The enduring popularity of Myers-Briggs personality tests among younger South Koreans is changing the way they date.
Some people are using mobile applications to figure out which personality types, indicated by a jumble of four letters like ISFJ or ENTP, would be most or least compatible with them.
Hwang Da-in, a 25-year-old college student in Seoul and an ISTJ herself, says her ideal match is an ISFJ, based on chats she had with virtual characters of different personality types on an app called MBTI Sogaeting.
“While talking about travel, (the virtual ISFJ character) said he enjoys planning things out in advance. I like a well-organized personality. Also, he said he usually stays at home on weekends and doesn’t have many opposite-sex friends,” she said as reasons behind her preference.
The app Hwang used is one of the most popular in the field, developed by a unit of Krafton, the Korean company behind global smash hit battle royale shooter PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Released in May last year, MBTI Sogaeting surpassed 10 million cumulative downloads within a month of its release, according to officials at Thingsflow.
The app is a chatbot-based story game with 16 different scenarios, each with a male or female character of one of the 16 MBTI types. Users go on a virtual blind date with the virtual characters, and the app analyzes the user's interactions with the game characters to determine their romantic compatibility.
For example, Hwang was asked by the ISFJ character about her goals in life. She was presented with choices: help create a better world or live happily with loved ones. Depending on her choice, the app rates the chemistry between Hwang and her virtual date.
“I got high scores when talking with ISFJ and ISTJ virtual humans,” Hwang said.
Personality matters a lot in romantic relationships, she said, and the MBTI tests could be helpful in filtering through the dating pool and finding the right person for her.
Short for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI classifies people’s personalities into 16 categories based on their judged introversion or extroversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling and judging or perceiving.
MBTI in real world
Byun, a 33-year-old office worker in Incheon who wished to use only her surname, recently participated in a group date organized by local firm Sunhada that involved a matchmaking program based on participants’ MBTI types.
“All the participants were asked to submit their four-letter MBTI personality types before coming to the event,” she said.
Nearly 30 men and women participated. Divided into groups of six people -- three men and three women -- based on their potential compatibility, they enjoyed time together over food and drinks. Some went on to ask for one-on-one dates.
“It was interesting that the male participants whose MBTI types were compatible with mine had similar dating styles and dating habits to me. This is really important to me because I'm looking for a long-term relationship,” she said.
The MBTI craze has had an effect on the matchmaking industry.
A senior official at the nation's No. 1 matchmaking agency Duo, who wished to remain anonymous, said personality types have become a factor to consider when arranging meetups.
“Our clients’ profile has detailed information, including their academic history, occupation, age, where they live, family relationships, financial assets and religion. Recently, a growing number of clients have asked their matchmakers to add their MBTI types to the profile and looked for partners with compatible MBTI types,” she said.
“I don’t proceed matchmaking merely based on the MBTI, but the personality test has certainly become a factor to consider,” she added.
Duo has recently released videos on its YouTube channel featuring an INFJ man and an ENFP woman on a blind date to show what it is like to date someone based on personality types.
Experts say using MBTI personality tests for dating and relationships has downsides. People are already judging people on limited information like job titles, academic backgrounds, the house they live in or the car they drive. Plus, personality is not such a simple thing that can be explained with pseudoscientific four-letter categories, they point out.
“Our personalities change over time and there are personalities that can’t be described by the 16 personality types,” said Im Myeong-ho, a psychology professor at Dankook University.
People are using MBTI types to find the best match in a short time, minimizing trial and error. But this approach focused on efficiency is unhealthy, he added.