Interview. 16 personalities: "Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your own personality type can certainly aid in positive personal growth"
Photo: Silvia Rueda Lozano

16 personalities is an English company that has been doing research on personality for more than ten years. The test they offer on their website is translated into more than 35 languages and it is the most translated of the major personality tests on the Internet. With just over 50 statements to sort between different levels of agreement, 16 personalities offers an insight into how the resulting personality influences different areas of human life. In addition, by entering its Premium option, you can keep up to date with new updates and exclusive material to keep getting to know yourself. 

We wanted to know a little more about this project and, kindly, they opened the doors of their office in Cambridge (via email) and answered our questions. Here a little more about "16 personalities":

Question: How and when was this project's idea started? How many people work on this project? Which are their specialties/departments?

Anwer: We are a small, private company composed of a group of writers and researchers with varying credentials and experience, including advanced degrees in data analysis, writing, and psychology/psychotherapy. You can see our 'picture' on our Contact page. Yes, that's our whole team -- including writers, researchers, programmer/database managers, designers, project management, and community support. Our company has grown to its current size across the last decade.

Q: How is the process of collecting all the data? Is it the same in every country? "16 personalities" is a website with over 35 language versions all around the world. Did you imagine at the beginning this was going to happen?

A: We offer our test for free, only on our website, and now, as you see, in a number of different languages. This allows for easy access globally to anyone with online access. We found this to be the easiest and most cost-effective way to collect and compile the test results in a digital format. This also allows people to complete the test completely anonymously and for us to analyze the large volume of test results efficiently. We had always hoped it would have a global reach, but it has certainly taken a bit of time to compile the various language versions. We still continue to do research and work on all the language versions.

Q: Which was the main purpose of the project when it started? Do you still have the same goals?

A: Our goal is to help people discover and develop their strengths by understanding their personality make-up. We offer self-help e-books based on personality types as well as access to our Tools & Assessments, with the aim of helping our customers take a more active approach in their personal development. As a quick example of our approach to business, you see that we have translated our materials into 30+ languages despite having no products or membership functionality to offer in those languages. That investment will never pay back financially – but not everything is about money. We sincerely want to further the science of personality theory and help others learn about it and grown in the process. This was our goal, to begin with, and continues to be our goal today.


Q: Deep diving into the main topic, what is the "16 personalities" theory?

A: Our scales are based on reworked Big Five dimensions rather than Jungian concepts, hence the five traits, focus on type groups, the absence of cognitive functions, and so on. You can find more info about our framework and its differences from other theories, including Myers-Briggs’, in our main theoretical article and these links.

Q: Within each personality type, it is clear there are other subdivisions. For example, you can be an Assertive person or a Turbulent person, besides the personality you get. Are there more than 16 personalities then?

A: Our research has given rise to the individual 16 personality types. We find that the fifth trait, the Identity aspect, underpins all others, showing how confident we are in our abilities and decisions. We do find there are groupings of particular personality types based on data trends in the traits. We've identified Role Groups and Strategies, but that does not affect our determination that there are sixteen distinct personality types.

Q: Is there any personality that has surprised you for coming out as dominant and being contrary to the stereotyped conception of that country?

A: The prevalence of personality type is something we continue to study and calculate. The current research indicates that personality development is both genetically and environmentally influenced. As a result, we would expect that cultural experiences will have some influence, although to what degree is still under investigation. Probably the most interesting trend we have seen since we began studying personality type is the notable trend toward more introversion and turbulence. This is at a global level, not influenced by any particular location.

Q: How much does the type of personality you have influence interpersonal relationships? Are there other variables such as education, culture, social stratum, etc. decisive factors?

A: Personality type can definitely affect how you view the world and other people, so in that regard, it can color the way you react and interact with others; you are seeing the world through the lens of your type. However, we have always maintained that personality type should not be the primary driving factor when choosing to befriend someone or have a relationship with someone as there are many more important actors (such as views on family, politics, religion, goals, etc.) that have more bearing on relationship success. We do find that knowing and understanding someone else's personality type is very useful for facilitating communication. 


Q: You include the names of celebrities or fictional characters in each personality. How do you classify them? What do you base your classification on?

A: In a few instances, well-known individuals take our test and post their results to social media. That was the case for Campaigner Kim Nam-Joon and Adventurer Jeon Jungkook, for example. In other cases, we apply analysis and deductive reasoning to make a determination on someone's personality type. Obviously, Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, can't take the test. However, we can observe what we know about them and make some conclusions about their type. We even explain to our readers why we believe him to be an Assertive Advocate. From time to time, we'll post an article series that invites our visitors to use their skills to try to determine someone's type as in our series on Lady Gaga. You can see the lively discussion in the comment area of the articles:

Q: Which is the most common personality? And the strangest? (based on the percentages)

A: Based on our last calculations, the rate of occurrence in the general population is as follows:

13% Defenders (ISFJ -A/-T)

13% Logisticians (ISTJ -A/-T)

12% Consuls (ESFJ -A/-T)

11% Executives ESTJ -A/-T)

10% Entertainers (ESFP -A/-T)

7% Adventurers (ISFP -A/-T)

7% Campaigners ENTP -A/-T)

5% Virtuosos (ISTP -A/-T)

4% Entrepreneurs (ESTP -A/-T)

4% Mediators (INFP -A/-T)

3% Commanders (ENTJ -A/-T)

3% Debaters (ENTP -A/-T)

3% Logicians (INTP -A/-T)

2% Architects (INTJ -A/-T)

2% Protagonists (ENFJ -A/-T)

<1% Advocates (INFJ -A/-T)


Q: Do you think in the last few years it has increased the necessity of getting to know ourselves better? And, do you think it has also increased the need to label us? In relation to the previous question, do you think the interest in the personality study branch of psychology has also increased?

A: People have been trying to understand and classify behaviors for hundreds of years — even back to Hippocrates’ era. People have also been interested in personal improvement and the ability to understand those around them for the same amount of time. The ease of access to the internet just makes access to that material easier and more visible.

Q: Do you think that those who know their personality type better have an advantage in life than those who don't? And do you think there is any disadvantage in getting to know yourself better?

A: We do believe that understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your own personality type can certainly aid in positive personal growth. Additionally, it can foster communication with others when used appropriately. The best benefit is achieved when personality type is used to facilitate understanding, not pigeonhole and dismiss others because of their type. It’s also not useful to think that a type or a trait is “better” or “worse” than another. They are just different. We never recommend limiting someone’s work, academic, or relationship prospects simply because of their type, for example. Personality type is just one of many components and tools that are useful to understanding and working well with others.

Q: Which are the future plans of "16 personalities"?

A: As always, we continue to refine our research and develop additional resources for our visitors in the process. For example, several months ago, we added our Connections feature that allows people to find others with similar traits, interests, and values. We also recently added a couple of games in our Tools & Assessments area.

Q: If someone would like to participate in your project, how can he/she do it?

A: There are a number of ways to interact with us and further the process of personality research!

  • Take the main test.
  • Take our surveys and fill out the long questionnaires in our insights area.
  • For our multilingual visitors, contributing to our volunteer translation area is helpful.
  • Rating and providing feedback on the articles (there is a place to do that at the bottom of each article) helps us create more content of interest.
  • Complete our Evolve! survey to provide feedback on aesthetics, site experience, and future enhancements.
  • For our newsletter subscribers, they are welcome to e-mail us regarding any of the newsletters and share their insights on the topics. While we may not respond to every e-mail, we do read them all.
  • Share a link to our test and/or their profile on social media to spread the word.