The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) is a self-assessment tool that helps to identify and define an individual’s personality type, strengths, differences, and psychological preferences. It is a self-report tool that shows how a person sees themselves, others, and the world. Let us take a closer look at this valid, reliable, and widely used psychometric test and its limitations.
What Is The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator?
MBTI is a personality inventory and self-help questionnaire specifically designed to understand our psychological preferences, perceptions, how we learn, work & make decisions. It is a reliable and well known personality assessment tool that is considered as a framework for different areas of personal development and human interactions, such as professional work, team building, learning, developing optimism, relationship-building and acquiring personal effectiveness. It helps us gain insight on personalities, strengths, weaknesses, compatibility with others, how we interact or prefer to communicate with our external environment and what motivates us. It primarily focuses on a person’s preferences rather than their capabilities.
According to a 2016 study 1 , since the first publication, “the MBTI tool has been administered to millions of people worldwide as a tool for team building, leadership and coaching, conflict management and career development.” The study adds that the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator currently involves 93 questions and may require 15-25 minutes to answer. The results are categorically divided into 4 dichotomies or 8 personality preferences 2 –
- Extraversion (E) vs Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P)
These dimensions result in 16 different personality types or combinations. These 16 personality types are formed by taking a letter from each dimension to create a four-letter term to identify the test results, like INFP or ESFJ. These indicate a person’s propensity in each category. Although more research is needed to validate the instrument, researchers 3 typically have found “generally favorable validity assessment” for the MBTI.
Read More About Introversion Here
Origin Of The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator
The psychometric test was designed by American writers Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs in the 1940s. It was mainly based on the theory of psychological type created by Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung 4. Jung proposed that we perceive and interact with our world based on four fundamental psychological functions, such as feeling, sensing, intuiting & thinking. Although all of us are capable of all these functions, each of us rely on a specific function over the others. MBTI focuses on identifying individual preferences that are influenced by our needs, values, motivations and interests. According to a recent research paper 5 , Isabel Myers “modeled this questionnaire on Jung’s theory of ‘individual preference 6 ,’ which suggests that seemingly random variation in human behavior is actually attributable to fundamental individual differences in mental and emotional functioning.” These random variations are seen as ways a person prefers to “use their minds.”
Initially, the psychometric test was developed by Myers & Briggs during the Second World War to enhance working relationships among health care professionals, especially female nurses. They believed that gaining a better understanding of personality preferences would empower women in the workforce to identify which jobs would be most suitable for them. Originally published in 1944 as the Briggs Myers Type Indicator Handbook, it was modified to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator later in 1956.
Purpose Of MBTI
The purpose of MBTI is to make Jung’s theory of psychological types understandable and applicable in our daily lives. It helps us to understand that random variations in behaviors tend to be consistent and organized as there are certain fundamental differences in how we prefer to utilize our judgment, decision making and perception. The objective of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is to “increase awareness of oneself as well as others,” and achieve personal growth through Jungian individuation. The process of individuation involves “integration, differentiation, and development” of our skills and traits. When we are better able to understand our individual preferences, we can start to evaluate and implement our preferences for the betterment of our professional and personal lives. Although the original application of this self-assessment tool was intended for effective team building, it can also prove beneficial for improving communication, problem-solving, evaluation techniques and bringing necessary strategic changes to workflow.
Isabel Myers was concerned about our society’s awareness of human potential. She believed that by understanding the various personality variations we encounter in our daily lives, we will be better able to contribute to the world. Hence, the goal of this self-report tool is to highlight the limitless potential of the human personality.
The Four Dichotomies
The Myers-Briggs questionnaire involves four different scales and each scale includes two different, yet associated, personality preferences. Here are the four scales –
1. Extraversion [E] – Introversion [I]
This scale deals with our energy flow and how people react to external and internal stimuli. Extraverts or extroverts are turned outwards while introverts are turned inwards. Extroverts 7 are people who are stimulated by events and other people, external to themselves. They can express their feelings easily, tend to work in groups well, love socializing and are action-oriented. Introverts 8 tend to prefer self-examination, reflection, self-discovery, enjoy meaningful social connections and are thought-oriented. They prefer working alone, try hiding their feelings and learn by watching other people.
2. Sensing [S] – Intuition [N]
This MBTI scale is concerned with the way we learn information. Sensing individuals make use of their five senses of hearing, taste, touch, sight and smell to interpret and understand the world. They prefer practical exercises, real-life examples and understand facts, but may miss out on the core meaning. People who are intuitive tend to rely on their instincts. They work according to their feelings and hunches, use their imagination and understand the primary meaning of things, while missing out on certain facts.
3. Thinking [T] – Feeling [F]
This scale is concerned with the way we make decisions. People who are thinkers use objective criteria and logic. They love asking “Why?” and enjoy discussions and debates. Individuals who belong to the feeling scale can feel and sense their subjective ideas and values. They tend to use a lot of words and prefer agreement and harmony. They are also altruistic in nature.
4. Judging [J] – Perceiving [P]
This Myers-Briggs Type Indicator scale focuses on how we deal with the external world. People who judge are purposeful in nature. They like to adhere to rules, plans and structures. People who are perceiving take a laid back and relaxed approach. They are more flexible than others, like to explore and are open to change.
The 16 Personality Types Of MBTI
The four psychological scales can have sixteen different combinations with each other, depending on which psychological function an individual is most dominant in. For example, a person who has a preference for Extroversion, Sensing, Feeling and Judging would have an ESFJ personality type, according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This way 16 different functions can arise from the combination of 4×4 different personality types.
There are also certain types of characteristics that are attributed to each type, which describes what an individual is like. The sixteen different combinations are as follows:
1. Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgement (ISTJ)
People who conform to this category tend to be practical, reserved and quiet. They love being organized and enjoy order in all aspects of their lives, like work, home, family and even self-improvement projects. They have an eye for detail and are observant in nature. On the other hand, they can be judgmental, insensitive, subjective and have a tendency to blame others for their mistakes.
2. Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving (ISTP)
People with this type of personality are independent in nature and enjoy their own company. They are confident, easy going and love action, adventure and new experiences. On the other hand, they can be insensitive, can get bored easily, may not like commitments and can also prefer not to open up to people.
3. Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging (ISFJ)
Individuals belonging to this personality type are practical in nature. They give importance to concrete facts and like to live a structured and consistent life. They are also sensitive and have an eye for detail. However, they tend to neglect their own needs and also dislike any kind of change. They are closed to abstract theories & concepts and are more likely to rely on solid evidence or facts
4. Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving (ISFP)
People with ISFP personality type are easy-going in nature, quiet and peaceful. They are practical and enjoy hands-on learning. They are also loyal to their beliefs and values. On the other hand, they are generally reserved. They have a strong need for their own personal space and dislike conflicts or arguments of any sort.
5. Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging (INFJ)
Individuals with this type of Myers-Briggs indicator personality are compassionate in nature and tend to help others. They are organized, highly creative and artistic. They value deep meaningful relationships and enjoy wondering about the meaning of life. On the other hand, they are overly sensitive and can be hard to open up to people. They dislike confrontations of any sort and hold very high expectations from people.
6. Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving (INFP)
Here, people tend to be very loyal and devoted in nature. They are caring for others and value close relationships. They work alone quite well and focus on their personal feelings and intuition while making decisions. However, they can be overly idealistic and can take things personally. They tend to overlook small details and sometimes miss out on the minute things in life.
7. Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging (INTJ)
Individuals belonging to this category are hard-working, self-confident and are good at listening. They enjoy abstract and theoretical concepts and take criticism in a constructive manner. However, they can sometimes be judgmental and overly analytical in nature. They dislike talking about their emotions and can sometimes come off as insensitive or callous.
8. Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving (INTP)
These individuals are logical and objective. They are abstract thinkers and are independent in nature. They are also affectionate and loyal to their close and loved ones. On the other hand, they can be insensitive and have trouble expressing their feelings. They are also prone to doubting their own selves and have problems following rules.
9. Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving (ESTP)
People who conform to this type of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tend to make decisions easily. They have strong social skills and are resourceful, adaptable and observant in nature. They are funny, energetic and are action-oriented. However, they tend to be too impulsive or dramatic at times. They get easily bored and can also come off as insensitive to others.
10. Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging (ESTJ)
People with this type of personality are practical and realistic. They are confident and hardworking and have strong leadership skills. However, they can be insensitive and poor at expressing their feelings. Sometimes, they might come off as too argumentative or bossy in nature.
11. Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving (ESFP)
People with an ESFP personality tend to be resourceful and practical. They are optimistic in nature and enjoy socializing and spending time with people. They are practical and like to focus more on the present. However, they can be impulsive and can get bored easily. They also have a tendency of making plans at the last moment.
12. Extraverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging (ESFJ)
Such people are organized, loyal and outgoing in nature. They are generous and enjoy helping other people. However, they sometimes can appear as too needy. They dislike change and are sensitive to criticism. They can also be controlling in nature and intolerant.
13. Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving (ENFP)
ENFPs are warm and enthusiastic in nature. They have strong social and communication skills and are also highly creative. However, they tend to seek validation from others and get stressed out easily over small things. They also overthink a lot and struggle to follow norms and rules.
14. Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging (ENFJ)
These individuals are empathetic, affectionate and outgoing in nature. They are organized, warm-hearted and have a wide social circle. However, they can be overly sensitive in nature and are indecisive sometimes. They can also be manipulative and uncompromising in situations.
15. Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving (ENTP)
People with ENTP personality are innovative, creative and enjoy debating on various topics. They value knowledge and can make good conversations with people. On the other hand, they dislike schedules and routines. They hate being controlled by someone else and are often insensitive or unfocused.
16. Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging (ENTJ)
People from this category have strong leadership qualities. They are good at making decisions and are well organized. They are confident and also possess good communication skills. However, they can be impatient, insensitive and stubborn. They can also be intolerant and aggressive towards others.
Read More About Extroversion Here
Reliability And Validity Of MBTI
When psychologists or practitioners assess a test or questionnaire, they often ask two key questions: “Is it reliable?” and “Is it valid?” The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) scores well on both of those criteria.
A 2010 study 9 states that MBTI is used worldwide and “has been extensively tested for reliability and validity.” It has been observed to be highly reliable and accurate with around 90% average test-retest correlation. However, several experts have long questioned the MBTI’s scientific credibility. According to a 2020 research paper 10 , even though there was considerable variance, the MBTI and its scales typically produce scores with excellent internal consistency and test-retest reliability estimates.
Positive empirical studies support the item validity 11 and construct validity 12 of the MBTI. Researchers have demonstrated the validity of the instrument in three areas throughout the years:
- Validity of the four independent preference scales
- Validity of the four preference pairings as dichotomies
- Validity of entire types or specific combinations of preferences
One study 13 states that “Jung’s theory is either incorrect or inadequately operationalized by the MBTI and cannot provide a sound basis for interpreting it.” Some researchers propose that the MBTI is untrustworthy since different people might obtain different results while taking the exam multiple times. Other studies 14 have questioned the MBTI’s validity, or the test’s capacity to properly relate the personality types to real-world outcomes, such as how well a person categorized in a specific type will do in a certain profession.
Criticism Of The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Although some studies 15 show that the MBTI is an “adequately reliable self-report inventory,” it should be noted that the psychometric test is criticized by academic researchers as it is based on Carl Jung’s unproven beliefs. Jung himself cautioned that his personality types were more like rough trends he had observed rather than precise classifications. Some experts even consider the tool as pseudoscience as it involves notable scientific deficiencies, such as poor validity, poor reliability, dependent evaluation categories and for not being comprehensive. Several studies 16 have found that the test is completely useless for predicting people’s employment performance and that roughly half of those who take it again obtain different answers each time.
Although the MBTI divides people into 16 types, most personality psychologists think that continuous characteristics are better at describing individual variations in personality than discrete type classifications. They point out that the score distributions of the MBTI scales are continuous, with most scores falling in the centre rather than stacking up at the extremes, as type theory might anticipate.
Misconceptions About MBTI
There are several major misconceptions regarding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Jungian typology that have caused it to lose a lot of its credibility as a result of the inflow of poorly-researched information. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions:
1. It is intended to be descriptive rather than predictive.
Organizations that utilize the MBTI evaluation incorrectly for recruiting choices are mistaking preference with competence, and they are doing themselves a disservice by filtering out potentially competent candidates.
2. It is intended to be descriptive, not diagnostic.
Clinical psychology is primarily concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. The MBTI test is supposed to be descriptive, and not diagnostic, of the typical features of persons with various personality types. Numerous psychologists are now using the MBTI evaluation for non-diagnostic purposes.
3. It is not intended to evaluate mental health
The MBTI tool does not assess mental health; there are no positive or negative outcomes. It categorizes people into groups, all of which are desirable. Many tools assess the amount or degree of a personality attribute, such as shyness or attention to detail. Normally, having more or less quality is good, however, with the MBTI instrument, all categories are favorable. This tool does not compare our results to those of others, nor does it assess us against any normal or abnormal standard.
Applications Of The MBTI Test
The purpose of the MBTI assessment is to help individuals understand themselves better. It also helps people strengthen their relationships with others. Although the test has its limitations as human personalities are more complicated, it has some useful applications such as:
1. Managing staff and new recruits
In a professional setting, the test may be useful for determining the strengths and weaknesses of new recruits in the organization. It can help the hiring process by determining which role an individual is most suited for.
2. Guiding people’s careers
The MBTI can be useful to determine what type of jobs or positions a person will find most satisfying, rewarding and fulfilling. This can help them make important decisions regarding their career.
3. Improving interpersonal relationships
It helps us understand which type of people we can best relate to and communicate with. This can enable us to improve our interpersonal communication skills by focusing on our and others’ preferred communication styles.
4. Developing training and education
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test can help develop teaching methods that can ensure all the personality types understand and learn better.
5. Advising and coaching
It helps individuals to understand and recognize themselves better. It can assist us in identifying our strengths and addressing our weaknesses for personal development.
The Myers-Briggs assessment was an important personality test assessment at the time it was developed and was widely acclaimed within the psychological community. However, more research has shown that there are some shortcomings to it, which are resolved by more recent and modern versions of a personality test assessment.
Myers-Briggs At A Glance
- Myers-Briggs or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality assessment test based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.
- The MBTI is a self-assessment questionnaire that reflects how people tend to perceive the world and make decisions.
- The purpose of the Myers-Briggs type indicator assessment is to help individuals understand themselves better.
- Sixteen different combinations of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have different psychological characteristics to it.
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