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.
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.