The year 2020 is said to be the year of the zodiac, as renewed interest in zodiac signs continues to increase. Historically, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the difference between personality typing and zodiac signs, with strong opinions on both sides.
Personally, I think there’s an argument for using both systems in tandem to help us better understand what makes us tick. Both systems have the same goal, and that’s to help us interact better with the people around us.
Let’s look a little closer at the Myers and Briggs personality system vs zodiac signs to understand whether both systems really can be used together, and some of the limitations to this idea.
What’s the difference between personality type and zodiac signs?
Personality type assessment and astrology differ enormously in both provenance and usage.
The 16-type personality type assessment was developed by a mother and daughter team - Katherine Briggs, born in 1875, and Isabel Briggs Myers, born in 1897. Katherine first began investigating psychological type as a tool for early childhood education. Her daughter continued the framework she had begun, devising an indicator for use in the workplace that would help to sort people into the jobs that were right for them. Crucially, Isabel Briggs Myers created a system in which all types would be considered equal.
Astrology has a far longer history as people throughout the centuries have tried to understand the meaning behind the stars. Some form of astrology appears in the belief systems of a range of ancient cultures, particularly the Sumerians and Babylonians who watched the planets and stars closely as a way to trace the gods in the skies. The Ancient Greek period saw the 12 star signs of the zodiac set down and defined. The signs were named after constellations and paired with dates that corresponded with their placement in the sky. Astrology is now separated from astronomy and no longer seen as a science, but its popularity hasn’t waned.
Personality typology uses a form of subjective assessment to determine what four letter type best describes an individual’s personality. In the Briggs and Myers’ system of personality typing, individuals fill in a questionnaire and their answers are used to analyse aspects of their personality, including how they behave in certain situations, their social preferences and tasks they might find easier or more difficult. These answers add up to a category of personality, drawn from the 16-type system.
In comparison, zodiac signs are determined by an individual’s moment of birth. Astrology analyses the projection of the position of planets, the sun and the moon to provide an evaluation of an individual’s basic characteristics, their behavior and their way of thinking. It is based on the concept that our environment – the position of the skies – has a physical effect on us. This makes it an interesting tool for considering personality type, but it cannot be scientifically tested in the way that personality type assessment has been.
Myers and Briggs personality testing is very popular as a management tool – it’s a springboard for talking about workplace issues in a way that doesn’t single out any one individual. It provides teams with a language to discuss conflict, taking a collaborative approach that isn’t combative.
Astrology, on the other hand, tends to be used more often in the context of emotions and relationships. It offers a way of opening up about desires, self-expression and insecurities.
My personal experience with personality type and zodiac signs
According to astrology, my basic zodiac sign is Libra.
I’ve known about these categories for years and for me they have a big impact on how I define my personality. It interests me that there are some obvious parallels between both readings of my personality, especially when taking ENTJ and Libra together. Confidence, flightiness, big-picture thinking, stubbornness and more all fit into both categories. There are also aspects of both systems that conflict and that I feel apply to me in some contexts but not in others.
The parallels between personality types and zodiac types have been theorized countless times. However, it’s not clear if there are any overarching patterns that can be found in both systems, for instance, not all ENJs are Libras and vice versa. Ultimately, they are based on entirely different criteria that limit the amount of read across that is possible.
Some might feel that their zodiac sign reads them completely whilst others can see no similarities at all. The same can be true for personality type assessment as personality exists on a spectrum - individuals might relate closely with some aspects of their given personality type but feel at odds with others.
Personality, however you read it, is always subjective.
Are there similarities between personality typing and zodiac signs?
Where personality testing and astrology converge is in their profiling of personalities. Some key similarities between the systems are:
- Both separate individuals into distinct groups
- Both use a system of dominant traits as a way to predict behavior
- Both describe both positive and negative traits
- Both support an introversion-extraversion divide
- Both provide a vocabulary for talking about fears, emotions and cooperation
- Both are open to interpretation
In personality typing, for example, the 16 types are grouped into Extraverted (E) and Introverted (I). Meanwhile, in astrology, individuals born with the sun in a positive sign (Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius) are seen as extraverted, while those born with the sun in a negative sign (Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces) are thought to be more introverted. There are clear parallels.
Personality type and zodiac signs collate personality traits into categories and use these criteria to make predictions on how individuals will behave in certain situations. They offer a way of looking at ourselves and the people around us, providing an insight into the unknowable parts of someone else’s personality and a space to discuss these characteristics.
Which system is better?
Whenever personality type and zodiac signs are put together, it’s often in the context of fierce debate around which system is better. I argue that there’s space for both to be used for the benefit of our social and working lives. Even if you don’t learn anything from the categories themselves, you can understand more about a person simply from the way they relate to their results in both systems. If, for example, a friend or co-worker has an ENFP personality type, but identifies more with being a Taurus, this could give you an indication of how they view their characteristics of practicality and perseverance.
I’ve found my personality type and my zodiac sign to be a useful way of looking at my personality, which provides me with ideas and explanations. I'm now more aware of how I react in certain situations, what makes me happiest and how I can manage stress, and how best to adapt my personality within a team. This in itself gives both systems value in my eyes, despite their different histories, beliefs and applications.