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

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

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, hospitals, churches, and the military. Its language of personality types–extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuiting, thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving–has inspired television shows, online dating platforms, and Buzzfeed quizzes. Yet despite the test’s widespread adoption, experts in the field of psychometric testing, a $2 billion industry, have struggled to validate its results–no less account for its success. How did Myers-Briggs, a homegrown multiple choice questionnaire, infiltrate our workplaces, our relationships, our Internet, our lives?

First conceived in the 1920s by the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of devoted homemakers, novelists, and amateur psychoanalysts, Myers-Briggs was designed to bring the gospel of Carl Jung to the masses. But it would take on a life entirely its own, reaching from the smoke-filled boardrooms of mid-century New York to Berkeley, California, where it was administered to some of the twentieth century’s greatest creative minds. It would travel across the world to London, Zurich, Cape Town, Melbourne, and Tokyo, until it could be found just as easily in elementary schools, nunneries, and wellness retreats as in shadowy political consultancies and on social networks.

Drawing from original reporting and never-before-published documents, The Personality Brokers takes a critical look at the personality indicator that became a cultural icon. Along the way it examines nothing less than the definition of the self–our attempts to grasp, categorize, and quantify our personalities. Surprising and absorbing, the book, like the test at its heart, considers the timeless question: What makes you, you?

Title:The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780385541909
Format Type:

About Merve Emre

Merve Emre is an associate professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is the author of



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

  • Gumble's Yard

    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 y...

  • 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 thr...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 fascinatin...

  • Mitch Hedwig

    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" cov...

  • Audrey

    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....

  • Glen

    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. Cr...

  • Amanda O.

    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 ...

  • Mehrsa

    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...

  • Anna

    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 institu...