One of the fascinations of my life for the last ten years has been the Myers Briggs Assessment Tool and personality psychology. Myers-Briggs® psychology is based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung, and basically tells you one of sixteen personality types that you fit into. Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you make decisions based on feeling or thinking? This might all sound very “teen magazine” to you, but the truth is it is a very widely used and respected test. Eighty-nine companies out of the US Fortune 100 make use of it for recruitment and selection, and two and a half million Americans take the test yearly.

It’s always exciting to be able to narrow down which personality type you have, or the type of someone you know. I am an INFJ, and when I first read the description for my type, I suddenly felt like I wasn’t a complete weirdo anymore. Well, maybe I did, but at least now I understood why! Many people have this kind of “aha!” realization after they discover their type.  I’ve since become a certified MBTI® practitioner and love to talk to people about their personality and the amazing nuances that make them unique from everyone else!

Okay, it’s fun – but is personality typing, like the MBTI® Instrument valid?

I totally understand this question. Along with loving the idea of the test, I’m also a skeptic. I’m pretty leery of subscribing to any particular belief or system that I can’t 100% verify as logically sound. Personality typing has its critics and its die-hard fans. I’ve been skeptical of the test, and read various arguments against it and tried to determine where I stand. I’ve decided in the end that the MBTI® tool isn’t perfect, but the theory and research behind personality type checks out and it’s extremely useful.

Every time I’ve used the MBTI® with people it has given me huge insights into how their minds work, how to relate to them, and how to communicate with them. I am able to be more accepting and appreciative of others because I’m able to admire  their strengths while being more patient and understanding of their weaknesses. For example, I know that my husband (an ESTP) likes to live in the moment and move through life with a spontaneous sense of adventure. When it comes to making a decision, he thinks through things one step at a time, and doesn’t think about step C till he’s completed steps A and B. I like to jump way ahead to the future and then fill in the pieces in an out-of-order fashion on my way there. Knowing these things about each other really helps us in our relationship to be understanding and work with the each others way of thinking.

It’s easy to get it wrong

A lot of the arguments I’ve seen and heard against the MBTI® have to do with individuals getting inaccurate results on similarly styled tests available online. Another argument has been that after taking the test, some people retest six months later and get a completely different result. The accuracy of the test relies completely on the test-taker answering the questions correctly. I know that sounds odd for a personality test, but it’s true.

How do I take the test correctly?

You shouldn’t answer the questions based on the feeling of the moment (feelings change), on what you think is the morally ‘right’ answer, or what you want others to see you as. You have to answer the questions based on what your most natural response would be. Think about your lifetime, not just this moment, and be honest. Try to think of how you would answer the questions without any outside pressures or influences. Don’t think of yourself at work, or as a parent. Think about you in your most natural state, the way you prefer to be. Secondly, there are a lot of very inaccurate tests available online for free which are not at all in line with the MBTI® theory. Unfortunately, the official MBTI® Instrument is something you have to pay for, but with the right information anyone can determine their type without having to spend the money. I used to take the free tests and think that they were fine, but after really obsessing about researching the personality test I’ve realized those tests are often false and you really need to understand the functions that Jung originally described to get the right result. The best way to understand your type is to study the 8 cognitive functions.

 

Is the MBTI® Instrument scientifically sound?

There hasn’t been a lot of scientific research done to date on the accuracy of the Myers-Briggs Assessment Tool. Psychologists themselves vary greatly in their opinions of it; some love it, some hate it. Dario Nardi, an expert in the field of neuroscience, wrote a book called The Neuroscience of Personality, which explores more of the scientific aspect of personality typing. Nardi conducted intensive and varied hands-on research using EEG technology to determine the effectiveness and accuracy of the MBTI® model. His research showed a clearly defined correlation between Myers-Briggs® types and brain activity. For example, an ISTJ (Introvert/Sensor/Thinker/Judger) will show more brain activity in response to stimuli that matches up with their cognitive functions; introverted sensing, extraverted thinking, introverted feeling, extraverted intuition. If you’re interested in learning more about his research you can watch the talk he did for google here.

 

Still not sure about it?

Check out part two of this series here.

Check out my blog post Debunking the Major Arguments Against Personality Typing!

Is the MBTI® actually accurate? What scientific proof is there to support it? Take a look in this two-part series.

MBTI, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and Myers-Briggs are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Myers and Briggs Foundation, Inc., in the United States and other countries.

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