Is There a Connection Between Divergent’s “TEST” and the Myers-Briggs Assessment?
The film Divergent (watch the trailer here) hit movie theaters worldwide March 21st, earning $54.6M at the box office during its opening weekend. Based on a series of novels by Veronica Roth, Divergent portrays a world where the personality assessment is the basis of social organization.
So many people have brought up Divergent recently, asking about its relation to real-world personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment and their role in determining identity in our society. Between running the MBTI® certification programs, taking calls from reporters and leading team building and leadership workshops, I decided to embark on a journey of intellectual stimulation via the pop culture narrative on psychological assessments (aka take a trip to the movie theater) to see for myself what Divergent was all about.
And I’d been craving popcorn for some time.
Basically the premise of Divergent is “If you can’t categorize people, how can you control them?” (sounds like the opposite of “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”). In terms of any “testing” used in the film, it’s some serum you take that allows a machine to read your mind that tells the “test reader” and part-time tattoo artist (really!) which faction you test towards.
However, in the end, regardless of test results, you get to decide which faction you want to join. Sound familiar? I thought this portrayal was particularly interesting because this is one parallel with the MBTI® tool and finding your best-fit type. By the way, the test in the movie is given no name but “THE TEST” which is described as an “aptitude test based on your personality.” Also, about “95% of test takers report in the same faction as their parents.” You can take what is called an “aptitude test” (no serum required) on the movie website: http://divergentthemovie.com/ if you are curious. I report in the Amity faction! I think that fits me okay, though Divergent definitely fits me better (keep reading).
Once you join your faction, you still have to prove you belong. If you don’t belong, you get kicked out and you don’t get to pick another faction or go back to your parents and live in your old room. You become “factionless”(which is portrayed as people digging around in the trash and looking overall very dejected). Unlike the MBTI assessment, which tries to stress that “all types can do all things,” the test in Divergent is a basis for stratifying society.
Anyway, the film was a bit too long in my personal opinion (I thought this was going to be a slightly long lunch break but that didn’t end up being the case). I started out not liking Divergent because it reminded me of other films I have already seen (… Hunger Games), then liking it because there was good action and story, then not liking it because it was too long and I needed to get back to work.
The performances were good with the star, Shailene Woodley as Tris (from The Descendants), standing out as a new version of Jennifer Lawrence. Theo James as Four, the brooding love interest with a cool tattoo and Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet) as the tough Christina of the Candor faction were really good additions.
A Divergent, by the way, is a person who “tests” as not fitting into any one faction (I think almost everyone can relate to this feeling – see my upcoming TEDxBoyleHeights talk on celebrating differences). The five factions are Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave), Erudite (intelligent). Divergents are considered a threat to the establishment because they are proof that we don’t all fit into one faction and for some reason fitting into a faction (“faction before blood”) helps us keep the peace. I’m not really sure why that is the case especially because in the end one faction (Erudite with the help of drugged up Dauntless army) tries to take power over from another faction (Agnegation).
SPOILER ALERT – Do not read if you don’t want to know the end of the movie…
In the end, Tris learns of the Erudite plot, falls in love, loses her parents, saves the day, punches Kate Winslet and rides off on a train to “the last stop” knowing she will have to fight again. Sounds like a SEQUEL to me! I would see it.
If you saw the movie, did it make you think of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment? Do you know of any other movies that use personality tests (remember though, the MBTI is an assessment – not a test! There are no right or wrong answers)? Would love to get your feedback!
There are SO many other topics I could talk about regarding Divergent and personality assessments, but I’ll keep quiet unless I see in the comments a specific question.