Personality Types with Poor Memories

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Memory can be a fickle thing. A name that we have uttered a thousand times may suddenly elude us, or an important meeting that we chose not to put on our calendar may slip our minds, yet we may still be able to recite the phone number of our best friend from childhood, even after decades have passed.

But does memory have anything to do with personality?

We asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Your memory fails you often.” With just 43% agreeing, it would seem that our 16Personalities community members are relatively confident in their memories. But the results also reveal significant variations between the Energy, Tactics, and Identity aspects.

Which personality types experience the greatest problems with memory? Let’s take a closer look at the data below.

Roles

Diplomats (51% agreeing)

Although Diplomats as a group were neutral on the topic of memory, the responses of individual personality types were divided around the Tactics aspect. Overall, Prospecting types (52%) were 15% more likely than Judging types (37%) to admit to having memory problems. Prospecting types are flexible improvisers who don’t like to plan too far ahead. While this keeps them open to opportunities, it can also be a somewhat haphazard way to live. It’s easy for Prospecting personalities to lose track of things like past decisions or upcoming plans.

The Intuitive and Feeling personality traits also factored into this result. Intuitive types (49%) were 11% more likely than Observant types (38%) to agree with our statement, and Feeling types (45%) were 5% more likely than Thinking types (41%) to agree.

In a way, Intuitive personalities are never fully present – some part of their mind is always elsewhere, wondering, imagining, making connections. When you’re not completely focused on what’s going on around you, it can be easy to forget things. As Feeling types, Diplomats also tend to filter their experiences through their emotions, and that can be distracting too. It’s the Intuitive–Feeling combination that really gives Diplomats a reputation for being the most absent-minded of the Roles.

Dreamy Mediators (INFP) (58%) fit that description best, and they were the personality type that agreed with our statement the most. Idealistic and imaginative, Mediators frequently get lost in thought and may forget to tend to day-to-day tasks or responsibilities. It takes real effort sometimes for Mediators to recall details like scheduled appointments or pressing errands or where their keys are, which is why they’re more apt to feel like their memory is failing them.

Explorers and Analysts (47% and 46%)

In Explorers, the influence of the Prospecting personality trait is balanced out by the Observant trait. As much as Explorers like to live from one moment to the next, they’re still down-to-earth, practical, and aware of their surroundings, attributes that help them remember things. While those with the Feeling trait, like Adventurers (ISFP) (54%), did agree at higher rates than those with the Thinking trait, like Virtuosos (ISTP) (40%), Explorers were pretty neutral overall.

Analysts were relatively neutral too, although their responses were divided along the Judging–Prospecting dichotomy, with personalities like Logicians (INTP) (52%) agreeing at higher rates than Commanders (ENTJ) (38%). Like Diplomats, Analysts share the Intuitive trait, but the absent-mindedness that can come with that is tempered somewhat by their core Thinking trait. As focused as Analysts are on being logical, objective, and precise, important facts and details are less likely to escape their memory.

Sentinels (32%)

Of all the Roles, Sentinels were the only true outlier to demonstrate a strong response to the issue of memory. With these personality types, we see just how beneficial the Observant–Judging trait combination can be to memory.

Because of Observant personalities’ practical focus on reality, events of the past and present stick with them. That focus is supported by the Judging tendency to plan ahead, pay attention to facts and details, and organize everything they do. Even if their memories do sometimes fall short, Sentinels can rely on their strong habits, like meticulous note-taking, calendar-marking, and organizing, to keep them on track.

Executives (ESTJ) (27%) were the least likely of all personality types to agree that they have memory problems. Executives are dedicated, reliable individuals who seek to maintain order and uphold tradition. They have strong opinions and long memories in regards to how things are supposed to work, and they’re unlikely to forget even the most granular details – how could they be model citizens otherwise?

Strategies

Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (53% and 51% agreeing)

In this study, the largest gap between personality traits occurred in the Identity aspect, with Turbulent types (52%) being 18% more likely than Assertive types (34%) to agree that their memory fails them often. The Identity aspect relates not just to how confident we are in our abilities – which is always a struggle for Turbulent personalities – but also to how we react to external feedback.

If other people are frequently coming down on Constant Improvers and Social Engagers for forgetting things, they’re going to take that negative feedback to heart and stress out about it. The perfectionism and pernicious self-criticism that characterizes these personalities may serve to highlight in their minds those times when forgetfulness proved embarrassing, costly, or otherwise troublesome.

Confident Individualism and People Mastery (35% and 34%)

As Assertive personalities, Confident Individualists and People Masters indicated that they grapple with memory issues much less than their Turbulent counterparts do. Individuals with Assertive Identities are self-confident, and they tend not to push themselves too hard or worry too much about what others think of them.

It could be the case that Confident Individualists’ and People Masters’ confidence in their sharp minds makes them less inclined to forgetfulness, or it could simply be that they’re less bothered by those times when their memory comes up short.

Conclusions

There may be a bit of irony implicit in a statement like, “Your memory fails you often.” After all, if you can readily recollect how often your memory has failed you, isn’t that evidence that you remember things well? This may apply to Turbulent personality types more than others, as their cognizance of those times when their memory let them down may have more to do with being preoccupied by their faults and failures in general.

For most people who agreed with our statement, though, they’re probably bothered not by individual instances but by a persistent sense that something is off – that they’re constantly forgetting about appointments or misplacing their cell phone or struggling to recall people or events from the past. Personality types with the Intuitive or Prospecting traits are the most prone to these absent-minded tendencies.

Taking a page from Sentinels’ book on how to be organized and detail-oriented may help these individuals feel less scatterbrained and more grounded in both their past and their present.

Does your memory frequently fail you? Do you see your personality type as a factor in your forgetfulness? Share your experiences in the comments below.

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

3 months ago
I can’t remember mundane things: where objects are, when I have to pay a bill (unless I set a reminder), but I can remember abstract things. I remember historical dates. I remember what someone wore twenty years ago. I remember events like they happened yesterday. I do remember people’s birthdays, because I’m into astrology and I remember their planetary signs and whatnot. So my memory is either photographic or fuzzy, depending on what it is, how many emotions are attached to it, and how interesting I find it. My boyfriend is INTP-T, and he’s the same way. Though he remembers where he left things better than I do.
1 month ago
Same, with me. With people, I cash be horrible with names and/or looks, but remember every detail of our conversation (right down to relatives’ names). We may feel like our memory fails us because we don’t remember the things that most people remember. But, we may remember things that most people never even noticed. We use our memory differently than others. And, maybe we hold ourselves to higher standards than others do themselves and/or than we do others.
4 months ago
Very interesting.
4 months ago
Wait, what's memory? I forgot. (INFP-T here)
4 months ago
When I've been working on something all day, don't ask me we're I put my car keys. 75% chance I'll fail to answer.
4 months ago
My memory is horrible. This thing is really accurate.
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