Wednesday, July 14, 2010


According to the Myers-Briggs psychological testing profile, I am an INFP. What does this mean? Well, that's the topic of this post.

On the face of it, it means I answered a list of questions in such a way as to cause my score to fall to one side of the four axes, qualifying me as Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, and Perception. Expanding from this basis psychologists make all sorts of suppositions, which are easily accessed online, but a cluster definition of an INFP can be found out pretty quickly:

  • Their internal lives are supposedly especially "tempest-tossed" (Shakespeare is a commonly cited INFP).
  •  They are good at bridging divides between people and seeing others' perspectives
  • They have difficulty, however, working together, and if not forced to will often do projects alone
  • They belong to a group of profiles known as "Idealists" (INFP is usually called the "healer" variant)
  • They can be prone to put feeling before fact
  • Extremely romantic and idealistic
  • They can go through perfectly healthy periods of intense independence and intimacy
  • They tend to put off details in favor of creating new ideas and seeing things in the big picture
  • Once something does capture their imagination, however, they are perfectionists
  • They are usually especially adaptable and flexible to new situations until one of their core principles is violated, which does not go by without a reaction
  • They are about 1% of the population
  • They avoid conflict
Up until that last one, I think most apply to me. But anyone at any time should be wary of these sorts of tests, while simultaneously embracing them for their value in inducing self-reflection. It is important to think about what our defining characteristics are, if only because that simultaneously forces us to think about what our weaknesses are. Moreover, doing so can help us adjust to emphasize our strengths. Nonetheless, we should never commit the naturalistic fallacy of assuming that because this is the way things are, this is the way things should be. Should I work by myself on all projects, as is my tendency (assuming this profile is correct)? Absolutely not. This reminds me of Social Darwinism in that the same logical process would lead one to think that because a crippled child would die, he should die.

These tests are also useful because they show us how other people may see us. I had an experience this past semester where some friends had a personality test they applied to others involving assigning Greek gods and goddesses in accordance with one's personality. I think I was a third Hephaestus, a third Apollo, and a third Hermes. Hephaestus--the gregarious loner. Apollo--the favorite son. Hermes--the trickster. This was helpful because it reminded me that I exist not only in my own mind but as an image in others' minds. It sounds silly to say, but solipsism is the natural state of the human mind, and anytime we venture beyond it we are really trusting more than just our senses.

As for the INFP designation, I think it is fascinating. To say, "I am an INFP" is a valid statement. To say, "INFP is me" would be disturbing because it excludes the possibility of growth. Doing so is fatal; in all parts of life, I generally prefer a nonzero derivative. Life is dynamic, but don't ever confuse moving about for living. The one is momentary; the other unites the past and present in the moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment