The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator 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, as well as generally for entertainment and 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.
Eventually, 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 Myers-Briggs is hazy at best, and experts in psychology are inquiring about its formation, usage, and credibility - which, despite having few formal studies of its usefulness, carries such a big impact.
All the questions about its reliability go back to its origins as a personality test devised by two people with no formal psychological training - the titular Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test Has No Predictive Power
Proponents of the test argue that, by determining your personality type, you can better understand what career best suits you or what kind of romantic partner you are. However, science disagrees. According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, the Myers-Briggs test doesn't actually have any power at all, and fails to meet the four categorical standards of social science research: reliability, validity, independence, and comprehensiveness.
Moreover, Grant cites the study of management researchers William Gardner and Mark Martinko who analyzed the test and found that "few consistent relationships between type and managerial effectiveness have been found." According to this expert school of thought, at least, there is no justifiable correlation between utilization of the test and an employee's effectiveness. Though the MBTI might tell you something about yourself, it has no way of predicting whether you'll be happy or how well you'll succeed. Those factors are determined by any number of variables, most of which are uncontrollable by a single person.
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 that there are certain personality types that can be broken into two sections. But these proposed sections and groups weren't based on any study or even long-term observation. Because Jung flourished during a time when empirical psychological science — that is, science that is tested and peer-reviewed — wasn't a norm, he could say pretty much anything and have it taken as fact.
The Myers-Briggs Test Was Created By People With No Psychological Training
The science behind Carl Jung's theories is regarded as questionable, but the creators of the Myers-Briggs personality test are even more worthy of scrutiny, according to critics. Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a mother-daughter team, created the test as a response to Isabel bringing home a boyfriend to meet the family. Katherine, a social scientist, noticed that her daughter's boyfriend was nothing like the rest of the family, and wondered how he'd managed to capture her Isabel's attention. Briggs, however, lacked the knowledge and vocabulary to explain her observations — that is, 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 that would determine traits based on Jungian types. According to one account, "From Hay, Myers learned rudimentary test construction, scoring, validation, and statistical methods." Despite the psychology connection hinted at by its association with Jung, neither Isabel nor Katherine were at all trained in psychology.
Even Carl Jung Knew His Data Was Flawed
Though Carl Jung might have published his work, even he knew it wasn't without flaws. His book Psychological Types suggested that people fall into dichotomies, but Jung himself wrote that humans are not so neat and tidy as that. Many people see themselves as purely intro- or extroverted, but Jung defied that, in spite of his own argument. According to him, a pure introvert or extrovert would be insane, and that people actually fall into different spheres at different times — it's a spectrum, not a closed group. Part of the problem with the test, critics say, is that it does enforce a dichotomy, despite the source for much of the philosophy behind it saying that that's not possible.