Editorial Contribution by Sally Writes
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality classification system developed in the 1940s. Over 70 years later, it remains the most widely used personality test. Sixteen personalities are represented in the system, all of which are combinations of eight core characteristics: extroversion, introversion, sensing, thinking, judgement, intuition, feeling and perception. The accompanying test decides a person’s mixture. Most people who take the test find the results rewarding and life-affirming.
However, Myers-Briggs personality results have different implications for African American men. They can help affirm the stereotypes that black men have long been trying to shake. Yet by knowing which personality types are prevalent in their demographic, black men can take control of their own classification. Unique personalities should therefore be celebrated rather than alienated, and stereotypes can be challenged.
Common Personality Types
Few surveys have been done on Myers-Briggs personality types among African American males. Perhaps the most relevant survey was conducted in the late 80s and early 90s by psychologists Allen L. Hammer and Wayne D. Mitchell. They took personality types from 1,267 American adults aged 18 to 94 and organized the data by gender and ethnicity. By far the most common personality type found among both men and African Americans is ISTJ (19.4 percent of men and 22 percent of African Americans). ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) denotes a person who is logical, organized, and likes to spend time alone. ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) was found to be the second most common personality type among African Americans and men. This type is the extroverted version of ISTJ. In third place among African Americans but seventh among men is ESTP, whose adherents are best described as thrill seekers.
Rarest Personality Types
The survey determined that just 0.6 percent of African Americans and 2.0 percent of men identified with the INFJ personality type, often referred to as ‘the confidant.’ Its characteristics include quiet, self-sufficient, empathetic and driven. 0 percent of African Americans and 4.5 percent of men belonged to the INFP personality, whose traits include idealism and compromise, while 0 percent of African Americans and 1.5 percent of men identified with ENFJ, whose traits include peacekeeping and leadership. Keep in mind that there were over three times more men surveyed than African Americans.
Embrace The Rare Types
One can think of Myers-Briggs personalities as self-imposed stereotypes since they are simplifications of a person’s complex identity. “Complex” is the key word because although a person may share some characteristics with a certain personality type, these only make up the tip of the iceberg. Yet it’s usually a person’s proudest/most popular characteristics that determine where they sit on the Myers-Briggs spectrum. To shatter stereotypes, black men who have been pigeonholed into one personality should embrace the characteristics that put him in another. This isn’t cheating the test; it’s releasing the parts of one’s personality that have been forced into hiding.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the best personality tests available to the public. It is mostly taken by people who want validation for what they already know. For African American men, this can be a double-edged sword. To avoid becoming a Myers-Briggs-approved stereotype, African American men should embrace the unique parts of their personality. Doing so can transcend the Myers-Briggs test and impact society as a whole.