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Sorry, Myers-Briggs: New research says there are just *4* personality types


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Photo: Getty Images/Jamie Grill

Getting to know yourself is kind of like the ultimate ongoing DIY project. But instead of the scissors, glitter, and glue common to other creative projects, your supplies in this case include a heaping serving of introspection and—duh—all the personality tests. If you’ve already taken the Myers-Briggs quiz to reveal your unique-ish combo of letters (INFJ, ESFP…WTAF) that make up your type, get ready for some super-simplifying news: New research is challenging the popularized 16 personality permutations presented in that widely held classic model.

Behavioral researchers previously believed that the core “Big Five” traits—which were scientifically endorsed in the 1990s and include extroversion, neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness—could mix and match in individuals to form many, many different personality types, Scientific American reports. But a recent study, published in Nature Human Behavior, suggests that the combination of these traits actually only yields four major archetypes: The “role model,” “self-centered,” “average,” and “reserved” person.

“You can group more people in these four clusters than you’d expect by chance. People are fairly continuously distributed throughout the space, there are just higher densities in parts of the space.” — Study author William Revelle, Ph.D.

To reach this conclusion, a team of researchers heavily made up of engineers analyzed the responses of 1.5 million subjects in four separate data sets using computer algorithms to group together the largest buckets of people with matching Big Five traits. And the results suggest that your “type” can shift throughout life. For instance, “role model” figures scored high on all the personality traits except neuroticism—and females older than 40 made up most of this group. Alternatively, a large group of young males were considered self-centered. (I know, shocking.)

Likely due to the malleability of these results, study author and Northwestern University psychologist William Revelle, Ph.D., notes that the study isn’t intended to spark an existential, “Who the hell am I?”–type crisis, because you might well not perfectly fit one of these archetypes. Rather, “what we’re saying is you can group more people in these four clusters than you’d expect by chance,” he explains. “People are fairly continuously distributed throughout the space, there are just higher densities in parts of the space.”

So yeah, there might not be a 16-sizes-fit-all-rule, à la Myers-Briggs, but the researchers aren’t convinced that there’s a viable 4-sizes-fit-all model either. While it can be useful to generalize people in this way, it’s still just that: a generalization. After all, you are anything but “average,” despite the conclusion of this research noting that, based on the newly coined personality clusters, the vast majority of us are.

You know the DL on type As and Type Bs, but did you know there’s also a Type C? And here’s what your personality type means for your love language.

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