MBTI: Meaningless?

When I read an article “Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless” by Joseph Stromberg, I was surprised by the objections to such popular test because I had seen the wide use of it. I remember one of my friends paid for some amount of money to get career counseling in a college, hoping that personality test would guide her to a perfect career. Perhaps because of the popularity of the test and the misleading marketing, the test was assumed scientifically credible with less doubt foundation. Needless to say, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a very popular personality test, taken by millions of people every year and used by many companies, schools, individuals and etc, as a tool that helps them understand their own behavior. Chances are you’ve taken MBTI or will. The interesting fact about the MBTI is that, despite its popularity, it has been subjected to severe criticism by professional psychologists for over three decades and still it has been widely used.

So, what are the problems? MBTI is not reliable and nor valid psychometrically. The primary method for testing reliability is to give the test to a person on two occasions. This is known as “test-retest reliability”. Several studies show that even when the test-retest interval is 5 weeks, relatively short, as many as 50 percent of the people will be classified into a different type. I am INFP usually, but I was INTJ and INTF within the same calendar year.

Additionally, many sources have indicated a poor validity argument. The test attempts to measure traits that do not exist. Intuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving are not stable personality traits that remain consistently over time (content validity problem). Moreover, there is any consistency and meaningful relation between MBTI results and success in career placement when MBTI are extensively used for that purpose. Nor is there any data to suggest that specific types are more satisfied within specific occupations than are other types, or that they stay longer in one occupation than do others. It does not predict any meaningful value. My friend should have not paid that money to take the test for future career because MBTI is not measuring what it was expected to measure.

For these reasons, it seems to me that those criticisms are balanced and fair. MBTI does not seem scientifically reliable personality test, at least from psychometrical perspective, so it should not be used in various organisational and occupational settings.

Then, why is MBTI still one of the most popular personality tests? Presumably, people enjoy so much taking the test and reading insights that they ignore the scientific information out there. Or, perhaps people do not have accurate information. Who would read the psychology literature but psychology students and psychologist? Even when I googled MBTI, I found that Myers-Brigg Type Inventory sounded scientific and well-established, derived from the work of Carl Jung. Therefore, it may still be popular despite its defective nature.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator was developed by this American mother and daughter team.

Now, do I think this is meaningless? No. Because our observations are something that cannot be ignored easily. It could be helpful as a simple mean of grouping people around us or helpful indicator as its name. Like some says, it is entertaining, simple and easy. In addition, there are some people who claim that their results have been consistent. In sum, MBTI is not valid nor reliable statistically, but at least, it’s indicating something.


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