As a psychometrician, one of my biggest annoyances is when tools that have very little validity get major kudos.
The MBTI is one of the worst.
Don’t get me wrong. If people want to use the MBTI to have a discussion about each other’s preferences, or out of curiosity about themselves, or even to find a date (it happens!), that’s all well and good. In the same way as people would use astrology to help guide them in life, it’s a matter of choice and preference.
But when I see the MBTI used in situations that imply that it has some sort of validity — that it predicts something meaningful in the workplace, and hence that meaningful decisions should be guided by it — well, that’s going too far.
Let me explain this a bit more, but first its worth spending a little time understanding what exactly I am talking about here.
What is the MBTI?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI for short, is a closed questionnaire which purports to elucidate psychological preferences in how individuals perceive their environment and make decisions. It was developed by Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a mother-daughter combo, during the Second World War.
The basis for the MBTI can be found to some extent in the work of Carl Jung on psychological types in the early 20th century. However, there are notable differences between the typology of the MBTI and that proposed by Jung. In addition, Myers and Briggs developed their tool using closed questioning, which was very different from the principles of projective measurement proposed by Jung and his ilk.
The MBTI has four dichotomies on which responses are scaled. One of these is attitudinal (Extroversion vs Introversion), two are functional (Sense vs iNtuition, Thinking vs Feeling). The final dichotomy is probably the biggest departure from Jung. It purports that individuals have a preference in which of the two functional dichotomies they use in how they relate to the outside world. Judgers prefer to use Thoughts or Feeling, Perceivers prefer to use Sense or Intuition. The results of the MBTI are presented on a scale of each of these four dichotomies, and depending on which end of each scale a person falls, a four letter ‘type’ is generated. For…