ISTJ. ENFP. INFJ. Perhaps you have heard this combination of letters in reference to personality characteristics, but what do they mean? And can they change over time?

What is a Myers Briggs Test?

When you take a personality test on sites such as , you are taking a modified form of the original Myers Briggs Personality Test, first developed in the 1940s by mother-daughter duo Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. The test divides personalities into 16 distinct types based on the theory by famous psychologist Carl Jung.

The 4 letters in your result indicate a characteristic of the 4 main categories:
1. Introversion vs Extroversion
2. Sensing vs Intuition
3. Feeling vs Thinking
4. Judging vs Perceiving

What Do the Letters Mean?

Whether your result lists an ‘I’ or an ‘E’ indicates your level of introversion or extroversion, respectively. Introverts are generally more introspective, may prefer to spend time alone, and are drained by excess social engagements. They do not prefer to be the “life of the party.” Extroverts on the other hand, are just that. They often are just fine being the center of attention, enjoy social interactions, and are energized by being around people. Introverts many prefer to have a smaller group of close friends and are comfortable being alone, while extroverts surround themselves with a large social circle and do not like performing activities solo. The rules for this are not hard-and-fast and do not mean that all introverts are shy, and all extroverts are loud and bubbly. In general, many of these statements ring true for those who belong to each group.

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The ‘S’ or ‘N’ refer to sensing and intuition. People who rely on sensing to gather information prefer to have all the facts, are extremely practical and rely on past experiences. Those who follow their intuition can see the bigger picture, consider future possibilities, and conduct more abstract thinking.

‘F’ refers to feeling, while ‘T’ refers to thinking. Feelers weigh decisions based on how those decisions will impact people’s feelings, while thinkers tend to be more objective and make decisions based on what is the most logical or based on established principles. This does not mean that feelers are less intelligent, or thinkers are incapable of feeling, it is simply the method for basing their decisions.

The last set of letters, ‘J’ or ‘P,’ are judging or perceiving, respectively. These refer to how you appear to the outside world, in relation to information processing and decision making. In comparison to thinking or feeling, which are introspective reflections of how you feel about yourself, these traits are how others “judge or perceive” you so to say. Are you viewed as being organized, making decisions in an orderly fashion, and liking to have things settled: judging type. Do people view you as being flexible and spontaneous, willing to adapt, and preferring to take in information to eventually make a decision: perceiving type?

Can My Personality Change Over Time?

The general consensus among psychologists is that your personality is stable over time. It is something that is innate to who you are as a person. Although your personal experiences can influence your beliefs, values, and how you interact with the world, things such as how your brain processes information or makes decisions, are not likely to change with time.

When discussing these tests, we have to take into consideration two important variables when measuring the success of a test, its reliability and validity. You may be thinking “greaaaatttt, I learned those terms at one time, but I have no idea what they mean now!” When you take a personality test, it is considered reliable, or consistent, if you take it several times and get the same result every time. A test is valid if it measures what it says it is going to measure. For example, you get the extrovert result on the Myers Briggs and you truly are more social and prefer not to be alone, this validates the test.

Why Have My Results Changed When I Take It?

I’m a ISTJ, no wait an INFP, hold up… finally settled on INFJ. Why do our results change when we take these quizzes? The Myers Briggs has been proven to be both reliable and valid, so shouldn’t our personality results remain the same? Although your personality is most likely remaining stable, the way that you perceive yourself in different situations and as you age changes. These experiences affect your responses to the questions asked of you on these quizzes, which then provide a different “personality” type.

notebook, myers briggs, personality, change, quizAnother thing to keep in mind is that at certain stages in our life we are more in denial, or view ourselves with more grandeur,  than at others. For example, if the quiz asks you to rate the statement “You feel superior to other people”, your reaction to this may differ depending on your level of confidence and view of how you should answer it. We view certain traits as negative and answer in a more idealized, versus truthful, manner. Or perhaps, you are in a more depressed state when you take the quiz, so when asked the questions regarding interacting with others you do not answer the questions in relation to your whole life, but instead how you feel at the moment. This may give you a higher level of introversion than you truly have.

Tips for taking these quizzes

In order to get the most accurate and reliable results over time, follow these tips when taking a personality quiz!

  • Make sure that your answers reflect who you have been throughout the entirety of your life, not just at the current moment. If you are in college, socializing a lot more and feel more extroverted than you have in the past, but feel drained and need your  “alone” time after these experiences, you are an still an introvert.
  • Use the full Likert scale. That is what the scale is called with the (usually five) choices ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. When you stick to mostly neutral answers, it is hard to get a true picture of your personality.
  • Perform the ranking of the statements as truthfully as you can, regardless of whether you like the answer or not. Also, give the questions some leeway. If the question says “Reading a book is better than attending a party”, and you do not like reading realize what the question is getting at. It could similarly be “Staying home and watching T.V. is better than walking around a crowded amusement park.” Either way the question is testing your level of introversion vs extroversion.

Your personality type can provide a window to the best potential careers for you, give you insight into how you react in relationships, and help you acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses so that you can live as the most effective and happy version of yourself.

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