Mind & Body

According to New Research, People Fit into These 4 Personality Types

Are you a Carrie, a Charlotte, a Samantha, or a Miranda? What about a Gryffindor, a Ravenclaw, a Hufflepuff, or a Slytherin? Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo or Raphael? Perhaps you're an INTJ or an ENTP. People have loved categorizing themselves into personality types since ancient Greece, but for the most part, those categories have been wildly unscientific. That's not for lack of trying. Now, a team of scientists has determined four distinct personality types — and they're backed by a ton of data.

Related Video: A Look at Whether Personality Is Fixed or Fixable

She Is SUCH a Resilient

Up until this point, the science of personality has been pretty dicey. Personality traits are well established; it's generally accepted that they come down to the "Big Five" or "OCEAN" model, which includes Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. (You can see how your traits stack up right here.) But personality types? Those have been mired in controversy. Most research trying to fit humans into a handful of types has been hard to replicate in repeated studies. The closest we've come has been the ARC types (named after their authors), a trio of personality types based on the Big Five model that puts people in the categories of "resilient," "undercontrolled," and "overcontrolled." But even ARC types are hard to pin down statistically.

For the study published in Nature Human Behavior, a research team from Northwestern University set out to see if they could improve on the ARC model. After all, it was conceived in the 90s, and thanks to the internet, we have way more data at our fingertips today. They started by using four questionnaires with more than 1.5 million respondents from around the world, spanning a wide range of ages, genders, and backgrounds. The online questionnaires were developed by professional researchers and each contained between 44 and 300 questions. That made these datasets "among the largest publicly available," according to the authors, which "allow for insight into whether personality types truly exist."

Proud to Be Average

They categorized the data into the Big Five personality traits, then developed new algorithms to see if any of these traits tended to cluster together. In the end, four different clusters emerged:

  • Average: This personality type tends to be high in neuroticism and extraversion, and low in openness. Researchers wager that the typical person would probably line up with this personality type, though women are more likely to fall into this category than men. In "Sex and the City," this'd be Carrie.
  • Reserved: This type is not open, neurotic, or extroverted, but they're pretty agreeable and conscientious. Charlotte all the way.
  • Role Model: This personality type is low in neuroticism and high in everything else. You're more likely to be a role model as you get older, and women are more likely to be role models than men. "These are people who are dependable and open to new ideas," co-author Luís Amaral said in a press release. "These are good people to be in charge of things." This would probably be a Miranda.
  • Self-Centered: This personality type is high in extraversion and low in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. You're less likely to fall into this type as you get older. This is your garden-variety Samantha.

This is more than just a fun way to pass the time. The team hopes that their tool can help providers of mental health services assess their clients, along with helping hiring managers find the right fit for a job or online daters looking for that special someone. And as for those ARC personality types from the '90s, the authors note, "The personality types we uncover provide some support for, but extend and refine, the three ARC types."

The best part of all? We'd never have done this a few decades ago. "The thing that is really, really cool is that a study with a dataset this large would not have been possible before the web," Amaral said. "Previously, maybe researchers would recruit undergrads on campus, and maybe get a few hundred people. Now, we have all these online resources available, and now data is being shared." Definitely a role model, that one.

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There's a long, weird history of personality testing, and you can hear all about it in "The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing" by Merve Emre. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer October 17, 2018

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