Personality quizzes: to be or not to be INFP?

Bethany considers the pros and cons of these quizzes

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Image courtesy of jesse orrico via Unsplash

After years of procrastinating, I’ve compiled quite the list of procrastination activities, from watching conspiracy-theory videos on YouTube, to following Wikipedia rabbit holes about the local politics from decades ago. These activities all have a special place in my time-wasting heart, but none more so than the pinnacle of procrastination: the personality quiz.

It’s such a wonderfully wide-ranging category, with topics including “Which Hogwarts Professor Are You?” (Professor Sprout), “Which Internal Organ Are You?” (the kidney), and then actually scientific personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. And they’re all equally good fun.

Aside from its listicles, Buzzfeed is probably best known for its quizzes, most of which are related to food and pop culture (though they have some downright bizarre ones, like the internal organ example) and their monopoly on being the place for quizzes is probably the one occasion I’d say that a monopoly is deserved.

Buzzfeed quizzes obviously don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Or maybe they do? The knowledge that I was apparently a cat in a past life and would have been executed for treason in the medieval period may come in handy at the gates of the afterlife – who honestly knows? But their silliness and relative meaninglessness is exactly the kind of break from studying we sometimes need. Such quizzes scratch the itch of curiosity we have for lifetimes and situations in which we will most likely never participate.

Of course, other than the slightly ridiculous imaginative type, there are the more serious and psychological personality quizzes. These are great procrastination tools because they have relatively more significance. If the careers service suggests taking personality tests to find out my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace, then who am I to refuse? It’s easy to justify doing them instead of actual work because it’s still technically productive and will possibly be useful in the future.

However, some current research considers even the iconic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test to be not-so-useful after all, as it focuses on placing people in distinct categories, when in fact, plotting people on bell curves in relation to characteristics is far more useful in the understanding of personality. This could then explain why it is impossible for me to ever just choose one thing on any “tag yourself” meme I come across. Although declaring that “I’m an INFP” does say more about me than “I’m a Taurus”, it doesn’t honestly say much more because everyone is too complex to fit inside neat little boxes.

Another issue with personality quizzes is the question of what you do once you’ve done all the main tests. There’s the temptation to take them again, to see if there’s been a major shift in your personality somewhere, but along with this intrigue comes great fear that the particular category that you’ve been defining yourself by is no longer accurate.

Feeling too afraid to change really undermines the whole point of finding out who you are. Your emotional attachment to a word or concept, gained as a result of a quiz, probably reveals more about you than the actual test. For example, I refuse to take any more Hogwarts house sorters because Pottermore placed me in Gryffindor twice: I think it would take a fifty-page essay from J.K. Rowling herself for me to believe that I’m not actually a Hufflepuff. But then again, stubbornness is a very Gryffindor trait, so maybe I have nothing to worry about.

Thinking this much about my opinions on personality quizzes has been a great source of procrastination in itself. They never let me down!