Time To Forget Myers-Briggs? Scientists Just Outlined Four New Personality Types

Peechaya Burroughs for TIME

"These are good people to be in charge of things".

"Personality types only existed in self-help literature and did not have a place in scientific journals", said lead researcher Luis Amaral, Northwestern professor of chemical and biological engineering. The researchers believe these groupings reflect a set of prototypical personality types, which they've labeled role model, self-centered, reserved or the rather uninspiring "average".

The scale of the research (involving questionnaires from 1.5 million people) has meant that it's more accurate than previous attempts to categorise people by their personality traits.

The most common type - "average" - were found to be high in neuroticism but also in extrovert behaviour; while "reserved" people were "emotionally stable" without being open or neurotic. More women than men are likely to be role models.

The researchers, majority engineers, borrowed methods developed to study particle physics to analyze the responses of 1.5 million people from four separate studies measuring the Big Five.

'A study with a dataset this large would not have been possible before the web. ("If you're in D.C., you're closer to NY than you are to Chicago", Revelle says.) Some people may not fit into any of them. Luís Amaral, adding, "Now, we think this will change because of this study". These made no sense to experts in the personality field and represented statistical artifacts, study co-author Martin Gerlach said.

You are no longer simply an introvert or extrovert, nor do you have to remember whether it's people with personality type A who are perfectionists and type B who are laid-back, or vice versa.

"Basically, if you classify people into personality types, you lose most of the information that you can get by considering their scores on a few main personality dimensions", they wrote.

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The results of those questionnaires were then scored based on agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness - the five categories commonly accepted as basic personality traits - and analyzed algorithmically.

"The data came back, and they kept coming up with the same four clusters of higher density and at higher densities than you'd expect by chance, and you can show by replication that this is statistically unlikely", Revelle said. When there are thousands of quizzes available online, we can't wait to go for the shortcut and find out who we are.

The study authors claim that older people, in general, tend to score higher in conscientiousness and agreeableness and lower in neuroticism, compared with people younger than 20. They are not particularly extraverted but are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.

Self-centred individuals are considered to be extremely extroverted, while less open, agreeable and conscience than the average person. Dramatic decrease in self-centred types as people age. According to the researchers, these people are reliable, responsible and open to new ideas. "In fact, life is easier if you have more dealings with role models".

Revelle agrees. "Breaking it down into one of four types would not allow me to understand you very well", he says. Females are more likely than males to fall into this type.

People most likely can be seen to shift between clusters, as well.

The researchers said their results could be of potential use to mental health workers trying to diagnose extreme personality traits and also hiring managers looking for a particular character in applicants for a post. Amaral, "it's clear there are trends, that some people may be changing some of these characteristics over time", suggesting that "this could be a subject of future research".

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