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

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  101 reviews
An unprecedented history of a personality test devised in the 1940s by a mother and daughter, both homemakers, that has achieved cult-like status and is used in today's most distinguished boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It has been harnessed by Fortune 100 companies, universities, hospita
Hardcover, 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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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
Robin Bonne
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!
Ian Tymms
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Rachel Davies
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
one of my favourite reads o the year
Dahnoor Noviansyah
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nick Richtsmeier
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange thing to say about a biography of the two women who created MBTI, but I desperately needed this book. I have been wrestling--after years of using psychographics like MBTI--in my work with the consequences for both individuals and groups for being broken into types. I have watched as we use these tools as short-hands for a person, putting them into boxes and weaponizing our toolkits to put people in their place when they try to be something which makes us uncomfortable. I have s ...more
Katherine Varga
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I picked up this book after hearing a fascinating NPR interview with the author. Her voice comes through most in her introduction and conclusion, where she describes going through MBTI training. One of my fav moments is when she's asked to draw her personality as a room and considers drawing the Red Room of Pain from 50 Shades of Grey.

Her voice is less vivid during the the actual book. Emre steps aside to focus on the creators of the test and the facts of their lives. Katherine Briggs and Isabel
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I was hoping for a more intriguing story. The story I got certainly seemed well researched, but I lost interest about halfway through. I vividly remember taking the Myers Briggs in college when I was unsure what I wanted to major in. I was an ISFJ and I also clearly remember that the "test" told me that meter reading might be a good job for me. I still wonder if I should have pursued meter reading (JK, not really). I learned a lot about the development of the tool, but by the end I just wasn't t ...more
Christopher Cronin
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Personality Brokers is an engaging read that takes the reader on a journey of a mother and daughter’s passionate and challenging pursuit to bring the concept of “Type” into society at large. The various settings of experimentation—from dream analysis to house parties, and Type’s clash with psychological and organizational thought leaders, makes every chapter uniquely captivating. This book isn’t just history—anyone who reads it can’t help but think of their own personal discovery of Type and ...more
Tina Panik
This well researched, wild ride of a story follows the mother-daughter team (with no psychological training) who design and influence contemporary culture with their personality theories which succeed through a serendipitous combination of timing and tenacity. Combine their hysterical passion with some Jung, the Nazi resistance, and Truman Capote, and you’ve got a completely astonishing tale.
Amy Johns
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was interesting, especially in its description of how the type indicator coincided with “modern” psychology development and understanding and the pursuit of the “best self.” I might have enjoyed more anecdotal discussion of the different types as well as the implications of the indicator.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Started out compelling but slowed down a bit. However, still worth reading for anyone who has taken a personality test or characterized themselves by the mbti scale. Those who think it's scientific will learn that it's as valid as astrology.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
The first third of the book was interesting. The rest of the book could have been 25 pages total.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating account of the history behind the Myers-Briggs personality test, and the women who developed it.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Disliked the two women being profiled so much I had to stop reading the book.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting book about the women behind the personality test. I had always assumed they were men.
Don Heiman
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Merve Emre’s 2018 book “The Personality Brokers” is a biography about Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabell Briggs Myers who co-developed the popular and very controversial Myers-Briggs Personality Type Index. In the book Merve explains the various ways the Index helps us understand how we inherit and self-create personalities that evolve throughout the timeline of our lives. I found the book fascinating and well worth reading. (L/P)
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
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
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MERVE EMRE is an assistant professor of English at McGill University. 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 Republic, The Baffler, n+1, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, where she is senior humanities editor.