A Writer's Room of Requirement

A home for the many random insights that cross my mind from time to time.

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

The Sorting Hat of Harry Potter and Myers-Briggs Personality Typology

I am not the first person to try to decipher the method’s of JK Rowling’s Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter series.  I am also not the first person to try to apply Myers-Briggs typology to the Hat’s madness.  When we hear descriptors like brave and daring, patient and hard-working, witty and intelligent, or cunning and ambitious, we easily assume that the Sorting Hat speaks of personality traits, something inborn in the wearer.  Perhaps the truth remains more complicated and we are more than our mere birth.

Most of the metrics I have seen that combine Potter lore with personality typology try to assign only one house to each type or temperament.  I found that lacking.  While each Hogwart’s House maintains its own peculiar culture, they feature a variety of personality types.  You can’t say that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and the Weasley twins have much more in common than their bravery.

I also have great difficulty determining my own house.  As an ENTP, I can never decide if I should party it up as a king among nerds in Ravenclaw or jump headfirst into a myriad of experiences as a smart ass in Gryffindor.  Even outside of the fantasy, I am both an experience-addicted Army veteran and a student finishing a masters in English while writing three blogs.

When recalling the experiences that individuals had with the hat, I realized that the Sorting Hat often gives first years the choice between two houses before making its final decision.  The hat offers Harry both Gryffindor and Slytherin.  It suggests both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw to Hermione.  I theorized that each personality has up to two ideal houses.  I tried to go type by type and select the best two houses for each, but no clear pattern emerged.

I began to notice the patterns when I broke down each type by its dominant and supportive functions.  Without getting too much into the theory, we use one of our inner letters in an extroverted fashion and one in an introverted fashion.  Perceivers tend to show their N or S to the outside world.  Judgers tend to show their F or T to the outside world.  As an ENTP, my dominant function is extraverted intuition (Ne) and my supportive function is introverted thinking (Ti).  Each of the eight functions lines up well with a Hogwart’s House:

Extraverted Intuition (Ne): Imaginative and innovative, we search for new ideas, people, and possibilities.  Gryffindor.

Introverted Intuition (Ni): They examine patterns, symbols, and meanings to solve complex puzzles. Ravenclaw.

Extraverted Sensing (Se): They spontaneously seize the moment, following anything that draws their interest. Gryffindor.

Introverted Sensing (Si): They rely on a strong memory, drawing information from past experiences and traditions. Slytherin.

Extraverted Thinking (Te): They sort, organize, and make decisions.  They speak their mind. Slytherin.

Introverted Thinking (Ti): We operate from pure logic, sorting theories and solving problems. Ravenclaw.

Extraverted Feeling (Fe): They nurture relationships, promote collaboration, and validate others.  Hufflepuff.

Introverted Feeling (Fi): They rely on their values and empathy to create inner and outer harmony.  Hufflepuff.

That produces the following chart:

Personality Type Primary Function Supportive Function Primary House Secondary House
ENTP Ne Ti Gryffindor Ravenclaw
INTP Ti Ne Ravenclaw Gryffindor
ENTJ Te Ni Slytherin Ravenclaw
INTJ Ni Te Ravenclaw Slytherin
INFP Fi Ne Hufflepuff Gryffindor
INFJ Ni Fe Ravenclaw Hufflepuff
ENFJ Fe Ni Hufflepuff Ravenclaw
ENFP Ne Fi Gryffindor Hufflepuff
ISTP Ti Se Ravenclaw Gryffindor
ESTP Se Ti Gryffindor Ravenclaw
ESFP Se Fi Gryffindor Hufflepuff
ISFP Fi Se Hufflepuff Gryffindor
ESTJ Te Si Slytherin Slytherin
ISTJ Si Te Slytherin Slytherin
ESFJ Fe Si Hufflepuff Slytherin
ISFJ Si Fe Slytherin Hufflepuff

I line up with Gryffindor and Ravenclaw as expected.  The chart works remarkably well, however issues still arise.  For instance, the ESTJs and ISTJs all come across as pure Slytherin.  All other things remaining equal, they fit there.  Unfortunately, before Harry’s victory against Voldemort, that house did not take muggle born and those that supported them.  That would explain how personalities like Percy Weasley and Hermione Granger ended up in Gryffindor in spite of themselves.

Of course that brings me to the true lesson of all this.  Throughout the Harry Potter series, Rowling repeatedly tells us that we have a choice.  We determine our own actions for good or evil.  The Sorting Hat takes into account our inborn personality, our home environment, and our family history, but it always gives us a choice in the end.  We are more than the sum of our parts.  Sirius Black, Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, and even Draco Malfoy have a choice to reject their supposed fate.  A sacrifice freely given will always triumph over tyranny and fear.

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