Myers-Briggs® Myths and Misuse

As a career counselor and avid proponent of the Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator (MBTI®), I am troubled by continued misuse and misunderstanding of the assessment. Several articles bashing the Myers-Briggs® have been written by well-respected and well-meaning authors. It is disappointing for me to read this often inaccurate information.

In the 50+ years of the MBTI®’s use, every attempt was made to keep the assessment as true as possible to the theory of psychological types. All decisions concerning items, scoring and validation were driven by the demands of the theory. The goal was to yield an instrument that could reliably sort people into types, not traits. The fake quizzes published online are nothing more than entertaining games and should not be confused with an instrument that is as thoroughly researched and acclaimed as the Myers-Briggs®.

When administered and interpreted correctly, though useful and insightful, it is admittedly not a perfect instrument. In this article, I will discuss why users can continue to rely on the MBTI® as a measure of psychological type, as well as appropriate use and limitations of the instrument.

Useful, Insightful, not Perfect

Before I address the common criticisms and limitations of the MBTI®, I’ll address my stance as a Myers-Briggs® Master Practitioner:

  • Each person is a unique individual apart from a type.
  • Not all people fit neatly into the 16 type descriptions. Not everyone has clear preferences on each of the 4 dichotomies.
  • The purpose of taking the MBTI® is to assist people in coming to greater self-awareness. My role as interpreter is not to determine accuracy, but to assist in that self-awareness.
  • It is ultimately the responsibility of the recipient to determine his/her “Best-Fit Type”, using both their “Reported Type” and own understanding of themselves. I therefore am careful to say, “You reported as ISFP”, not “You are ISFP.”
  • Taking the MBTI® is voluntary and results are confidential unless otherwise stated by the individual.
  • I do my best to eliminate type bias from my presentations and discussions on the MBTI®, and avoid stereotyping people based on their 4 letters.

Human beings are complex, and it is impossible to “measure” us, even with any robustly scientific tool.


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Is resistance to the Myers-Briggs® a question of delivery?

Unfortunately, the MBTI® is often used in environments where it should not be (placement agencies, as part of a job interview, for example), and by individuals who lack the credentials and/or knowledge to administer it appropriately. As with any assessment or topic, how the information is delivered will impact its effectiveness and reception. The “handwriting” exercise is one all certified Myers-Briggs® practitioners know well and often use to describe the 4 dichotomies. It goes like this:

Sign your name on a piece of paper with your non-dominant hand. Notice how it feels to do this (probably awkward and uncomfortable). Had you signed your name as you normally would, you wouldn’t have given this exercise much thought at all. It would feel natural, and you wouldn’t need to concentrate while doing it.

The result of this exercise is that you should confirm whether you’re right or left-handed – not how well you performed the task (or how pretty your handwriting is). If you have 2 usable hands, you’re able to perform this task and thus have the ability to use both hands. You also have a preference for using your right or left hand. This doesn’t mean that you cannot or should not write with your non-dominant hand. In fact, with some practice, it might get easier for you to do so. But using your non-dominant hand will never be as natural or comfortable.

The MBTI® should be used to determine your preferences. Unfortunately, some people who use the instrument do not fully explain the concepts of preferences to ensure an understanding of the dichotomies. The proper verbiage is not “You’re an Introvert” but “You have a preference for Introversion.”

We all, at times, behave in manners counter to who we are most naturally. For example, a person with a preference for Extraversion may be expected to focus quietly and work alone in an office environment. This doesn’t mean that they cannot work this way; it does mean that working this way may not come as naturally as it might to someone with a preference for Introversion.

MBTI® Criticisms and Limitations

Most of the critiques of the Myers-Briggs® I’ve read and heard over the years fall into 5 areas:

  • Written by 2 women with no formal psychology training and is disregarded in the psychology community
  • Lacks scientific credibility
  • Relies on binary choices; human beings don’t work that way
  • It’s easy to fabricate the results
  • Does not predict real-world outcomes

In this article, I will address these 5 areas from a practitioner’s standpoint, as well as the limitations of the assessment.

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1.) Written by 2 women with no formal psychology training; it is disregarded in the psychology community.

For those interested in an extensive history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, please see The MBTI Manual, third edition, 1998.

Briefly, the assessment traces its history to Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Gustav Jung’s “Psychological Types”, first published in 1921. Jung is known for his pioneering work in psychoanalysis and collaboration with Sigmund Freud, though by the 1920s, the two had severed ties.

Katharine Briggs, a voracious reader of psychology, shared her fascination with Jung’s work with her daughter, Isabel Myers. Jung developed a concept of 2 basic attitudes called Introversion and Extraversion, and Briggs and Myers used this as a basis for their own theory, which would later become the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). Prior to the MBTI®, psychologists connected personality traits to childhood experiences, which often led to the overuse of psychiatric diagnoses.  Katharine and Isabel went in a very different direction; they connected personality traits to normal innate differences along four dimensions.

The MBTI® operates outside the normal presumptions of measurement (see Geyer, P, 2015). It is therefore called an Indicator, or Assessment – not a “test.” Jung’s typology also doesn’t depend on measurement and the items on the MBTI® don’t have the same purpose and intent as items on a trait instrument.

Isabel spent decades researching personality types, collecting agreements to provide data, and gathering and analyzing data before drafting her first survey. In 1945, the first major study connected with the MBTI® was published, and Isabel conducted more of her own studies – mostly in medical and educational settings – before Educational Testing Services (ETS) acquired the MBTI® for research usage.

The MBTI® is Katharine and Isabel’s framework for classifying personality types on 4 distinct axes: Introversion/Extraversion; Sensing/iNtuition; Thinking/Feeling; Judging/Perceiving. A person has one dominant preference for each of the 4 pairs. For example, someone who prefers Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, and Judging would be “INTJ”, where INTJ = Ni – Te – Fi – Se – otherwise known as the cognitive functions.

It is important to note that Katharine and Isabel created the assessment to help people better understand themselves, and make best use of their talents. Research was not their primary consideration. The MBTI® was never intended to be a predictive analysis, but rather, a conversation starter and thus a foundation for better understanding and human interaction.

The internet is a source of controversial information on the MBTI®, and the psychological community has always “taken sides” as to its worth. Because much research in clinical psychology involves predictive analysis of performance or specific behaviors, the MBTI® is not the right instrument for these purposes, and thus it will naturally not be popular among psychologists. Additionally, the MBTI® was designed to measure personality in normal, healthy people, therefore, using it in a clinical setting that focuses on pathology does not make sense.

Today, the MBTI® is widely used in business settings (for professional development, teambuilding, leadership development, communication, and conflict management) and in education to assist in identifying potential majors or career fields. The basic idea is that knowing your own Myers-Briggs® type and those of others, will help you interact more effectively with associates and better identify your own strengths and areas for development.

Conclusions:

  • Katharine and Isabel were not social scientists, but this does not speak to the quality of their work. It commonly goes unrecognized, for example, that they achieved what social scientists and statisticians of their time had failed to do: convert Jung’s ideas into a workable scoring system. Furthermore, an organization as well-regarded as ETS would not have published their material if it lacked integrity.
  • The MBTI® is irrelevant for the purposes of many areas of psychology and should thus not be used for these purposes. Psychologists who choose to use it as a supplemental tool to assist in gaining self-awareness and/or communication should provide a thorough discussion of the assessment, explain the reasons for taking it, and have completed a certification process.

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2.) Lack of scientific credibility.

When people question the “scientific credibility” of the MBTI®, they usually mean Reliability and Validity. There are also numerous references to the Forer Effect – whereby an individual accepts feedback on his/her personality when it has no specific relevance to the individual.

The validity and reliability of the Myers-Briggs assessment has been well-documented by the publishers, CPP, in thousands of peer-reviewed journals and case studies. This information is publically available.

Let’s take a closer look at the reliability and validity of the Myers-Briggs®, as well as its susceptibility to the Forer Effect.

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Reliability

Reliability refers to how consistently an assessment measures what it claims to measure. If an assessment is reliable, it will produce consistent results. Reliability is expressed through reliability coefficients – numbers that range from 0 to 1. These can be read as percentages of times that results were consistent.

  • Test-retest reliability. This measures the consistency of results over time. It is measured by administering the same instrument to the same people on 2 different occasions and statistically comparing the results. Psychometric assessments that produce reliability coefficients of .80 (80% consistent) are considered “very good.” The Myers-Briggs® Manuel reports that on Form M – the most widely used version – test-retest reliability is .87-.97 on all 4 dichotomies (see Foundations for Psychological Testing: a Practical Approach).
  • Preference Clarity Index (PCI). The Myers-Briggs® assessment has a means for determining the degree to which a person identifies with a certain preference. This is called the “Preference Clarity Index”, or PCI. The categories – Slight, Moderate, Clear, or Very Clear – reflect the likelihood that the sorting has been accurate. Let’s consider the following data from Otto Kroeger Associates:

Preference Clarity Index

*PCI RangeE-IS-NT-FJ-P
1-5 (Slight).46.52.44.22
6-10 (Moderate).83.72.73.75
11-15 (Moderate).87.87.8489
16-20 (Clear).90.88.90.93
21-25 (Clear).97.96.95.93
**26-30 (Very Clear).99.99.99.99
*The single asterisked row shows that for respondents whose preferences were only Slight, that the percentage of time they reported that same preference upon retaking the Indicator 4 weeks later was fairly low (46% for E and I; 52% for S and N; 44% for T and F; and only 22% for J and P).

**The double asterisked row shows us that respondents with Very Clear preferences report the same preference upon retaking the assessment 99% of the time.
  • Item Response Theory (IRT). In 1998 the MBTI® was revised using a statistical methodology known as Item Response Theory (IRT). IRT uses a census sampling technique and also provides better information about the respondent’s preferences and more accurate scoring. This reduces biases related to race, age, gender, and education, thus reducing error and increasing the assessment’s reliability. To date, there are no other personality-related tools based on both a national sample and IRT statistics.

Conclusions on MBTI® Reliability:

  • Assessments that produce reliability coefficients of .80 (80% consistent) are generally respected in the field, and reliability coefficients of .90 (90% consistent) are quite high for a self-reporting psychological assessment. The MBTI® consistently produces reliability figures above .80 and overall is considered to have impressive reliability.
  • Low reliability is often associated with “slight” preferences on any one of the 4 dichotomies, as indicated in the data above. This, however, does bring up the fact that there are a number of “fake” versions of the Myers-Briggs on the internet. Before assuming lack of credibility, make sure the inconsistent results are not due to these “fake” tests.
  • Some individuals may indeed demonstrate a different Reported Type from a previous assessment. For reasons why, please listen to my podcast, “Why did my Myers-Briggs® Type change?
  • No test will produce perfect test-retest reliability coefficients, and measurement error is a problem for all psychological assessments. Some factors that may contribute to measurement error include differences in environmental conditions (noise, temperature, location); differences in the subject (fatigue, concentration, mood, insufficient development); changes in administration, fluctuations in the testing process, or deliberately faking.

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Validity

Validity refers to the accuracy of an instrument. Validity is not an element of a test, but has to do with the degree to which evidence and theory support the score interpretation (see the Standards for Educational and Psychological testing, 1999).

The MBTI® was never intended to be a comprehensive evaluation of one’s entire personality. It also doesn’t claim for 2 people of the same type to be exactly alike. Everyone, regardless of type, has preferences for thinking, behaving, communicating, working, learning, and other things that make us tick. With this said, the MBTI® is not a scientifically valid personality assessment, but then neither is any other test or assessment. Personality assessments can, however, be validated for specific purposes.

There are different ways to assess the validity of an instrument. For purposes of this article, I will focus on Construct Validity– the degree to which a test measures what it claims to measure, and the most important measure of a test’s worth. Therefore, does the MBTI® assessment support Jung’s theory of psychological type?

In fact, there are 6 ways the MBTI® asserts construct validity:

  1. Self-Validation. If the MBTI® has construct validity, people who take the assessment will agree with their results. “Reported Type” (obtained by taking the assessment) may not be one’s “True Type” (understood through a validation session with a certified practitioner).
  2. Predictions of Behavior. The fact that we can have some insights into general behavioral patterns – for example, Extraverts tend to disclose and talk, whereas Introverts tend to withhold and reflect – supports the legitimacy of Jung’s psychological model as well as the construct validity of the MBTI®.
  3. Factor Analysis. This is a statistical process that lets us say with confidence that the 4 dichotomies of the MBTI® are independent of one another. Knowing that someone prefers Extraversion does not predict his or her preference for Sensing or iNtuition. Similarly, Sensing and iNuition do not predict Thinking or Feeling judgments.
  4. Correlations. Construct validity means that there should be some statistical connection or correlation with other instruments that are measuring similar things. There should also be no relationship or correlation between the MBTI® scales and assessments that have no theoretical connection with psychological Type. Correlations of the 4 preference scales with a wide variety of scales from other instruments support the predictions of Type Theory in terms of the meaning of and behaviors believed to be associated with the 4 dichotomies. Evidence of such is seen in scores against external variables (see more at MBTI Manual: a guide to development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd ed.).
  5. Type Tables. These present the 16 Types in a logical relationship, and they themselves provide evidence for construct validity. Type Tables show the frequencies of Types in groups of people that have characteristics in common (i.e. the same occupations, college majors). They also allow easy visual observation for hypotheses to be explored, with data ensuring confidence in the meaning inferred. Here are 2 Type Tables referenced from the MBTI Manual:

U.S. National Normative Sample of Adults

ISTJ 11.6%ISFJ 13.8%INFJ 1.5%INTJ 2.1%
ISTP 5.4%ISFP 8.8%INFP 4.4%INTP 3.3%
ESTP 4.3%ESFP 8.5%ENFP 8.1%ENTP 3.2%
ESTJ 8.7%ESFJ 12.3%ENFJ 2.5%ENTJ 1.8%
N = 3009

Type Distribution of Participants in the Center for Creative Leadership’s Leadership Development Program

ISTJ 18.2%ISFJ 3.1%INFJ 1.7%INTJ 10.5%
ISTP 3.5%ISFP 1.1%INFP 2.5%INTP 6.9%
ESTP 3.4%ESFP 1.2%ENFP 4.5%ENTP 8.0%
ESTJ 16.0%ESFJ 3.2%ENFJ 3.0%ENTJ 13.1%
N = 26,477

These Type Tables (and others – see CAPT databank) demonstrate an over-representation of Thinking and Judging in management and leadership, compared to the general population.

6. Self-Selection Ratio (SSR studies). SSRs are frequently used in MBTI® research to see which Types tend to self-select specific career choices and college majors. If selection of a career or college major were not influenced by Type, we would expect to see all 16 Types represented in every occupation and vocational track in the same numbers we find them in the general population. Such an even distribution, however, is not the case. In fact, a great deal of self-selection is repeatedly evident. Studies consistently show that people of certain Type preferences will indeed self-select to jobs and organizations that use their preferences in a predictable frequency.

Self-Selection Ratio (SSR) = % of preference or Type in a specific group
% of preference or Type in total group

SSRs above 1 show attraction to that group, or over-representation
SSRs below 1 show avoidance of that group or under-representation

SSR

Example (courtesy of the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT)

Any SSR higher than 1.0 shows attraction, therefore, 2.16 shows a great deal of attraction for small business ownership among ESTJ men in this sample. Compare this with the SSR for INFP at .05. This number tells us that INFP men are under-represented in this sample when compared to the national sample.

Conclusions on MBTI® Validity

  • Jung’s theory suggests that there are quantitatively and qualitatively different populations of people who express different personality characteristics. The MBTI®, unlike other trait-based personality tests, emphasizes 16 unique categories of personality created by the 4 dichotomies.
  • Results of the MBTI® or any other personality measure are not inherently valid or invalid; only the interpretations made from the data are. Therefore, administrators need to carefully consider claims about the utility and value of the MBTI®.

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Forer Effect

One complaint I’ve often heard is how the MBTI® is a pseudo-science, similar to a horoscope, describing each Type in only positive, very general terms, telling the recipients what they want to hear without realizing the same description can also apply to others. This is known as the Forer Effect, after psychologist Bertram Forer. In 1948, Forer gave a personality test to his students and then gave each one a supposedly “personalized” analysis. The students gave the analyses an average accuracy rating of 85%. Only then did Forer disclose that each student had received the same generic report.

If we believe that a report is customized for us, our perception of the report’s accuracy will be improved.

People who attempt to discredit the MBTI® as a Forer occurrence can almost certainly find websites and information with vague descriptions to support this. Although the Forer Effect can surely have some influence on fake online personality tests, the assessment is not intended to “profile” or “stereotype” people at all. The MBTI® is descriptive, not prescriptive, and does not define all that a person is, nor does it predict what they’ll do. Unfortunately, as we’ve previously seen, the MBTI® can and is used for less-than noble purposes, by people who lack an understanding of the theory and/or the instrument itself.

Conclusions on the Forer Effect:

  • Because of the MBTI®’s dichotomous structure, deciding that any particular MBTI® preference is a good fit involves, by definition, a corresponding decision that the opposite pole is not a good fit. This itself negates the Forer Effect.
  • There is also a troubling side to MBTI® descriptions: they can lead to discrimination, poor career counseling, and undue and unfair stereotyping. These practices go against the very ethics of administration of the Myers-Briggs®. Therefore, practitioners need to be sure to convey these limitations to users.

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3.) The MBTI® relies on binary choices, which provides a limited view of personality, which leads to stereotyping.

As previously discussed, the MBTI® relies on a dichotomous scoring procedure, and the instrument depends on this perspective of personality. The MBTI® assumes a person falls into 1 of 2 “sides” on each of 4 dichotomies, which results in one of 16 “Types.” It is therefore a “forced choice” assessment (a person only has the option of “A” or “B”). According to Jung’s theory, we use both preferences on every dimension at different times, but we’re predisposed toward one over the other. A right-handed person prefers his/her right hand, but they’re still capable of using their left hand (and may, in fact, become proficient in using it). This doesn’t render their designation as “right-handed” less accurate. Similarly, the fact that someone prefers Extraversion doesn’t preclude them from performing in an Introverted capacity.

It should therefore be noted that neither Carl Jung nor Isabelle Myers believed that everyone was a “type.” By some definitions then, the MBTI® is a limited (and perhaps simplified) view on personality. Indeed, people are complex, changeable, and unpredictable. The MBTI® cannot adequately measure every facet of one’s personality, however, neither can any other “test.” The Myers-Briggs® has never makes any claim to do so.

Questions are presented in a forced-choice format because the theory postulates dichotomies. Both poles of a dichotomy are valuable and both are used at different times by everyone. Again, the goal is to “force” a series of choices that will determine which of two valuable or useful behaviors or attitudes is preferred.

The MBTI® Step II – a more extensive version than the more common Form M – helps to identify not only inborn preferences, but also areas where a person’s environment has influenced their preferences. It recognizes that people may display different components (or “facets”) of their personalities and are not locked into behaving in one way. For example, there are a number of different ways a person may display Extraversion: talkativeness, gregariousness, communication style, friendship patterns, and so on (see MBTI Step II Supplemental Manual).

The dichotomous nature of the MBTI brings back the question of Test-Retest Reliability (see the Reliability section above). Let’s remember that what the MBTI® is measuring is Clarity of Preference. If a user gets a different result, it means their clarity has changed. This most likely occurs in only one preference, and on scales where the original preference clarity was low.

Let’s consider the following:

From the perspective of statistical analysis, Myers-Briggs’ fundamental premise is flawed. According to Myers & Briggs, each person is either an introvert or an extravert. Within each group we would expect to see a bell curve showing the distribution of extraversion within the extraverts group, and introversion within the introverts. If the Myers-Briggs approach is valid, we should expect to see two separate bell curves along the introversion/extraversion spectrum, making it valid for Myers & Briggs to decide there are two groups into which people fit. But data have shown that people do not clump into two separately identifiable curves; they clump into a single bell curve, with extreme introverts and extreme extraverts forming the long tails of the curve, and most people gathered somewhere in the middle. Jung himself said “There is no such thing as a pure extravert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.” This does not support the Myers-Briggs assumption that people naturally separate into two groups. Myers-Briggs takes a knife and cuts the bell curve right down the center, through the meatiest part, and right through most people’s horizontal error bars. Moreover, this forced error is compounded four times, with each of the four dichotomies. This statistical fumble helps to explain why so many people score differently when retaking the test: There is no truly correct score for most people, and no perfect fit for anyone (The Articulate CEO, 2012).

Extroversion versus Introversion DistributionMany critiques have to do with empirical data suggesting that personality traits fall into a normal distribution (“bell curve”), wherein most people will fall in the middle. Instead, the MBTI® uses a bimodal distribution, or “camel humps” wherein the bell curve is thus cut down the middle (images inspired by “MBTI for Skeptics”, 2014). Users who are close to the middle can thus be on different “sides.”

As a practical example, let’s say that “Amy” took the MBTI® the first time and received a Reported Type of ISFJ. When she took it for a second time, her Reported Type was ESFJ.

Extroversion Reliability

Critics of the MBTI® cite this as an example of low Test-Retest Reliability. However, let’s first ensure the following:

  • Amy did not take a “fake” version of the MBTI®
  • The dichotomies were clearly explained
  • Most importantly, that Amy self-validated her results

Let’s remember that the purpose of taking the MBTI is not to determine one’s 4-letter code, but as a starting point for a deeper conversation regarding career, leadership, or team development, for instance. In this example, the discrepancy between ISFJ and ESFJ can be used as a conversation to assist Amy in her self-awareness. Questions to ask Amy may include,

  • “Which description do you feel best reflects who you are?” Why?
  • “Why do you think you reported as [ESFJ] if your True Type is ISFJ?”

Type theory suggests that type does not change. However, how type manifests can and does change. This could be as a result of Amy interacting with her environment, her own unique experiences, her culture, or family of origin. It is therefore possible to develop behaviors, habits, and strategies that are not consistent with her Myers Briggs® Type description. The eight cognitive functions provide powerful tool for explaining individual differences (see Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to the Personality Type Code).

This is precisely why it is important for practitioners administering the Myers-Briggs® assessment to give a thorough explanation of the 4 dichotomies and have users self-validate their results. Practitioners who have successfully completed a certification process understand that merely distributing “test results” without context is not only ineffectual, but unethical.

Conclusions regarding criticisms on the dichotomous nature of the MBTI®:

  • Stereotypes and biases are not unique to the MBTI®. This is a common criticism of all personality assessments.
  • The MBTI® measures preferences, not ability. Using it as an excuse or to justify why we’re not good at something is a misinterpretation of the instrument.
  • A common misconception is that MBTI® states that people are either A or B. The MBTI® does not make any such claim. Though the assessment uses preferences on a dichotomous scale, a person’s MBTI® Type is greater than the sum of the parts.

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4.) It’s easy to fabricate the results.

The accuracy of the MBTI®, or any other “test” depends on the user’s honest reporting. There are, in fact, some personality measures that attempt to elicit socially desirable responses. With others, it is difficult to fudge results.

In any “real-world scenario”, if individuals fear they may lose out (i.e. in obtaining a job or promotion) they may be tempted to lie. This is precisely why the MBTI® should not be used for placement or job selection, and why it should never be used as a determinate in any situation. This is also why feedback and self-validation are extremely important.

Of course it’s easy to fake results – either deliberately or not – just like with any “test.” But what’s the point in that? Lying produces invalid results, making the user appear to be someone they are not. This, in turn, leads to implicit or explicit bases and “Type Shaming.”

This also brings up the issue of why the assessment is being taken. It is the responsibility of the practitioner to ensure that taking it is voluntary and results are confidential. The practitioner also needs to frame the discussion of the MBTI® to the individual/group goal(s) and include a self-validation piece.

Conclusions on fabricating results:

  • Accurate identification of preferences depends upon accurate self-knowledge and reporting.
  • Low reliability is likely due to instances described in the previous sections.

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5.) The MBTI® does not predict real-world outcomes.

Perhaps the most common misconception about the Myers-Briggs® is that it is a predictor of aptitude, success, and/or satisfaction. This is absolutely false. There are variables that the MBTI® does not measure, and factors such as work performance reflect many other influences.
Some “tests” are prescriptive while others are descriptive. The MBTI® is descriptive. It does not claim to tell the user what career will be most satisfying to him/her, or whether he/she will be successful in that career.

“…people find that knowing their own personality type and the personality type most prevalent in the career they’re entering to be very helpful. Such insight, for example, may be extremely beneficial when it comes to communicating, presenting ideas, recognizing where workstyle and other difficulties may arise, and in enabling groups of people of varying personality preferences to work together cohesively.” (Pearman, R).

MBTI® practitioners need to be very clear about representing the limitations for specific use of the assessment.

Conclusions on prediction:

  • The MBTI® is often misused in a predictive way. It is meant to be used in an exploratory way.
  • The MBTI® should not be sole measure of a career or relationship decision.

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Final Conclusions:

  • In reliability and validity, the MBTI® appears to be as good, if not better than other personality measures currently available.  It is strongly supported by research, and is continually being reviewed and revised for psychometric improvement, while preserving its integrity.
  • The MBTI® is not a pseudo-science, however, because it does have validity, is proved to be as reliable a measure of personality as other assessments, and ultimately gives us insight into why we exhibit certain behaviors over others. Additionally, it has been successfully implemented in various business and educational settings.
  • A limitation: the MBTI® may be purchased by anyone who has completed a CPP-licensed workshop, has graduate coursework in statistics, or a Master’s Degree from an accredited institution. No professional license is necessary. This is unfortunate, as these loose restrictions contribute to pervasive misuse and misunderstanding of what is otherwise a helpful and well-respected tool.
  • It’s not about the “test.” In my 15+ years of using the MBTI®, I’ve found that the tool used isn’t nearly as important as the administrator is in helping users increase their own self-awareness, leading to better motivation, self-management, and communication. If the MBTI® assists in this process and is interpreted correctly and appropriately, it has, in my experience, been enlightening and useful instrument.
  • As Type Practitioner Roger Pearman stated, “When you read the critics carefully, it is apparent that they are talking about how an assessment was used that caused trouble rather than the assessment itself or how the theory was used rather than the value of the theory.”

About the Author: Edythe Richards is a career counselor, Myers-Briggs® Master Practitioner, and Certified Emotional Intelligence (EQ-i 2.0/EQ-I 360) Administrator based in the Washington, DC Metro area.

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