Society

What Is A Myers-Briggs Personality Test?

Personality tests can be very entertaining as long as you retain a healthy degree of skepticism and don't use pseudo-science and fads to make important life choices or to judge others.

Curiosity regarding yourself is an excellent quality, and it is only natural to try many different ways to understand better how your mind works and "why it is so." Personality tests can be very entertaining as long as you retain a healthy degree of skepticism and don't use pseudo-science and fads to make important life choices or to judge others.

What Is Myers–Briggs Type Indicator Exactly?

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a self-report questionnaire of the structured type that helps to articulate one's preferences in how they address the world and position themselves in it. The MBTI places everyone into one of 16 different categories, sorting out our personality differences into four opposite pairs, or "dichotomies". 

The MBTI is a tool that utilizes the theory of psychological type as initially created by Carl Jung. Jung classified cognitive functions into two dichotomous pairs: the "rational" (judging) functions (thinking and feeling) and the "irrational", or "perceiving", functions (sensation and intuition). Jung also believed that for every individual, each of the functions takes either an introverted or an extraverted form: outward-turning or inward-turning. The MBTI, however, only implemented about half of the factors Jung identified as meaningful and omitted the rest. 

The Real Deal Or Just Pseudo-Science?

The keyword in the description of the test is "preferences." The test does nothing more than articulate things that you know you prefer: it doesn't measure your ability or aptitude. However, its underlying assumption is that "everyone prefers what is easier for them,"; which, as you would understand, is far from the truth because we possess the will and ability to adapt even if something is difficult. The MBTI also excluded the factors (which Jung himself did identify) that are not exactly your choice: everything subconscious, ability, capacity, environmental impact on your functioning, etc. What is "easier" for us is not necessarily what is desirable: sometimes it is forced on us by the circumstances: extroversion, for example, is often found to be just a result of untreated anxiety disorder. Sitting is "easier" for a person with broken legs, but this doesn't mean it is a preference or something that they do not strive to change.

The test has been recognized only as a pseudo-science tool with no predictive value and little accuracy, currently used commercially and popularised via marketing methods. MBTI failed the rigorous tests for accuracy and helpfulness: the MBTI did not meet most of the basic standards expected of psychological tests, and the promises its marketing team gives have been proved wrong. Many of the studies praising the MBTI are unscientific or weak methodologically.  

A Word Of Caution Coming From The Authors

The popularity of this instrument is troublesome. It has to be reserved as a self-testing tool, and never be applied to judge others: it leads to potential misuse of the instrument in labeling people, and it has been proven to be harmful. Palm readings can spark ideas, too, that doesn't mean we should use them to replace our own effort in making hiring choices or to select with whom to associate. An insight from the Myers-Briggs often replaces the difficult conversation and trying to listen to each other. And you get your type stamped on your forehead. 

Even Myers and Briggs themselves recognized that MBTI shouldn't be used in any selection: the use of the MBTI to predict job success is repeatedly discouraged in the Manual. The results of the assessment should not be used to "label, evaluate, or limit the respondent in any way" (emphasis original) because it doesn't manage the ability and has no use in predicting the performance. Unfortunately, many HR ignore the warning and are all too happy to use it as a shortcut. If an employer or university asks you to take this test, you have a full right to refuse: compelling anyone to take the MBTI is unethical. 

Still Curious About Taking The Test?

If you still want to dive in, what use can you get out of it? Same as with horoscopes, many good copywriters put their efforts into writing the descriptions. Just download the page with all the various functions and types and read through them. You might find something that will expand your vocabulary and help you articulate yourself to your colleagues or loved ones. It can also spark your curiosity and make you ask questions about yourself you never asked before. Why do you feel more comfortable in one setup more than the other? How do you behave when you face an entirely new problem? Is your thinking abstract or concrete? MBTI can not answer these for you, but you can use self-observation to do it yourself.

Explore yourself, but don't allow your curiosity or your confusion to become a way to exploit you or to label you. No test can simplify the complexity that you see inside of yourself and others or replace the effort you put into the discovery: and that is a beautiful journey to embrace, not an obstacle to fear.

Can MBTI be used to predict a job success?

The use of the MBTI to predict job success is repeatedly discouraged in the original Manual.

About the Author

Antonia is a sociologist and an anglicist by education, but a writer and a behavior enthusiast by inclination. If she's not writing, editing or reading, you can usually find her snuggling with her huge dog or being obsessed with a new true-crime podcast. She also has a (questionably) healthy appreciation for avocados and Seinfeld.

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