“Where Are My Keys?!”: Personality Type and Misplacing Things

It happens to all of us on occasion – that moment when we realize we’ve lost our keys, phone, wallet, purse, or notes for a big meeting. (And why does it always seem to happen when we’re on a tight schedule and need to get moving?) But some of us suffer the stress of misplaced items more often than others, and setting aside the possibilities of theft, mischief, and supernatural intervention, there must be a reason why some people constantly lose things.

To find out whether aspects of our personalities might play a role in this unfortunate habit, we asked our community to agree or disagree with the following statement: “You misplace important objects regularly.”

Overall, 46% of our community agreed with the statement, but their responses indicated some significant divisions between traits. Most notably, respondents with the Prospecting personality trait were 29% more likely to agree than those with the Judging trait (61% vs. 32% agreeing, respectively), meaning that the Tactics aspect was the single greatest factor in whether we tend to lose things or keep track of them.

Let’s find out what else the data revealed below.

Roles

Sentinels (25% agreeing)

Only a quarter of Sentinel personality types agreed with the statement. While Sentinels lose their keys from time to time like everyone else, they are by far the Role least plagued by this nuisance. This is hardly a surprise, given Sentinels’ core combination of Judging and Observant traits. Sentinels tend to be painstakingly organized and excellent at constructing reliable and efficient routines, which helps prevent unpleasant surprises like misplacing personal possessions. While this tendency toward inflexibility might complicate other areas of life, in this case it’s a virtue!

Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) were the personality type least likely to agree, at just 18%. Consuls are true organizers, often bringing people together for social occasions, so it’s natural that those planning skills would extend to an ability to keep track of important objects, knowing just where to find things, right when they need them.

Explorers (50%)

That half of Explorer personalities agreed that they regularly lose track of items is also not a surprise, since all Explorers share the Prospecting trait. Being flexible types who are open to spontaneity and pursuing diverse interests, Explorers are subject to more distractions, which can cause them to misplace even important objects.

But Explorers are also balanced out by their core Observant trait, which they have in common with Sentinels. In our survey, Observant personality types were 22% less likely to agree than Intuitive types, making the Energy aspect the second-most influential factor. Observant types tend to be more pragmatic and down-to-earth, making them a bit more reliable than Intuitive types. So even when they lose things, we can trust that Explorers, with their typical perceptiveness and adaptability, can quickly retrace their steps and track them down.

Analysts and Diplomats (53% and 57%)

Consistent with the overall results, the Analyst and Diplomat Roles were both strongly divided in their responses around the Tactics aspect. Architects (INTJ) and Advocates (INFJ), for instance, agreed at 39% and 42% respectively, compared to 63% and 67% agreement from Logicians (INTP) and Campaigners (ENFP).

Analysts’ agreement with the statement might seem at odds with their logical, focused personalities, but their intellectual intensity might actually cause them to lose sight of the little things – literally! Temporarily misplacing something might frustrate Analysts, as they try to understand what went wrong. For personality types concerned with rationality and precision, the seemingly inexplicable disappearance of an object can be troubling – especially if that object is as important as their keys, wallet, or smartphone.

More Diplomats agreed than did any other Role. Diplomats, as Feeling personality types, tend to focus on relationships and issues involving people, rather than on physical objects, so they may pay less attention to where things are located. It’s just not as high a priority for them as it is for some other Roles. And even when their intentions for remembering items are good, they can sometimes get too wrapped up in their own thoughts to successfully do so, thanks to their Intuitive trait. So while being less materially oriented might be a virtue in some respects, it can also cause trouble for Diplomat personalities when it comes to day-to-day organization.

Which personality type was the most likely to agree with our research statement? Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T), we’re looking at you – and chances are, you’re looking for your keys! A healthy majority of Turbulent Meditators (73%) agreed that they misplace important objects on a regular basis. Though these personalities may take a somewhat haphazard approach to certain practical matters of life, they are not absent-minded – their minds are just focused on higher concerns. If rote tasks like putting keys in their proper place take a backseat to loftier, more creative goals, it’s ultimately a small price to pay.

Strategies

Confident Individualism and People Mastery (34% and 36% agreeing)

Personality types with Assertive Identities tended to agree with our research statement at lower rates. In fact, Assertive types were 19% less likely to agree than Turbulent types (35% and 54% agreeing, respectively). As such, respondents belonging to the Confident Individualism and People Mastery Strategies, which are defined in part by the Assertive Identity, were the least likely Strategies to say that they frequently misplace important items. Considering that Assertive personality types are confident in their own abilities and have a generally relaxed attitude toward life, it makes sense that they can stay organized and not worry much about losing items.

Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (54% and 55%)

Turbulent personality types, on the other hand, tend to be more susceptible to stress – and the distractions that come with it – making them more prone to losing track of important items. Thus, respondents in the Constant Improvement and Social Engagement Strategies agreed at significantly higher rates than their Assertive counterparts.

Compounding the issue for Constant Improvers and Social Engagers is their perfectionism. Each time they misplace an item, they’ll focus on it as a mistake that they’ve made, and, being more sensitive to their own shortcomings than Assertive personality types, they’re more likely to feel that losing things is a frequent or ongoing problem. And worrying about it may even become a self-fulfilling prophecy for them. If they’re constantly paranoid about locking their keys in the car, for instance, sooner or later they could turn around and see just that: car locked, keys in the ignition.

Conclusions

We are all generally capable of managing a daily routine, but where we place our life’s energy and efforts can affect how much attention we pay to the little details. For some of us, especially Prospecting and Intuitive personality types, this means that misplacing important objects can be a regular occurrence.

We should also bear in mind that we commonly misplace the things that we handle and transport most often. Each time we handle something, like our phone, is a chance to misplace it. So while even the slightest distraction, perhaps caused by stress or busy schedules, can make anyone misplace such an important item, repeatedly losing things can, over time, become a disruptive influence in our lives, especially for Turbulent personality types.

It can be frustrating when a detail as seemingly insignificant as where we last set our keys suddenly becomes a crisis. Fortunately, in many cases, we can remedy this frustration by simply placing a bowl or tray near the front door – and using it every day!

What about you? Do you regularly misplace important objects? Have you learned any tricks for overcoming this habit? Help us out by sharing them below!

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

7 months ago
Ha! Jokes on you, i'm not looking for my keys. I already looked and couldn't find them :( guess i'll have to ask around.
7 months ago
As a Campaigner - A, I finally understood why I keep losing small things. There is no need for me to have a specific place, or, better saying, I'd never tought about one. There are tons of things more important, like how to integrate 6 diferent process in my workplace, why some people don't like cats, why Vancouver is so amazing, to have a new ideia for a book, figure out a way in the future to keep working in IT, be a psychologist, teacher, do all these things togheter.. Oh man this is such a big world with a lot of cool things to do... The key will be there, over the pc table, or a tray in the wardrobe, or the pant's waistband ..
8 months ago
Yup, I know all too well the panic of thinking that you've lost your wallet at any one of the many places you've been that day... only find that it's at home, on the couch, smothered under piles and piles of unfolded laundry, random receipts, magazines, bags and some other miscellaneous crap. <SIGH> One day my butt will touch that couch.... one day.
8 months ago
Accurate. As a Confident Individual who is also a Mediator. I lose material items quite frequently (with the exception of my laptop, thankfully!) and I have... never worried the way others have. Now I know why my coffee mug gets the worst of it lol
8 months ago
As an assertive architect, I don't tend to lose things often. Generally, I have an easy place for everything--even though it isn't "away" like my mother would always chide me. My purse goes on the dining room table. The cell phone get plugged in on my bedside table (to act an as alarm clock). The keys go on a hook by the front door and next to the dog leashes. To help things, I never changes purses or wallets (or at least, not until they're so worn out as to fall apart), and I try very hard to not to put things in piles (with the notable exception of the mail--so much junk!!) since that is where things tend to get buried. That said, I have misplaced things occasionally. Usually that is when I've been really distracted or really tired and put things in a different place than usual. Or when I'm cleaning the house. See, Mom? That's what comes of putting things away! ;-)
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