Stories have been an important part of culture for thousands of years. In ancient times, heroic adventures contained wisdom and mores that helped shape and entertain those societies. These days, people often tell stories to share their own personal adventures.
Stories help us relate to the human experience, and they can affect us deeply, whether true or fictitious. Unfortunately, there are those who present fiction as truth (sometimes knowingly) in an attempt to sway our views, cater to our desires, inflame our biases, or simply have some fun. We may like – and believe in – a story so much that we don’t question it or seek to verify it. Some might argue that this is a growing problem in our world today with potentially serious ramifications.
To see what role personality type may play in how easily we believe the stories we hear or read, we asked our community whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You do not believe in stories that you cannot verify yourself.” Overall, a modest majority (63%) agreed, but we saw some clear differences among personality types:
Which personality types are more inclined to approach stories with skepticism? Let’s dive into the data below.
Analysts (75% agreeing)
It may not be surprising to see Analysts at the top of the results. In fact, Thinking personality types overall were 19% more likely than Feeling types to agree that they don’t believe in stories that they can’t verify themselves (75% vs. 56%).
Analysts deeply value a rational approach to life, preferring to construct their beliefs from facts and logical relationships. When they hear a story, they analyze it, subjecting it to any number of logical filters and tests to see if it fits with their established knowledge and makes sense. This process often includes verifying the story – if a factual basis exists, the rest of the story may be believable.
Analysts’ high agreement may also reflect the confidence and pride that these personalities tend to take in their intellectual abilities. Of course, just because Analysts are critical thinkers doesn’t mean that they aren’t sometimes susceptible to their own prejudices and to making mistakes.
Architects (INTJ) were the personality type most likely to agree with our statement. Architects are endlessly curious, and their natural thirst for knowledge often inspires them to look closer or learn more about a story. As strategic thinkers, they also can’t help bringing a certain degree of skepticism to a story coming from an outside source, which may drive them to verify it before they’ll believe it.
Sentinels’ responses were divided along the lines of the Thinking and Feeling personality traits: Logisticians (ISTJ) (79%), for instance, were significantly more likely to agree than Consuls (ESFJ) (56%). As Judging personalities, Sentinels tend to desire clear, indisputable facts and to value that which is practical and organized. This may motivate many Sentinels, especially Thinking types, to try to verify stories.
That said, Sentinels are also more willing than other personalities to put their faith in traditional structures of society. They may feel confident that they can believe a story that comes from a trustworthy authority figure or friend. Sentinels with the Feeling trait are more comfortable relying on less tangible information, like social feedback or community consensus, in choosing to believe a story.
Explorers were also divided, with Thinking personalities agreeing at much higher rates. Flexible and individualistic, thanks to their Prospecting trait, Explorers may spend more or less energy verifying stories depending on how useful or interesting they are.
Technically and logically inclined Explorers might prefer to verify stories because they rely on accuracy to inform their practices – they believe in whatever works. More emotionally oriented Explorers may be less interested in the facts of a story, seeking instead inspiration for their curious minds.
Entertainers (ESFP) (52%) were the least likely of all personality types to agree with our statement. Highly social and spontaneous, Entertainers can sometimes get carried away in their own storytelling and may take a similarly loose approach to stories they hear from other people. That’s not to say that Entertainers are intentionally deceitful or uninterested in the truth – after all, nearly half of them agreed that they do try to verify stories – just that their fun-loving attitude can help them appreciate a good story on its face, especially if it has entertainment value.
Diplomat personalities, who share the Feeling trait, agreed the least of any Role. Beliefs and principles are extremely important to Diplomats, but they are generally less critical than their Analyst cousins, approaching life with a logic composed of feelings as well as facts.
Diplomats also have greater appreciation for the social function of stories, seeing them as an essential way for people to understand, engage, and appreciate each other, regardless of whether they’re verifiable. For Diplomats, the truths that stories convey about human connections and emotions are just as important as technical facts.
The Strategies did not show much variation, with just a 3% difference between both Extraverted and Introverted personalities (64% vs. 61%, respectively) and Assertive and Turbulent personalities (64% vs. 61%). But there are still some differences worth pointing out.
Confident Individualism (68% agreeing)
Confident Individualists like to rely on themselves, and that sort of independence makes it only natural that they’d be reluctant to believe a story that they couldn’t verify themselves. Instead of seeking a sense of inclusion and social harmony through believing in people’s stories, these Introverts seek to establish or maintain their own views. Confidently Assertive personalities, they’re more likely to question what they hear or read.
Constant Improvement and People Mastery (62% each)
Despite having contrasting personality traits, Constant Improvers and People Masters agreed at similar rates. Constant Improvers, as Introverts, may share some of the independent tendencies of Confident Individualists, but their Turbulent Identity can make them less likely to question the truth of stories because their own perspective is less certain. Simply put, their self-doubt may open them to belief.
People Masters, as Extraverts, enjoy the overt social interaction of sharing stories, giving them less motivation to question what they hear from others. Of course, their Assertive Identity also makes them far more confident in their own beliefs, so if something seems suspicious, they won’t hesitate to look into it further.
Social Engagement (59%)
Extraverted, Turbulent Social Engagers like getting into a story and may be more willing to accept other peoples’ stories without challenging them because they feed off of the positive social interaction. Social rewards like a sense of inclusion and acceptance may sometimes outweigh a need for strict accuracy. With 59% of Social Engagers agreeing, however, it’s apparent that most of the time, these personalities do prefer to verify stories.
As much as we may wish that we could simply trust in other peoples’ stories, in the end, a majority of us feel more confident and reassured if we can access some proof to confirm them.
Personalities with the Thinking trait are especially apt to want to get the facts and understand the logical connections in a story, rather than freely believing it. Feeling personalities may generally be more trusting of stories, but it’s important to note that they are not by any means more gullible. Perhaps these empathetic types are just confident that they can sense the deeper meaning behind a story, even if some of the surface details are questionable.
What about you? Do you believe in stories that you can’t verify? Let us know why or why not in the comments below.