The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most popular tests in the world. Using a series of questions, the test divides people into a series of four dichotomies - extroverted/introverted, intuition/sensing, feeling/thinking, and perceiving/judging. These dichotomies combine to form one of 16 different personality types, which purportedly determine a person's fit within a corporate setting. Some also generally consider the types for entertainment purposes or personal understanding.
Using the Myers-Briggs to analyze historical figures, for example, is not only interesting, but informative in understanding the context of global events and the impact of key historical players.
Many started questioning the test's validity, leading some to wonder if pop psychology was all a farce created using ignorant assumptions. The real science behind the MBTI is hazy at best, and experts in psychology are inquiring about its formation, usage, and credibility. Despite having few formal studies of its usefulness, the MBTI carries such a significant cultural impact.
If you also question the Myers-Briggs's reliability, you should learn about its origins as a personality test devised by two people with no formal psychological training - the titular Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Has No Predictive Power
Proponents of the test believe by determining your personality type, you can better understand what kind of romantic partner you are or which career best suits you. However, science disagrees. According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, the Myers-Briggs test doesn't have any power at all; it fails to meet the four categorical standards of social science-based research: reliability, validity, independence, and comprehensiveness.
Moreover, Grant cites the study of management researchers William Gardner and Mark Martinko - their investigation analyzed the test to find "few consistent relationships between type and managerial effectiveness." According to these experts, at least, there is no justifiable correlation between using the test and determining an employee's efficacy.
Though the MBTI might tell you something about yourself, it has no way of predicting your happiness or success. Numerous uncontrollable variables affect these factors.
The Test Is Based On Carl Jung's Untested Theories
Carl Jung's Psychological Types, published in 1921, is the source of much of the philosophy behind the Myers-Briggs test. In his book, he proposed there are certain personality types capable of splitting into two sections. These proposed sections and groups, however, weren't based on any study or long-term observation.
Because Jung flourished during a time when empirical psychological science - tested and peer-reviewed science - wasn't the norm, he could say almost anything and people would accept it as fact.
People With No Psychological Training Created The Myers-Briggs Test
While there is questionable science behind Carl Jung's theories, the creators of the Myers-Briggs personality test are worthy of greater scrutiny, according to critics. Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a mother-daughter team, devised the test as a response to Isabel bringing home a boyfriend to meet the family.
Katharine, a social scientist, noticed her daughter's boyfriend was dissimilar to the rest of the family, and wondered how he had managed to capture Isabel's attention. Briggs, however, lacked the knowledge and vocabulary to explain her observations - until Isabel discovered Jung's Psychological Types.
In partnership with Edward N. Hay, a bank manager who later started his own consulting firm, Isabel developed the basis for a personality test to determine traits based on Jungian types. According to one account, "From Hay, Myers learned rudimentary test construction, scoring, validation, and statistical methods." Neither Isabel nor Katharine had formal training in psychology.
Even Carl Jung Knew His Data Was Flawed
Though Carl Jung published his work, he knew it wasn't without flaws. His book Psychological Types suggested people fall into dichotomies, but Jung wrote about how humans are not so neat and tidy. Many people see themselves as purely intro- or extroverted, but Jung defied this, despite his own argument.
According to Jung, a pure introvert or extrovert would be insane - people fall into various spheres at different times - it's a spectrum, not a closed group. Critics say part of the problem with the test is its enforcement of a dichotomy, which contradicts its source philosophy.