About a month ago, when the show started, I blogged about my obsession with the CBS reality show Big Brother, and subsequently, “Survivor”, which came out of my having gone through the audition process for the show a decade ago. One of the reasons I get so drawn into these shows is that human behaviour tends to fascinate me, and figuring people out is a little like figuring out a puzzle. When I’m not emotionally invested in a situation, but can watch others play out little dramas with one another, it’s compelling to me.
One of the things I talked about is how reality TV sparked a strong belief in the Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey personality inventories, as CBS (as well as many other reality TV casting crews) rely on this test to get a feel of who someone is, how they interact with others, and how they can be expected to interact with others. The formula started out with 16 contestants, equating to the 16 personality types. When you throw in other differences, such as upbringing, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and general outlook on life, the task of assembling the right cast is kind of the ultimate psychological experiment. (for instance, while I made it to the final round of casting for the show, I didn’t get on. The girl who was chosen in favour of me shares my Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey personality type: ENFP. )
After posting about this, I started getting Google searches asking what the Meyers-Briggs typology for current Big Brother 14 houseguests is; in specific, people seem to wonder about Ian and Danielle. While the answer is, I don’t know—only the houseguests and the CBS psychologists know for sure—I can hazard an educated guess regarding most of the contestants, beginning with Janelle. The others simply weren’t around long enough and didn’t get enough air time for me to make a fair assessment. I will say, I don’t think there’s one of each personality type in the house this season, likely due to the returning players throwing off the balance. There are more “N” (intuitive) types than average, and many of them have demonstrated they’re very strongly expressed “N”s.
To answer your question, Ian is actually the easiest for me to type, because I seem to have a soft spot for this personality type in my life. Consequently, I have a soft spot for Ian, and despite his social awkwardness and perhaps being the geekiest guy I’ve ever seen anywhere, there is something that makes your heart really go out to him. He has so much passion, and treasures every little moment and experience and victory, while needing to be coaxed out of his shell every step of the way. Ian is undoubtedly an INFJ, despite his background in chemical engineering and brilliant mind, as well as his love of strategy, which would make him a “T”. He’s clearly introverted, but when comfortable with others, has an uncanny insight into people, as if he sees things in people that not everyone does. You get the sense he’s a lot deeper than what he’s putting out there. He’s deeply invested in things; for instance, crying when his coach gave him money as a prize, not really having ambitions to win Big Brother, but wanting to make it to the jury, being affected when the girl he is crushing on in the house (who is his exact opposite, unsuitable for him in almost every way, but epitomizes the idea of “free-spiritedness” he so wants in his world) goes on a “date” with a guy who’s more of a match for her. He’s also fussy about certain things; yelling at Britney for leaving half-eaten candy in his space, and fastidiously showering multiple times a day, and straightening up his space.
Danielle is a little harder to read, because she attempts to play games, putting up a different face for different people. Yet, she’s hopelessly transparent and unable to put her rational side above her feeling side when it comes time to make moves, although she swears she can. She is clearly an “F” personality, and her stubbornness when it comes to opinions she holds about certain people and situations makes her less flexible than she appears to be. She is not a pushover, although she can be mistaken for one, and is one of the hardest people in the house to get to change her stance on something once she’s made up her mind (usually for personal reasons.) These are trademarks of a “J” personality. She is clearly not intuitive; she seeks out physical companionship from Shane without being able to read his feelings about her accurately, and she seeks out Britney to fill the intuitive space in her game play, asking Britney “how she feels about so-and-so”. This makes her an “S”. While she’s outgoing and personable and loves attention, she seems to thrive in one-on-one or small group conversations, like most “I”‘s, but this is probably the least strongly expressed of her traits. So, Danielle is an ISFJ. Reading the description, it’s pretty spot on regarding both how she’s playing her game and who she is behind the game.
There’s no ENFP in the house this season; I suspect that there probably was, but the person was eliminated (players were dropped a week before the show’s airing, or evicted very early. So, I’ll have to root for the person closest to my personality type, the snarky-yet-emotional, and spot-on intuitive Britney. She’s a very typical INFP, although she can lean towards the extroverted when it suits her, and can temporarily switch into “thinking” mode when it is necessary. Her greatest strength, like most “NFP” combinations, is her ability to adapt; her greatest weakness is a tendency to avoid making waves, even when her intuition says she’s not making the choice that’s best for her. However, as long as she’s around, she’ll be resilient and come up with an alternate plan. Her snarky sense of humour, generally unthreatening physique and demeanour, and appearance of not spending too much time plotting and planning makes her endearing to most, and if not, she is underestimated by those who will be voted out first because they overestimate themselves.
I’m pulling for the unlikely alliance of Ian and Britney to make it to the end, although it’s not so unlikely. It turns out Britney’s not the superficial, dumb blonde type that’s there to be easily manipulated; she started off as pre-med in college. And her husband is a geeky guy who she discusses bringing out of his shell and falling in love with him. It’s natural that Ian looks up to Britney, and Britney sees him as a younger brother she may develop a genuine attachment to. In the end, she would choose him over her good friend Danielle, or her former teammate Shane, likely because Ian plays a similar game…intelligent, less than threatening, and aware of what’s going on at all times.
Oh, and for the record, tonight’s evictee, Wil, is another NF personality type; ENFJ. He shares a personality type with some of Big Brother’s most memorable players, people who didn’t win on multiple occasions because they had the intuition to figure things out, but couldn’t find a way to emotionally process the information and come up with a plan that would work. Last season’s Rachel Reilly (who did win, on her second try) and Jeff Schroeder are both ENFJ’s, although Rachel probably borders on ENFP.
Although it seems that an INTJ (the Mastermind) would win the game, Mike Boogie is actually an ENTJ who fancies himself a mastermind. He’s just a little too talkative to be the true INTJ he needs to be, sharing information he doesn’t need to share at times. His arrogance and need for attention keeps him from playing the game that Will Kirby, the ultimate INTJ, played and won. ENTJs and INTJs are not the same, and can’t play the same game successfully. Frank, (ESFP) who charms people by being the ultimate “P” (if he were any more laid back, you’d believe he was stoned), clueless Ashley (ISFP), information-gathering Jen (INTP), and alpha-male Shane who is willing to go with the flow (ESTP) are probably going to stick around longer. To round out the cast, compassionate but aware Dan is an ISTP, loud, opinionated Joe is an ESFJ, and scheming, manipulative Janelle was the other side to his coin, ESTJ.
Is there one of everyone? Just about. Unless Frank is truly an ENFP, they’re missing me this season. Most likely the season’s ENFP was the one who turned things upside down by demonstrating ENFPs gone wrong can be downright scary: Willie Hantz, or brash New Yorker JoJo, who was not willing to compromise her authenticity for anyone or anything.
An interesting question for CBS: Which personality type has won Big Brother most often? What about Survivor?
I bet somewhere, a psychology student thinks that’s an excellent topic for a paper. You’re welcome.