Aug. 29th, 2013

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 MBTI in Fiction classifies fictional characters by MBTI personality type and Hogwarts house. This is objectively awesome. It's made me think once again about how woefully inadequate the Hogwarts house system is as a classification system. 

I'll go on record anytime as saying that I love, love, love the MBTI. I don't care that it has no scientific support. It's an elegant system. Its categories mix and match and interlock in organized, revealing, interesting ways. Each letter describes something important and bedrock about a person; each option describes a choice that makes sense and isn't judgmental (it's not good to be an extrovert or bad to be an introvert, or vice versa; it is what it is). Four letters are never going to be enough to describe every aspect of a person's personality, but the MBTI categories describe some of the most important things, and describe them well.
J.K. Rowling may have intended the Hogwarts Houses to be another amusing if unscientific way to describe personality, and people like to treat it that way. The Sorting Hat ideas begs to be turned into a web test, "Which Hogwarts House Are YOU?" ANd I know it's been done. But the categories are just so useless. It's not even fun to think about, and I love to think about how to categorize people in various ways. 

When you get down to it, the categories boil down to Brave (Gryffindor), Nice but Stupid also Plump with a Love of Plants (Hufflepuff), Smart but Untrustworthy (Ravenclaw), and Pure Evil (Slytherin). 

These "categories" are not exclusive enough (you could have more than one of the qualities at the same time), not inclusive enough (lots of people don't fall into any of the categories), judgmental (some are clearly better than others), and on top of that, just completely bizarre.

If I were going to design a fictional magical boarding school personality test, I would probably end up making it a loose map of the MBTI in some way, but there are plenty of simple ways to sort people that are way, way, way better. Just off the top of my head:

What drives you? In this hypothetical scenario, students would be sorted by their main motivation for learning magic (and their general internal win conditions for life). 

Gryffindor: Changing the world. Gryffindors want to have an effect on the world. It doesn't matter if they are recognized for it (see Slytherin), but they want to do something meaningful. Often, this translates into humanitarian work, but remember: the Unabomber was also a Gryffindor. 

Hufflepuff: Love. Nurturing others. Hufflepuffs tend to see it as their happy duty to raise children. They are also the sons and daughters who will care for their parents as they age. Hufflepuffs prefer a simple life and tend to stay out of the limelight, but they are the ones who do most of the quiet, hard work of keeping wizard society going. 

Ravenclaw: Creation. Ravenclaws want to leave something tangible behind when they die, such as a great work of art or scholarship. Famous Ravenclaws include Shakespeare and Euclid. 

Slytherin: Fame and recognition. Slytherins want to make it into history books, by name. Slytherins make good politicians, actors, and pop stars. Famous Slytherins include most famous people, including Lady Gaga and Thomas Jefferson (though Benjamin Franklin was actually a Ravenclaw). 
What is your primary virtue? One of the main problems with the Hogwarts houses is that some are good and some are evil. People tend to think of themselves as good, even if they aren't. By aligning each house to a virtue, we can eliminate the judgment, while allowing students to end up doing good or evil work in practice (because their devotion to their house's virtues still leaves room for a lack of development in other virtues). With help from 

Gryffindor: Virtues of self-efficacy: Courage, perseverance, patience, grit. Motto: "Do the right thing." Opposing vices (Gryffindors don't have this, but other houses might): Spinelessness, apathy. Gryffindors are not deterred by years or decades of failure and opposition. Gryffindors make excellent scientists, social workers, and pioneers.

Hufflepuff: Virtues of kindness: Generosity, compassion, forgiveness. Motto: "Be excellent to each other and party on." Opposing vice (Hufflepuffs don't have this, but other houses might): Cruelty, insensitivity, grudge-holding. Hufflepuffs are acutely aware of suffering and do their best to ease it. Hufflepuffs make excellent nurses, parents, and zookeepers.

Ravenclaw:  Virtues of regard: Honesty, fair-mindedness, tolerance. Motto: "Keep an open mind." Opposing vices (Ravenclaws don't have this, but other houses might): Bigotry, duplicity. Ravenclaws are driven to find truth and are willing to consider radical new ideas. Ravenclaws make excellent philosophers, revolutionaries, and cult leaders.

Virtues of self-control: Temperance, ambition, frugality, industry. Motto: "Work before reward." Opposing vices (Slytherins don't have this, but other houses might): Anger, sluttiness, wastefulness, procrastination. Slytherins are driven, organized, and generally immune to temptation. Slytherins make excellent stockbrokers, farmers, and fascists. 

What's your Hippocratic humor? 

Gryffindor: Sanguine, an excess of blood

Hufflepuff: Phelgmatic, an excess of phlegm

Ravenclaw: Melancholic, an excess of black bile

Slytherin: Choleric, an excess of yellow bile



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