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MOTM Aug 2010
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The Problem with Type Statistics​


I've always found it interesting whenever someone mentions a statistic relating to an MBTI type, such as "ESTPs are only 5% of the population" or "INFJs are the rarest type." I also find it interesting whenever people try to refute a type statistic - for example, I may mention that Niednagel believes that ENTPs are the most common type in America, and people often respond as if there's no way that's true - even though they can't provide sufficient evidence to prove or disprove his statement.

Even within an individual, it can often be difficult to type oneself accurately. This becomes an even greater problem when trying to accurately type a large population. Here are some of the issues involved in attempting to accurately type a population:

Sampling Error

Of course it is impossible to type every single person (whether through having them take a test or having someone evaluate them). So, just like any other attempt to collect demographic information, type statistics would be derived from a sample, or a portion of the population. Of course, it is very difficult to get a sample that is large enough and diverse enough to represent a large population.

For example, people who are interested in personality typing tests often identify themselves as iNtuitives because they are interested in theories such as personality theory; obviously, this can skew results.

Methodology

The two main methods of determining someone's type are having someone take a test and observing someone's behavior. Both of these methods have their flaws. Biases, as I explain below, can influence both of them. Understanding the test questions can be an issue, as can having an accurate sense of self. As far as typing others goes, one can observe behaviors, but not necessarily understand another's thought processes or their past history; there are a lot of influences on behavior besides personality type.

Biases

Biases can influence both test results and behavioral observations. Books have been written about sources of bias, so I won't go into detail on every possible source of bias. And in fact, someone else has already written about biases in the past, so I'll just direct you to that post:

http://personalitycafe.com/myers-briggs-forum/2757-caution-know-your-bias.html

(Credit to NephilimAzrael for the above article.)

The Most Important Question of All . . .

When it comes to type statistics, the most important question to ask is, what are you going to do with this information? Why do you need to know how common or rare a certain type is? How is this going to change your personal development? That is something you have to figure out for yourself.
 

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I'm in no way a fan of statistics. Say 15% of all car accidents happens because of the driver being under the influence of alcohol. That would mean that 85% of all accidents are made by sober people, which would mean that it's safer to drive drunk.

There are infinite numbers of factors involved in everything and when you make statistics, you do it based on a few factors. In my opinion, statistics is scientific racism; a mean of grouping people rather than finding out what's unique and special about them.

Statistics are good for some things, like for a company to figure out how much they should produce of a certain product, based on how many people are requesting it. But what does it matter that 12% of all Americans are African-Americans when 100% of the population is unique? How are those statistics usefull?
 

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Statistics are only relevant if we consider the full context; one of my greatest gripes as an engineer (where people should know better) is that people generally do not apply the assumptions behind the statistics in their decision making analysis.

I've used statistics sparingly and in certain modes to explain certain aspects of MBTI which I find relevant.

The biggest conundrum in general MBTI statistics is that the instantaneous MBTI test is well... bunk. It does not accurately determine type for most individuals and should be quality controlled in terms of question makeup and adjusting the weighting of questions based upon a controlled dataset (note that no such dataset exists). Therefore I tend to enjoy people trying to solve a problem with cognitive functions first.

However, this does not make MBTI stats irrelevant; one has to remember than one moves focus through cognitive functions in development stages and may be instantaneously very different than the current mean. I was once told that MBTI statistics were irrelevant for these reasons. Well, not so if they are considered.

For example consider a bunch of tests taken which test managers MBTI types. If one finds lots of Ni and Ne present it is probably not incorrect to say that INxJs and ENxPs may find managing more fufilling as they will have to perform less adaption to fufill a managerial roll.

Also I tend to find the testing of children and teenagers more accurate as they have greater focus on their primary and support functions than adults due to there being less development and functioning in other areas.
 

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I'm in no way a fan of statistics. Say 15% of all car accidents happens because of the driver being under the influence of alcohol. That would mean that 85% of all accidents are made by sober people, which would mean that it's safer to drive drunk.

There are infinite numbers of factors involved in everything and when you make statistics, you do it based on a few factors. In my opinion, statistics is scientific racism; a mean of grouping people rather than finding out what's unique and special about them.

Statistics are good for some things, like for a company to figure out how much they should produce of a certain product, based on how many people are requesting it. But what does it matter that 12% of all Americans are African-Americans when 100% of the population is unique? How are those statistics usefull?
I know what you're trying to get at here, and I agree with you in terms of that it's very easy to lie with statistics because people don't really put a lot of thought into them, but you can't completely discredit that example. It's common sense to know that the pool of people on the road who are on the road and not drunk is significantly higher that the portion of drivers who are, so you get the bias of having one pool overwhelming the other one in terms of numbers. I think those form of statistics are better used side-by-side to show a trend of growth or diminishing, as opposed to just by itself. Again, I see what you mean here, I just don't believe it's a totally useless statistic.

Source: Knowledge from AP Stats.
 

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When it comes to type statistics, the most important question to ask is, what are you going to do with this information? Why do you need to know how common or rare a certain type is? How is this going to change your personal development? That is something you have to figure out for yourself.
Being one of the "rarer" types really has little effect on me. Besides, in real-life, I seem to know a whole lot of INFJs or very similar types, so the generalized statistic doesn't mean much. Learning about the INFJ personality type has only helped me to understand myself more, to better come to terms with my strengths and limitations, to understand why I am the way I am based on my cognitive functions.
 

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Well, I can tell you this, sensors are much more prevalent than intuitives. This statement can not be refuted.
 
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The fundamental flaw with stats and their interpretation (and just science altogether) is that people generally fail at probabilistic reasoning. Stats detail probabilistic trends, but not scenarios that play out in every instance. People who interpret them let their own (limited) experiences and observations trump any evidence en masse.

I've mentioned before that I find type stats to be so unreliable, they are largely pointless exercises... and they just really don't elucidate anything significant. It appears to me, like most types generally claim they don't know any (or they know few) of the same type as theirselves anyway, so people seem to reason theirselves as 'rare' regardless of what any stats could tell them. A persons own experiences appears more trustworthy to a person than any stats (no matter how valid or reliable). Pointless.

I've seen sample sizes of 15 in one survey, and it's sad, really. Clearly the smaller the sample size, the more likely it will deviate from the real population value.
I really have to give kudos to Myers, because it is very hard trying to operationalise Jung, and mbti is fairly well thought out given they weren't actually psychologists, but given how many people seem to mistype (even on official tests), I really think attempting to accurately generate type statistics, is a fruitless endeavour until someone more appropriately finds a way to operationalise Jung (if that's possible at all, considering a cognitive style or function is not necessarily a personality trait). Because the questions don't seem to address what they want to test. And I think this is because the i/e s/n f/t/ j/p axis is too black and white. It confuses people unless they have had some experience with mbti, and they know theirselves pretty well.

Way too many confounds, not to mention random sampling/distribution is not ensured.

Does someone have a list of all the type stats that are out there and their sources?

Well, I can tell you this, sensors are much more prevalent than intuitives. This statement can not be refuted.
What do you base this on. Your own experiences?
 

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What do you base this on. Your own experiences?
Umm, just about everything that I've ever read about MBTI. I DARE YOU to show me one thing that defies this theory. Plus, look around you in the real world? Don't you find it hard to come across intuitives rather than sensors. Sensors are everywhere, but intuitives are much harder to find. Pretty much anything that I have ever read calculates that about 75% sensors in the world, and 25% intuitives. Look around you.
 

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Umm, just about everything that I've ever read about MBTI. I DARE YOU to show me one thing that defies this theory. Plus, look around you in the real world? Don't you find it hard to come across intuitives rather than sensors. Sensors are everywhere, but intuitives are much harder to find. Pretty much anything that I have ever read calculates that about 75% sensors in the world, and 25% intuitives. Look around you.
I've actually had trouble even believing that there are so many more sensors than intuitors, for many reasons.
And I find it pretty hard to figure out whether someone's an intuitive or a sensor without talking to them for a good while. And I don't think that would be enough to verify those statistics...I can tell you that all of my immediate family is made up of intuitives, except for my dad.

And...thank you for this article. This is exactly why it bothers me when people reference statistics at times :dry:
 

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I've actually had trouble even believing that there are so many more sensors than intuitors, for many reasons.
And I find it pretty hard to figure out whether someone's an intuitive or a sensor without talking to them for a good while. And I don't think that would be enough to verify those statistics...I can tell you that all of my immediate family is made up of intuitives, except for my dad.

And...thank you for this article. This is exactly why it bothers me when people reference statistics at times :dry:
My whole family is made up of intuitives too. However, in the outside world, all I seem to encounter are mainly sensors and hardly any intuitives. Here's one thing that's wierd, I seem to rarely encounter SJ's though.
 

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ummmmm, Personality Cafe. :mellow:
I knew that someone would bring that up. The reason that there are so many intuitives here is because mbti and the enneagram both involve abstract subjects that need to be explored. Of course, it is going to attract intuitives. That doesn't account for the general populace though. That's just this site.
 

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same here. I have yet to meet another ISTJ my own age.
Really, it may be related to introversion and extroversion. You are more likely to meet an extrovert than an introvert because the introverts tend to keep to themselves while the extroverts typically socialize.
 

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Really, it may be related to introversion and extroversion. You are more likely to meet an extrovert than an introvert because the introverts tend to keep to themselves while the extroverts typically socialize.
No. I am a college student surrounded by thousands of kids my age everyday both introverts and extroverts. Still can't find one.


I knew that someone would bring that up. The reason that there are so many intuitives here is because mbti and the enneagram both involve abstract subjects that need to be explored. Of course, it is going to attract intuitives. That doesn't account for the general populace though. That's just this site

I am not saying you are wrong, but I'm not saying you are right either.
 

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No. I am a college student surrounded by thousands of kids my age everyday both introverts and extroverts. Still can't find one.
Have you ever taken an accounting or a business class. ISTJ's tend to flock to accounting like seagulls.

I am not saying you are wrong, but I'm not saying you are right either.
Then what exactly are you saying?
 

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Have you ever taken an accounting or a business class. ISTJ's tend to flock to accounting like seagulls.

Yes, well, before I got into MBTI I took those classes so I don't know. I still rarely see them. My school attracts SPs so they are the largest population at least where I am from.



Then what exactly are you saying?
I'm saying you can't make a statement like that because you don't know that is the reason.
 

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I'm saying you can't make a statement like that because you don't know that is the reason.
Then I'm assuming that you have a better explanation then?
 
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