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The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,021 ratings  ·  218 reviews
An unprecedented history of the personality test conceived a century ago by a mother and her daughter–fiction writers with no formal training in psychology–and how it insinuated itself into our boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It is used regularly by Fortune 500 companies, universities, hos
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Doubleday
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Yaaresse Yes. Not a lot of time is spent on discussing the fiction, but the author does point out in several places that both Myers and Briggs had deep…moreYes. Not a lot of time is spent on discussing the fiction, but the author does point out in several places that both Myers and Briggs had deep prejudices. Most of that commentary is centered on their work on the MBTI (and Katharine's political and social views) than on Isabel's fiction, though. (less)
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3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,021 ratings  ·  218 reviews

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Gumble's Yard
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
In reading for pleasure do you (a) Enjoy odd and original ways of saying things or (b) Like writers to say exactly what they mean”

To which I will add my own three questions.

Feel free to give me your answers in the comments and I can provide you my own unofficial but carefully researched Goodreads Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

When you have finished a book do you (c) look for ways to engage with others who have read the book or (d) look forward to losing yourself in the next book

When writing a
Peter Mcloughlin
The Myer-Briggs test the pop-psych fad that won't die. This is a biography of the mother and daughter team and their unlikely test that you might find on a buzzfeed quiz these days. It has marched through business culture, the CIA, pop-culture, west coast Jungian gurus, to the interwebs. This story takes many unlikely threads from the twentieth century almost as if to employ the Jungian idea of synchronicity. It is a weird test that is totally unscientific but wildly popular. Myers-Briggs if not ...more
Robin Bonne
3.5 Stars. The beginning really tried to sell me on the mystery of the author’s journey to uncover the history of MBTI. After such promise, it slowed down for awhile, which is why I can’t rate it higher. Then it took a turn toward the bizarre when Katherine had a strange relationship with Mary “Tucky” Tuckerman.
Overall, it was fascinating and there were moments of, “What did I just read?”

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
Mitch Hedwig
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Personality Brokers combines a conceptually sophisticated intellectual history with a thrilling narrative. It takes a special kind of talent to make ideas this interesting. The "personalities" covered come to riotous life--Hitler, Jung, Truman Capote, to say nothing of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers themselves. Emre is always witty and always sharp, but never condescending to her subjects, no matter how eccentric they can be. An amazing book.
This is mostly a biography of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers, the mother and daughter who came up with the pervasive Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test based on Carl Jung’s theories. It’s also a history of the evolution of the indicator and of personality tests in general. The writing is more academic than conversational, making it hard to read a whole lot at once.

Emre does her best to remain disinterested in the subject matter, neither condemning nor endorsing it. I’d have liked
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

A book that goes into the history and the provenance of the Myers-Briggs test. Mostly, it's a history of fraud and cult like behavior from the very beginning. Created by a Progressive era crackpot, it became a cause celebre of big business, but there does not appear to be any actual scientific evidence behind it.

Sounds about right.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This book was a disappointment. I looked forward to it: I went through a phase of interest in the Myers-Briggs as a teenager, and so was eager to learn more about it. Unfortunately, after a fascinating introduction in which the author delves into the almost cult-like atmosphere of Myers-Briggs training (in an attempt to get access to Isabel Myers’s archives, the author was required to pay $2000 for a week of “re-education,” which was pretty much as it sounds), this turns into a dull biography of ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was totally engrossed in the story of the mother and daughter team behind Myers-Briggs. This test is nearly one hundred years old, and it's fascinating to see how it continues to impact huge institutions from the CIA to Fortune 500 companies. Highly recommend.
Amanda O.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My friend lent me her advance copy and I finished it in a week!

The Personality Brokers is the fascinating history behind the Myers-Briggs test and the mother-daughter duo who created it. The book was incredibly well-written and well-researched and raised interesting questions about personality psychology, which interest me greatly. I also loved how it delves into the history of the test - how it weaves together the psychological frameworks of Jung and the made-up parts by Isabel Myers and Kathar
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was very well-written and very good and easy to follow, but it was not what it could have been (should have been?). It was a story of the mother-daughter pair that began Myers Briggs and sort of how the test got adopted. It reads very well and the stories are interesting. It is not a commentary on why or how these tests became mainstream. Moreover, it's critical of the tests in a pretty shallow way. I am not a fan of these kinds of tests so I was willing to go along with any critique, b ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Weirdest true story ever! If you have any experience with the Myers-Briggs test (who doesn't?) or are just interested in the idea of personality testing, definitely check out this book. This bizarre and compulsively readable history will make you think a little more deeply about all the professional development activities or Tinder profiles you come across that reference MBTI results. Super fun and informational read!
My background is in psychology and I've always found personality testing fascinating, if dubious. Emre's exploration of the history of Myers-Briggs and the mother-daughter team behind it makes me think even more about how dubious they are -- and how dangerous they can be when used as tools to sort, assess, and direct people in personal and professional lives. I never realized it was so heavily influenced by Jung, and I never realized the fact that types are meant to be unchanging; it's this, the ...more
Michael Huang
Story about the genesis of the oft-used Myers-Briggs (personality) Type Indicator (MBTI). The creators are a mother (Briggs) and daughter (Myers) team. The inspiration comes from reading Carl Jung’s work. Jung believes people's souls are made up of opposing spirits (e.g., introvert vs extrovert). (This in turn might be inspired from Greek mythology of brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus who embody the opposites of foresight and hindsight.) Briggs is so obsessed with Jung, that she calls him rever ...more
This was an enjoyable read for me. The author provides an interesting insight into the early beginnings of the Myers-Briggs test and the worldwide effect it has had ever since. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the parts written about Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers more so than the test itself. These ladies were trailblazers at a time when the identity of women were primarily focused on their domestic life. I listened to the audiobook which I felt was narrated perfectly. The book ...more
Abdurrahman AlQahtani
This is largely an interesting read, but not completely pure from shortcomings. I really needed it and I believe it is a must read for anyone who has done an MBTI, or promotes it one way or another.

What I Most Liked:
Let me start with I liked most about the book. Merve Emre is a master when it comes to critique and story telling. She depicted the history of MBTI and personality typing amazingly, and clearly has done her homework in going through the archives and extracting and stitching the stori
The Personality Brokers is a book about the history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, more commonly referred to as the MBTI. It is book about the two women who created it, how they came about their beliefs, and the impact the MBTI had upon the world. It is a history of personality testing in general, and the optimism that it would change the world. It is about the danger of personality testing and consigning people to boxes, believing personalities can never change, and how self has been turn ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you hang around business education and consulting/guru domains long enough, it is difficult to avoid contact with the Myers-Briggs Inventory. This is a standardized paper and pencil instrument designed to identify the characteristics of the subject completing the instrument along a series of personality dimensions, presented in terms of a series of dichotomies and operationalized through a series of forced choice questions based on the personality dimensions. The result is the placement of th ...more
Ian Tymms
This is not an easy book to quantify. Emre begins with a critique of the Myers-Briggs test but, having explained that the test in not valid in the scientific sense, she goes on to write a book which is far more interesting than a simple critique. Her project is to explore where the Myers-Briggs test comes from - a fascinating slice of 20th century history on its own - and how and why it has become so deeply embedded in modern society.

It was in Emre's discussion of Michel Foucault's concept of t
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was riveting and impossible to put down. A friend loaned me a copy and I finished it in three days even though I'm a slow and distractible reader.

It's a fascinating history of the mother and daughter who developed the MBTI (much earlier than I would have imagined), and a broader examination of other personality tests, theories and research. It grapples with the question of why we as Americans, or maybe as humans, are so drawn to these types of categorical tools to sort ourselves and de
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm an INTP on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI). The Logician. So is Gandalf and Yoda and Dumbledore. "INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities" (Wikipedia). I'm also the astrological sign of Cancer. A water sign. So is Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel and Arianna Grande. "Deeply intuitive and sentimental, Cancer can be one of the most challenging zodiac signs to get to know" (Astrology Zodiac I ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The back flap says the author is an Oxford professor of English, so she doesn't get the extra star I would give to someone who might not know better. The book constantly labels sexism and other bigotries without ever developing any explanations. Same goes for criticisms of the test. They are mentioned but never developed. The book consists of a compilation biography of the test's creators and a bit of history about how the test has been used since their deaths. I expect some more insight and in- ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018-nf
Interesting overall, but like so many historical non-fiction works, I found that the author tended to wander off in the weeds trying to make sure all the research, however irrelevant to the original topic, was included in the book.

However, I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal about a subject I had very little previous knowledge in.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a lot. Interesting, fascinating, and jaw-dropping in some of its findings. Who knew that the production of MBTI is clouded by racism, sexism, and most importantly, the absence of creative self-actualization for women? MBTI testing grows from a "cosmic laboratory" to make a perfect baby to $2B business that sorts people into capitalist needs for division of labors. I cannot put the book down because it's so thrilling. I also get frustrated by just how narcissistic, neurotic, and impo ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rachel Davies
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of my favourite reads o the year
Stephanie Sanders-Jacob
I'm an INFJ. My husband is an INFJ. My best friend, who introduced me to my husband, is an INFJ. I have stopped a coworker in mid-conversation to accuse them of being an INFJ; I was right. I knew I'd be right because I liked them and trusted them innately. I felt that weird familiar spark - the blink of recognition that, through lenses made thick by too much introspection and intuition, morphs into something bigger, something more akin to predestination. The feeling of seeing yourself not only r ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a slog. After an introduction where the author describes attending an MBTI training, it begins sounding like the biography of the mother and daughter responsible for the MBTI with a lot of speculation about their lives and conversations. Okay, I’m all for presumptions about how they felt and spoke about things that can’t be verified, if that’s what you’re going for. Then, the book turns into a historical record of personality testing. Fine. Then, it turns back to fiction where she descr ...more
Dahnoor Noviansyah
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Last year I took this test and the result was INTP. After I read this book then I took the test again and surprisingly the result was INFP. Deep down I know that I’m a logical person but you know, people change.
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, probably a 3.5 if that was an option. One of the best non-fiction books of the year? Probably not, but a really interesting topic filled with fascinating women! It is always surprising (even though it probably shouldn’t be) how history continues to erase the contributions and accomplishments of women.
Anna (lion_reads)
Who hasn't taken a personality quiz?

Chances are, you probably have even taken the Myers-Briggs test. I certainly have and have had the experience most have: "Oh, yes, this is totally me." Except that the way the ladies behind the names Myers and Briggs meant it, I should say, "Oh yes, this is totally me forever and this will tell me my lot in life and everyone should take the test because everyone needs to be in their own box or else...DISASTER."

I had no idea that the history of the Myers-Briggs
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Merve Emre is an associate professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Bookforum, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Baffler, n+1, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she is senior humanities editor ...more