedback is for the test to ask where the taker lives, so that the tests take into account the taker's culture.

Andreia Esteves says...

Thank you so much for your feedback, that's a very valid point!

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