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INFJ Statistics

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
        -Richard Feynman, Nobel-prize winning physicist


I am tipping the sacred cow.  I am callously up-ending one of the most cherished of INFJ notions -- the most enduring "INFJ Myth."  Nevertheless, if one more person repeats that old saw about INFJs being the "rarest" of all the types, I will simply have to hold my breath until I turn purple.  

Where are the facts that support this proposition?  What is this famous mythology based on?  

Is it based on David Keirsey's estimation of the type distribution?  

Okay, fine.  So how scientific are those figures?  Where is the research it's based on?  (Because there isn't any.  We know that for a fact.  David made the percentages up.  He guessed.)

Okay, so maybe INFJ rarity is based on the statistics which are printed in the MBTI manual.  That's reasonable.  So where did they come from?

First, are we talking about the numbers Isabel Briggs-Myers estimated in 1957 based on the population of the school district where she conducted her studies?  

Alright, so perhaps INFJ was the rarest type in that school.  That doesn't mean by extension it's universally true everywhere.

So... perhaps rarity was determined after summarizing the figures according to that type survey they took in 1998.  You know, the one where telephone solicitors called various households throughout the country.  They contacted 16,000 people and used the results of 3,009.  People were not given the opportunity to confirm their own best-fit preferences.

Perhaps INFJs (assuming they were correctly typed, of course) were the rarest of all the types for participating in such a survey?  (I know I never participate in phone surveys.)  So that's all that number reflects.

So if that study doesn't hold water... maybe we can rely on the statistics stored in CPP's computer that records all the MBTI scores.  Hey, that's pretty solid evidence... 

...until you concede that the instrument is only about 70% accurate according to its own manual, and the results which are stored have never been updated per anyone's validated type.  (Thus, my INFJ girlfriend who tested on the MBTI as INTJ will forever be listed in CPP's databanks as having INTJ preferences, despite the inaccuracy.  So that's at least one INFJ who's misrepresented in the database as another type... and I know she's not alone.)  

So... it's possible the MBTI has the most trouble identifying INFJs accurately.  But that doesn't tell us how many INFJs there actually are.

Then... aren't there any valid studies out there?  

Well, there are at least two sources (I have two right in front of me) that reflect different types as the smallest percentages of the population.  

One comes from Portraits of Type: An MBTI Research Compendium, by Avril Thorne and Harrison Gough.  It claims I_FPs have the smallest representation.

The other was printed in the Journal of Psychological Type, Vol. 37, 1996.  The authors are Allen Hammer and Wayne Mitchell and their figures are based on a study that was concluded in 1992.  In that study, ENFJs have the smallest representation.

So not every study results in INFJ being the rarest type.

In fact, Sarah writes to tell us:

I attend a small liberal arts college in Salt Lake Utah, and in one of my classes they had each of us take a free version of the MBTI on-line. As it turned out, INFJ was the second most common test result in the class. 

So much for being rare.  I'm especially fond of this one: 

hereís something else thatís unusual - there are 3 INFJís in my first class and 7 in my secondÖ As an INFJ myself, Iíve learned that this personality type is EXTREMELY RARE, so to have so many of us gathered in one room is pretty cool.

She's determined to believe in the myth, despite the evidence right in front of her. 

Notice how you never hear about those studies where other types are the smallest percentage -- you only hear that "INFJ is the rarest of all the types" (spoken in a prideful or dreamy tone).  People are in LOVE with INFJs being the rarest type.

And this story has been perpetuated to death.

The bottom line is, we don't have accurate statistics about type breakdowns for the earth's population (or even the U.S. population).  Any statistics you might trot out have serious drawbacks associated with them, and are at best estimates -- sometimes guesses -- of what people think.  

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
                     -Mark Twain

If "natural selection" were a valid theory, there should be 6.25% of each of the 16 types in the world -- an even distribution -- so that no one type is rarer than any other.  But nobody knows for certain, since nobody has done an accurate personality type assessment of the entire population of the world, nor of a representative sample from all walks of life.

When one resorts to statistics, they lack reason. 
          -Rules of Flight, The Adventures of a Sci-Phi Pilot

Why am I making a fuss about this?  It's because this is frequently the ONLY THING people remember about the INFJ personality type.  So it attracts people who are desperate to be RARE -- to be special -- to be unique-est of all.  Then people crow about this "rare" label and don't want to give it up, regardless of whether or not INFJ preferences really fit them.

Maybe you think I'm being bloody-minded.  I mean, INFJs are out-of-step with the norm, so why shouldn't they revel in being unique and special?  Why am I destroying the one thing INFJs can have a sense of pride about?

Well, Virginia, it's like this.  Singling out INFJs (or any type pattern, for that matter) and calling them "rare" gives a subtle implication that this type is "better" somehow by virtue of its rarity -- and yet the very idea of "better" is exactly what we're trying to get away from by introducing a model of types in the first place.  Fixating on "rarity" distracts us from leveling the playing field and laying to rest the idea of any type being "better" than the others.  That's what true diversity is all about.

Labeling a type "rare" introduces a misguided element of rank and privilege that doesn't belong in the type model, and destroys the very thing type is designed to honor.  It adds a disturbing element to the framework that creates a higher priority for being rare than to discover one's best-fit type pattern.  Feeling special upstages matching the model accurately .

For instance, this was recently posted online by someone who just got an INFP score from a free online quiz:

Ok, this is admittedly the stupidest reaction EVER to an online quiz, but in all the many, many times I have taken a Myers-Briggs/Kirsey temperment based quiz I have always gotten INFJ. I like being an INFJ, because apparently we're so rare or something (which is funny because from all the results I've seen it's the opposite).

Even she recognizes the irony of the "rare INFJ" claim, and yet she's still in love with it...

Moreover, it's all predicated on faulty data, since nobody knows how rare any type is, including the INFJ type.

If you got sucked into the "being rare" thing, you might want to take another look to see whether or not the INFJ code fits you best.  When your code is wrong, the whole notion of type feels pretty lame.  You can say you're rare, but nothing else about being INFJ will feel right -- you're left with a feeling of emptiness whenever people describe INFJ type urges and hungers.

If you rely on this particular statistic to ratchet yourself into believing you are unique and "special," I regret to say it's worthless.  And, frankly -- you don't need it anyway.  You're unique and special regardless.  All you require is giving yourself permission to believe it.  And that, my friend, has nothing to do with statistics.


Everything that you call reality, which is perception and cognition, and feeling, and behavior and biology and social interactions and personal relationships, are a direct result of who you think you are.
ó Deepak Chopra 


After discussing this sacred INFJ cow of being rare recently, I realized that many INFJs experience the illusion of rarity.  I think that's a different topic, and I say more about it here.

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