Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: The Test Everyone Loves to Hate

‘Myers-Briggs Personality Types are like Zodiac signs for people who think they’re too smart to believe in astrology.’ – Anonymous

Some years back, I was introduced to MBTI by one of my good friends. When I got the result (which I am definitely not revealing), I didn’t know what to think about it. By the time I took the test, I had already encountered hundreds of those ‘Find your personality’, ‘How intelligent are you’, ‘Are you sensitive’, and ‘Are you introvert or extrovert’ on Facebook in my teens.

If you clicked on this article, there’s a chance that you know about MBTI, and must’ve taken the test. For those unaware, The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. Various sources name different dates as to when the current form of MBTI came into existence, but the basic idea is said to be conceived by Katharine Cook Briggs in late 1910s.

This 93-question test is the most widely used personality test in the world; some two million people answer the questions each year to find out which one of 16 personality types most closely fits them. But the two women who developed the test in 1945 had no formal training in psychology; and there are different views when it comes to the reliability of the test.

If we raise the questions about its validity, I read this on some forum that that no test is scientifically valid. Validity is not an element of a test, but specifically has to do with test score interpretation. That being said, the Myers Briggs is not a scientifically valid personality assessment. However, personality assessments can be validated for specific purposes.

But when it comes to rationality and how much this test is genuine, there are some bigger issues. One of them is decision consistency. Decision consistency is the extent to which pass/fail classifications based on exam scores agree with the decisions that would have been made if the candidates had taken a hypothetical second, parallel form of the same exam. For estimating decision consistency, we use something called coefficient alpha that basically has a reliability value between 0.0 and 1.0. The Myers-Briggs proclaims a reliability of somewhere between 0.75 – 0.85. That’s pretty cool because it indicates that if you were to retest, you would get a similar score.

Now, the Myers-Briggs makes additional claims about bucketing individuals into 1 of 16 possible personality types. That means you can shift up or down a few points if you were to retake the test. On any of the four distinct scales means that you may be higher on one scale than another, simply through retaking the test due to measurement error. In fact, one of the papers by David J. Pittenger says that your personality type will change for 50% of individuals simply through retesting. I’ve personally experienced the same.

One of the other major problems with the test is that even Carl Jung admitted that no one is a pure introvert or pure extrovert, and such a person would be in the lunatic asylum. And it’s true. You cannot measure the precise traits of a person by making him answer a few questions; because most people are somewhere in the middle for any one personality traits.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has a lot of things going against it in the world of psychologists. According to many, Myers-Briggs test sells only because it is unequivocally positive. No personality type in its framework is better or worse than any other; each is billed as having unique and constructive strengths. A lot them them consider it bullshit and deluding for this very reason. It is largely disregarded by their community and a heck load of papers have been published containing sections that shun it.

The test has become the gold standard of psychological assessments, used in businesses, government agencies and educational institutions. A lot of companies, colleges and universities use it on their candidates. This is weird because it is pretty easy to fake a personality type when it comes to answering questions.

The flaw here is that MBTI was not designed to be used in the workplace or as anything other than a self-report personality measure. It’s only figuratively a test, because it’s just a self-report personality measure. It’s an assessment which is intended to provide the taker with insights about their personality. The results of the test tell you what you told the machine, and the results can change over time or even on a different day depending on the mood you’re in when you take it. The assessment is only going to tell you what you told it to tell you. Nothing more.

In the words of a clinical psychologist, ‘It’s not the assessment that’s shitty, it’s the way people overuse and over-rely and over-interpret it as the end-all be-all of personality measures and its implications for workplace performance.’

The MBTI fad is kind of dead by now. But in my country, there are a lot of new people discovering about it; and there are millions of people who haven’t taken it yet. The test is not totally bullshit, but it’s not something to take seriously either. So, if you took the Myers-Briggs test and got a particular personality type, and were compared to some famous personality or whatever: it’s good for entertainment. Don’t overthink about it and don’t shape your brain according to test results. Every human shows different traits, a lot of moods and a varied range of emotions, because we’re supposed to. Your personality is not limited to four letters.

Featured Image Credits: Toby Morris

5 Comments

  1. ‘Your personality is not limited to four letters.’ Best part IMO. I’ve seen people take the test so seriously that they start to change their whole persona around it.

    • Yessir. I know of a similar someone in my class. used to be a cool guy, changed everything according to MBTI. Now he just keeps comparing himself to famous people who are of his type on Facebook.

  2. The test is meant for a fun personal assessment. Why don’t people get that? It’s just for fun.

  3. Great post. I’ve experienced it myself when I took the test twice – the results were different.

  4. MBTI is really similar to astrology. Atleast there are skeptics who know about the truth of astrology. But people defend this by saying oh it’s a TEST. it’s PROVEN you don’t get it. To people who say so: It’s NOT scientifically valid, read this article, the sources, or even google for yourself.

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