Hogwarts, MBTI & The Zodiac: Adventures in Personality Tests, My Most Harmless Vice

personality tests

I’d never seen myself as a Gryffindor, even as a child, but that was the house I wanted to be sorted into, obviously. (Hermione Granger is the sole reason Harry and Ron survived to be 17.) Isn’t bravery the thing you want when you’re small and soft-spoken, somewhat prone to being underrated?

Even though personality tests don’t mean much, you want to be the brash hero in your own narrative when you’re resigned to Unspeaking Turnip #4 in the Thanksgiving play. Slytherins were evil, Ravenclaws were nerds, and Hufflepuffs were leftovers. Not that I’d ever say it out loud then, in fear of offending people, but it was indisputable that Gryffindor was the best house. (And that’s all JK Rowling’s fault, not going to lie.)*

Obviously, the Slytherin House has been prejudiced against the Muggleborn since the beginning, but I mean, if the entire school just assumes you’re evil and you only have your own tribe to rely on, you’re basically surrounded by an echo chamber, which is a potential breeding ground for more extremist ideas (see: racist) to grow fertile. In fact, every single Hogwarts house is essentially an echo chamber because they’re all filled with people specifically chosen for valuing the same ideals.

In terms of the Harry Potter universe canon, I may as well be an evil snake whose every word is some variation of “hiss hiss don’t trust me” or “hiss hiss I’m a Wizard Nazi.” But after Pottermore sorted me into Slytherin that summer after seventh grade, I’ve come to accept my place as a member of the Aryan Slytherin Brotherhood. (No, I did not choose the stereotypically “evil” Slytherin choices in my Pottermore sorting quiz like loving darkness, horcruxes, and hexes. I guess loving water makes you a Slytherin, though.) I had initially believed that I might be sorted into Gryffindor because the wand I was given was cypress and phoenix feather. Cypress wands are typically associated with noble, self-sacrificing types, “bold” and “brave.”

Ambition is a trait far less tangible than bravery, wisdom, and loyalty.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Slytherin accommodates for the multitudes I contain, all linked by ambition. Ambition is a trait far less tangible than bravery, wisdom, and loyalty; ambition guarantees desire and motivation without necessarily any skill that allows one to accomplish their goals. Having too much ambition and fearing that I lack the ability to achieve my goals is at the heart of all of my insecurities; on the flip side, my ambition is what keeps me moving forward and able to muddle through my mistakes.

I truly believe that without my ambition, I am nothing. It was only because I watched Moana that I even considered the idea that “I am everything I’ve learned and more” and that I have inherent value as a human beyond the information and values that have been programmed in me. That’s not to mean that I carry around zero sense of self-worth, but it does mean that to some capacity, I have a utilitarian need to justify my worth and entitlement to exist.

personality tests

Still, I always had a sort of restraint that kept me from fully identifying with Gryffindor, even though they were so blatantly coded as the “good guys.” I think that humanity’s lack of self-awareness and the Internet community’s fetishization and over-valuing of certain traits and personality types that can make the results of most personality tests inaccurate. There’s often a distance between the ideals people possess and the actions they’d realistically take, and people tend to over-value that which they do not have.

Personality Tests & The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

I know that personality tests like the Myers-Briggs have flawed methodology; there aren’t only 16 distinct types of people in this world, but it does measure people’s tendencies to a somewhat helpful degree in the eyes of someone trying to figure them out. The four traits: Introversion/Extroversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving, all lie on a spectrum and people are always demonstrating both tendencies.

But generally, it helped me understand that people are all different and they all have different motivations and ways of operating, meaning that I need to make the necessary accommodations in my behavior to conduct relationships more efficiently. Now, when I get mildly annoyed at a person I just think “they’re probably an ESTJ; they’re naturally worse at grasping nuance.” (Kidding, but only kind of.)

 

I don’t blame people for mistyping themselves when the Internet Personality Test culture has already determined who the heroes and villains are in the MBTI world. The same way many fair-weather Harry Potter fans have latched onto the idea that Gryffindor is the house they belong to despite all contrary evidence, a conservative 80% of everyone who takes a Myers-Briggs test will declare themselves to be Intuitive types because the tests are often biased in their blatant favoring of Intuitive over Sensors. (This is primarily because most people who discuss MBTI and created the MBTI are Intuitives.) While Sensors are portrayed as dull, dutiful, middle management worker bees, Intuitives are apparently the special snowflake minority, the exciting, brilliant visionaries pulling the rest of society forward as the Sensors do their bidding. And everybody wants to be special; everybody wants to be the underrepresented underdog who prevails in the end.

That’s why I frequently take the results of other people’s personality tests with a grain of salt if their results do not match my perception of them. (I’m almost always correct at determining people’s Myers-Briggs types are because I consider myself a decently objective judge of others’ behavior.) I don’t guess type through Jungian functions; I often go by the methodology used by most personality tests, which is to measure the number of X tendencies versus Y tendencies for the four traits. And to demonstrate another example of my hypocrisy, I believe that my self-tested results for the admittedly pseudoscientific and often inaccurate Myers-Briggs test are basically accurate.

personality tests

I also understand that every personality test (Hogwarts Houses, Myers-Briggs, Zodiac) are all measures that fall victim to the Barnum Effect—the fact that people will believe in these statements about themselves because they’re vague and broad enough to accommodate for everyone. Being a Gemini and having the separate spheres of my thinking and personality make perfect sense. But everyone else is like that, too; we all live with contradictions within ourselves. When your horoscope tells you to “expect trouble mid-week because the Red Moon will align with the Spheres of Capricorn,” you better believe it because anything can happen on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. You might stub your toe. You might flip off a driver who cuts you off. You might see someone die right before your eyes. Conflict, romance, and joy are everywhere if you look for it.

In any case, personality tests are only as accurate as your self-awareness and consistency in actions, values, and emotions, which is kind of a lot to ask because people are changing all the time (but usually not that much).

I test as an INFP 60% of the time and an INTP the other 40%, which is reflected in my score breakdown that suggests that I lean Feeling/Thinking as 60/40. Frankly, I am offended by the notion that INFPs are this unreasonable group of sensitive special snowflake crybabies. (Also, curse the 4Chan Nazis for having stolen “special snowflake” from people like me merely trying to describe the kinds of people who describe themselves as a “smol bean” who is “not like other girls.”) I use logic and my personal values to guide my decisions; it’s not anything unique. I was never one of those kids who had imaginary friends, nor do I cry at the sight of LOST DOG posters or the beauty of flowers.

Yeah, I’m sensitive, but I’m also money-loving capitalist scum who believes in government regulation, obsessed with niche depression memes, and unrepentantly make “un-PC” jokes on a regular basis. Wait what? Um, I have layers and so you do. It’s part of being a person. I love reason and logic and things that “make sense” on a linear level, but why do I love reading Madame Clairvoyant’s horoscopes? And why do I love the Astro Poets so much? There are a bunch of things that I consume even though I know that they’re rationally not good for me.

I don’t think knowing someone’s personality test results can ever be a substitute for knowing who they are, but it’s not a bad place to start, though you have to be open to revision. And for someone trying to figure themselves out, a literal personality test isn’t a bad place to start, either. While something as reductive as identifying as an INFP-Slytherin-Gemini doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of my personality, the content provided for my certain demographic allows me something to relate to, irrespective of my birth date and interest in water. And I think that’s good enough.

*The Order of the Phoenix was such a missed opportunity to actually portray a Slytherin character who isn’t a dirtbag. (Snape was morally gray at best, Slughorn was a pusillanimous prat, Regulus used to be a Death Eater, and Andromeda Tonks—the only chance we had at a legitimately good Slytherin—barely made an appearance.) I also do not acknowledge The Cursed Child because I’ve literally written better fan fiction as a seventh grader, no joke.

Had JK Rowling followed the will of Tumblr, a Slytherin should have joined the Order and created tension among the group. When someone snitches to Umbridge about the existence of the secret society, everyone would point their fingers at the Slytherin, but it would be revealed that a fellow Gryffindor exposed them, mirroring the betrayal of Peter Pettigrew. Gradually, the rest of Hogwarts would grow to trust the Slytherin House. Rowling could have killed two birds with one stone by making Marietta Edgecombe, Cho’s friend, a Gryffindor.

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