One of the fascinations of my life for the last six 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 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 are, 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 typed pretty much everyone in my family, and I can’t meet up with a friend without trying to internally figure out which of the 16 types they belong to.

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

I totally get 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 does have its critics and its die-hard fans. I’m somewhere in between but am generally in favor of the test.

Every time I’ve used the Myers and Briggs theory or personality test 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 ISTP) likes to live in the moment and move from one step to another in a linear fashion. 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® Type Indicator have to do with 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?

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. 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 free tests may point  you in the right direction, but oftentimes they won’t be 100% accurate. 16personalities has a free test, which is probably the most accurate free one you can take; however, the best way to understand your type is to study the 8 cognitive functions, which I’ll get more into in another post.

MBTI Illustration

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 ESTJ (Extrovert/Sensor/Thinker/Judger) will show more brain activity in response to stimuli that matches up with their cognitive functions; extraverted thinking, introverted sensing, extraverted intuition, and introverted feeling. Since I’m not a neuroscientist it’s a little hard for me to describe, but if you’re interested you can watch the talk he did for google here.

In conclusion

Personality typing can be really useful in getting to know yourself and others. Its benefits to you personally will largely depend on how accurately you understand it and use it. I’ll write more posts related to personality type in the future and this should really help you get a good understanding of how to use it, how to figure out your type, and how to better understand the incredible differences between us all.

Still not sure about it?

Check out my blog post Debunking the Major Arguments Against the MBTI®.

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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