Something I've noticed: there are more articles for INTJs out there than for any other type. And apparently, they’re all written by INTJ authors.
This means one of two things.
Either, that a handful of super-productive bloggers are churning out an ungodly amount of articles about their type. Or, there are way too many INTJs – far more than the statistics reckon there are, which is around 2 percent of the population.
Now, these hypotheses are vague and irritating answers, and logically inconsistent. If I told you that 20 percent of the population were INTJ and every piece of research ever conducted was completely wrong on this issue, could you stomach it? Clearly, there’s something else going on here. So let’s take a look at why someone – even the most unlikely candidate – might think he’s INTJ.
1. Birds of a feather flock together
It’s no secret that INTJs are programmed to be analytical and naval-gazey, so there’s a fair chance that INTJs who’ve heard of personality typing disproportionately take a personality test.
How disproportionate? Well, there’s a guy on Quora who reckons that 28 percent of all personality test-takers are INTJ. That’s a massive number! I don’t know where these figures come from but even if they’re wildly inaccurate, it gives you some sense of the magnitude of the discrepancy.
If I might go a step further, and this is totally anecdotal evidence, the more relieved someone is to discover that he’s not “weird” and just INTJ, the more likely he is to shout about it from the online rooftops. The internet is a safe space for the socially awkward and INTJs surely find a community there. Online, if not in life, we come out of hiding.
So, it’s not that people are testing wrong, and it’s not that there are more INTJs than the data suggests there are. It just looks that way because they’re all hanging out in one place.
2. Wishful thinking a.k.a confirmation bias
Since the 16-type system (based on Myers and Briggs' theory) is a self-reported test, it’s only accurate if people answer the questions truthfully. Unfortunately, a lot of people game the system to claim the “rare” or “cool” type they most want to be.
For some reason – and I assume it’s because they want to feel special, intelligent, rare or gifted and have somehow forgotten the robotic, nerdy, heartless and socially awkward part – INTJ is a type that people want to be. In an era where weirdness is cool, INTJ looks fifty shades of enigmatic compared to the other types and let’s face it, being rare is a bonanza for the ego. So, they keep taking the test until they get the preferred result.
Most of the aspiration here focuses on Intuition over Sensing. Not so long ago, it was desirable to be Extraverted over Introverted since Introverts were perceived as shy, underperforming and standoffish. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way. Sensing hasn’t received the same renaissance. In many ways, it’s still seen as the little brother to Intuition which, being both rare (30 percent of the population) and “extrasensory,” is imbued with all sorts of mystical powers.
Who doesn’t want to be rare and ethereal and have flashes of superhuman illumination? If I were a linear, logical, specific, boring ISTJ, would I keep taking the test until I tipped over into Intuition? Would I?
3. They are unintentionally testing wrong
When you take a personality test in a professional setting, you are warned to answer truthfully as you really are. Not as you wish to be, and not as the persona you take on at work to get the job done. Ignore this advice, and it’s pretty obvious that your results won’t bear any resemblance to your true personality.
This is good advice …. but it assumes that people are capable of greater personal insight than they actually are. “It is as hard to see one's self as to look backwards without turning around,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, and the difficulty is multiplied tenfold when you’re parsing multiple personas – boss, wife, mother, volunteer, counselor and family maid. We’re vastly complex beings. Knowing yourself is much harder than it sounds.
Who is more likely to get it wrong and test INTJ when they’re not? Well, ISTJ is the obvious choice. INTJs and ISTJs have a lot in common. They both:
- Are Introverted
- Have auxiliary Extraverted Thinking, so will make decisions using logic and objective analysis
- Have tertiary Introverted Feeling, so are private about their feelings and won’t be led (misled?) by their emotions. Both types have a strong moral compass that guides their decision-making.
The only difference is how they think about the world: Introverted Intuition for INTJs (focusing on big picture ideas using symbols, hunches, patterns, clues and other impressions) and Introverted Sensing for ISTJs (focusing on practical, matter-of-fact details and concrete realities – what is, rather than what could be).
Is that one difference enough to tip the personality scales in the right direction? With a perfect test, it should be. But consider ….
4. Many tests are biased to throw out Intuitives
Is it possible that the test is biased to throw out INTJs left and right when clearly the test-takers are something else? I think so. On a personality assessment, questions that are designed to spot an Intuitive preference as easy to find.
One of my favorite test questions is this one: “Your mind is always buzzing with unexplored ideas and possibilities.” Obvious, right? Any question that features words like “possibilities,” “ideas,” “imagination” and “future” is leaning in the direction of Intuition.
In the interests of research, I ran this question by my friend. She answered with a “strongly agree.” So, I asked her to elaborate. “My mind is always buzzing with ideas for creating new home furnishings, what we can do on vacation, activities I can do with my scout group,” she said. “And you know I’d love to turn my home furnishings ideas into a business someday.”
Is my friend an Intuitive? Nope. She’s a walking-talking stereotype of an ESFJ. She clearly churns out ideas by the bucket load, but look at her ideas. They’re all so enviously real. And as much as she enjoys the possibility of her future business idea, she barely has the time between her day job, her family commitments, her volunteering, community groups, yoga classes and all the other stuff she packs her days with to do anything about it. The test doesn’t do justice to the breadth and depth of the roles she plays.
Me? I answered this question positively too, but less emphatically than my friend. I only “agree” that my “mind is always buzzing with unexplored ideas and plans” because – INTJs will recognize this – if it’s a great idea, I won’t leave it unexplored! I’ll do something about it, even if it’s just sitting in a dark room for several hours mulling over the variables and deciding whether to accept or reject the hypothesis.
As for the “buzzing” part, who’s to say that my friend’s definition of buzzing is the same of mine? My head is so buzzy, I carry it as background noise. Maybe my friend spots her ideas more than I do, because they come less frequently. Maybe her ideas are more realistic and implementable than mine so she pays more attention to them – I’m not her, and I can’t even begin to understand the rich and broad nature of the way we receive information.
But you can see how certain questions trigger an Intuition preference, giving an INTJ type description result to people who really should be typing as something else.
Do you know for certain you’re an INTJ?
How do you know for certain that you’re an INTJ? Unless you peg out to the extreme of all four dichotomies, I’m not sure you can. Even when you’re a clear-cut case, there’s a risk that you’ve been less than truthful with yourself, like someone who lacks social skills claiming the INTJ label as a crutch.
All of this is one hundred percent completely normal.
And it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter that someone’s typed INTJ when the label doesn’t fit him perfectly. Maybe it fits him 70 percent, and that’s good enough. Maybe he’s a stressed out ESFP who’s got it horrendously wrong, but following the guidance for INTJs will help bring him back to normality. Maybe he’s looking for relationship advice and the tips for INTJs have been the most helpful.
Point is, personality type was never meant to explain everything. Does it matter if someone thinks he’s INTJ when he’s not, as long as he’s getting something from the label?