The Personality Brokers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Nov 2018

Member Reviews

I found The Personality Brokers to be a fascinating expose of the history and inner workings of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Testing Program.  It's amazing how biased the creators were, and how inadequate their testing methods and actual samples.  Ms Erme writes conversationally, and at times I felt the chapters were a bit long,  and somewhat unfocused.  Overall, I have to say that I really appreciated this well researched and eye opening book. I definitely would choose this as a book discussion selection. 
I received my copy through NetGalley under no obligation.
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Unfortunately I found this book to be horribly dull. The book needed major editing and to be cut back many a couple hundred pages and become a magazine article perhaps. The individuals that concocted the Myers-Briggs test turned out to be incredibly dull while simultaneously borderline crazy/woowoo/cultish. I really wanted to hear more about the test itself and the validity of it, but we mainly got the entire history of the women behind it. Anyone suffering insomnia might want to start here.
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As a personality junkie, I couldn't wait to get this book in my hands. I knew a little bit about the creators of the MBTI, but Emre dove deeper into the subject than I could have imagined or hoped for. I found the tone to be quite cynical, but it certainly made for interesting reading.
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I've always been interested in personality tests and how physiologists can determine certain traits about a person by interpreting the results of said tests. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is arguably one of, if not the most, recognizable personality tests. I myself have taken it. I had no idea though of its origins. The Personality Brokers is a good book, part biography, part psychology, part history.
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THE PERSONALITY BROKERS by Merve Emre focuses on "the strange history of Myers-Briggs and the birth of personality testing."  For some reason, I had expected to earn more about the personality test itself rather than the history and life stories of its creators, Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. It was honestly surprising to learn how long ago they lived – Katherine was born in 1875 – and that they were merely amateur psychologists who created the most famous personality test ever.  Emre probes Myers' eventual relationship with Educational Testing Service and the ultimate view of the type indicator as "little better than a horoscope ... [from] an old, unrelenting charlatan."  Sad, in a way, especially when the insights such as those about introverts vs. extroverts and the other types have actually contributed to lay people's ability to self-reflect.  

For media online reviews see https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/08/30/the-enduring-appeal-of-personality-types  (Economist) and  https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-personality-brokers-review-a-blurred-view-of-who-you-are-1536282786 (Wall Street Journal)
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I requested this book from NetGalley not only because of my interest in the Myers-Briggs but also the title. "The Personality Brokers" conjured up for me the image of two women making their livelihood from the  personalities of others. Sort of vampiric. And Emre sort of sets Katherine up that way, feeding off the life of her daughter, becoming incredibly entangled. 

This was an interesting look at the women behind the still-popular personality tests. Emre sometimes feels like she veers into historical fiction more than nonfiction and, while she tried to seem impartial, sometimes she seems a bit contemptuous of Katherine. And that could be somewhat my reading as Katherine was definitely a strange figure, especially seen through the lens of today's restrictions on psychology/psychiatry.

It was a bit hard to plow through this book in places but it seemed well-researched and I did finish. The most astonishing to me was the absolute lack of scientific testing involved in this test that so many people use.



Three stars

This book came out September 11

ARC kindly provided by NetGalley
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This is absolutely fascinating. Anyone who has been interested in personalities, taken quizzes to find their own, or used them as a value system should read this!
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The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre is a free NetGalley ebook that I read into early September.

I had come in, already curious about what I recognized from an episode of Drunk History: its origins in the mother/daughter duo of Katharine Cook (pious, marries young to Lyman Briggs who is a scientist) and Isabel Briggs-Myers (Katharine's only child, diligently and punitively disciplined by her mom, codes her journal with initials to indicate what kind of boy she's dating until she meets 'Chief' Myers). It's philosophically rich and thought-provoking, ventures into a lot of welcome side plots (the lifelong power play between Katharine and Isabel, the test's deep inspiration from Jungian theory, and Katharine's mean, pre-Dr Spock articles on parenting), but ultimately loses me with the test's WWII espionage and academic implications.
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It was a fascinating read that didn't feel like the author was "filling in the gaps" when it came to describing the historical events of the test. I also appreciated the questions that were raised about how a "simple" test is so utilized in today's society and how people now use the results as an identifier to explain parts of their personality.
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The Personality Brokers is a page-turner.

Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers's life stories are so captivatingly unpredictable, The Personality Brokers sometimes feels more like a novel than a true story. The only times the book slows down are when it shifts focus from Myers and Briggs to other lesser-known figures in 20th century psychology, which happens a couple of times.

But even in slower sections, Ms. Emre's use of language is stunning. She writes eloquently and paints a picture of the times by giving historical context. You feel like you were there when Myers and Briggs were developing their indicator.

I highly recommend this book. I hope it is a best-seller.
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Very interesting and clear peek into the history of the popular personality test. It's amazing they are still in use so much!
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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.
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I've been a huge fan (you could even say fangirl) of the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for over twenty years. I also enjoy biographies, so I expected to highly enjoy this book. Unfortunately, I found it to be dry and while I kept trying to push through it, it simply was not interesting and I could not finish it.
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