Swipe through profiles on any dating app and you're bound to see a bio touting your potential mate to be an "ENFP" or "ISTJ." This jumble of letters refers to the results from the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator Test.
The 90-plus question test, which was created during World War II by two Americans as a way to match women with jobs, assigns respondents one of 16 different "personality types" based on their answers. The letters stand for two opposing traits in four categories.
- Introversion-extraversion is represented by I or E
- Sensing-intuition is represented by S or N
- Thinking-feeling is represented by T or F
- Judging-perceiving is represented by J or P
So if a person is an ENTJ that means they are prone to extraversions, intuition, thinking, and judging.
The test has recently caught on in Seoul, South Korea, reports CNN. Koreans in their 20s and 30s are are using the results of their MBTI test to thin the dating pool and filter out those with the letter-combinations they believe they would be least compatible with.
Using the MBTI test in this way might not actually help you cut through the noise, says Lisa Bobby, psychologist and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver, Colorado.
"I think it's a terrible idea," she says. "People are already judging each other based on very little information, and to start making assumptions or making meaning from personality test scores will add another barrier to developing a healthy relationship."
The test's popularity makes sense, Bobby says, because it is accessible and relatively inexpensive. And, although using it to expunge others from your potential dating pool isn't smart, it can help you learn about yourself.
"Understanding your differences can help you develop tolerance and compassion for those of others," she says. "Additionally the MBTI can help you create clarity about the situations and circumstances in which you'll feel most comfortable, and be most naturally at your best."
However, using the test to find a partner hinges on the idea the some people are compatible and some are not, something Bobby doesn't believe.
"The idea of 'compatibility' is largely a false construct," she says. "While some parings are more challenging than others, all relationships have differences. The most important thing is not whether you're naturally compatible, because there are always differences. What matters is your ability to have understanding, respect, and appreciation of your differences."
To many, the MBTI test probably seems like a "crystal ball," Bobby says, which, however illogical, is obviously appealing.
"The truth is that it takes a long time to get to know someone," she says. "It's also true that 'compatibility' and harmonious relationships are found more from developing your ability to be tolerant and appreciative of other people's ways of being, than it is from finding someone who is more like you."
Instead of focusing on what you might have in common, it might be more beneficial to focus on how you can support one another
"The strongest couples are the ones who have gratitude for how each other's differences add value to their shared life," she says.