I was perplexed by Amy Argetsinger's Oct. 25 Metro article, "Test of Character; U.S. Naval Academy Analyzes Personality Types to Slow Dropout Rate."

The personality test being used is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, hardly a test of character. To be sure, the dropout rate will be higher among midshipmen with certain MBTI profiles. But by placing too much emphasis on that fact, the academy may fall into the trap of concluding that most voluntary attrition occurs because certain personality types cannot adapt to military life.

Any valid solution to a dropout problem at the Naval Academy has more to do with making sure the elements of a rigorous military program are legitimate than with recruitment of individuals with the ideal personality traits to endure plebe summer.

The article also promoted stereotypes regarding the military personality--e.g., that successful military leaders are usually forceful extroverts. As the former associate dean of faculty and academic programs at one of the war colleges (the Industrial College of the Armed Forces), I recall that when the MBTI was taken by officers each year, the results showed a fairly even divide between extroverts and introverts.

The article states that "studies of [MBTI] test results from the Pentagon's war colleges show that fewer than 20 percent of admirals and generals are personality types other than forceful "thinkers-judgers." I suspect that most members of flag and general officer promotion boards have been forceful thinker-judgers themselves and therefore are drawn toward copies of themselves. The essential question is how that 20 percent of admirals and generals compares with the remaining 80 percent on performance once promoted.


Arnold, Md.