Merve Emre – The Personality Brokers


A New York Times critics’ best book of 2018.

An Economist best book of 2018.

A Spectator best book of 2018.

A Mental Floss best book of 2018.

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 20th 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?

Author: Merve Emre
Narrator: Ellen Archer
Duration: 11 hours 30 minutes
Released: 18 Nov 2009
Publisher: Random House Audio
Language: English

User Review:

family ordered

I’ve taken a life long interest in studying Personality Types. This book is a heart warmer, told romantically. A great choice for those who are attracted to the raising of children, homeschooling. This is the progression of Katharine Cook Briggs’ natural interest in her family and children, observational learning of the neighborhood children, and keeping written accounts of all (not just her own). And it blew up from there. I was sympathetic to Briggs’ inability to untie the apron strings to her adult daughter, Isabel Myers, yet she had raised her so well that the daughter was not desperate for her approval. I loved that no man could measure up to the ability of the matriarch of the 1900s to speak parenting so fluently as did Mother Briggs. The author portrayed both Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers as a couple of intense ladies and I loved the depiction. Both of their husbands seemed largely supportive of them through their crazy journey. This book could make a great movie, with Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, Hitler, Jean Piaget, John F. Kennedy, Nixon and the BFF of Isabel in her senior years making their appearances in this story. I’m inspired by the lives of these two women. Narration is excellent.