The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is a system for identifying which of 16 personality types a person belongs to. It's based on the concepts of psychologist Carl Jung. The MBTI is intended to help people understand themselves better by understanding what type of personality they have, and to be able to understand and work with others better as well. The MBTI is popular, but its validity is questioned.
MBTI tests ask a series of questions, designed to determine whether the person taking the test is more extroverted or more introverted, whether he prefers to make his decisions through thinking or feeling, whether he prefers to gather information through sensing or intuition, and whether he prefers to organize his sense of the world through perceiving or judging. The test assigns a four-letter code to indicate personality type. For instance, a person with an MBTI type of ISFP would be an introvert who operates through sensing, feeling and perceiving. Each type is also assigned a particular catchword or archetype. ISFP, for instance, is the "artist."
Purpose of the MBTI
The primary purpose of the MBTI is to help people understand themselves more completely by understanding what their own preferences and tendencies are, and to help them work better with others through understanding that different people have different personalities. For instance, someone with an MBTI type of ISFJ might have a hard time working well with an ENTP, but through becoming aware that different people naturally have different ways of seeing the world, she'll be better able to work around their differences. Eighty-nine percent of American Fortune 100 companies make use of the MBTI, according to PsychometricSuccees.com, and millions of people take the test every year.
Advantages of the MBTI
The primary advantage of the MBTI is as a tool for self-knowledge and tolerance of others. This can be applied in a number of ways. For instance, if the test shows that you have a personality type of INFP or the "dreamer," you might not be very effective or happy in a job that calls for an ESTP or "persuader." By knowing your own type, you can know which careers it makes sense for you to pursue and which it would be better for you to avoid. If you know another person's MBTI type, you're better able to understand why the two of you don't always see eye to eye.
Disadvantages of the MBTI
The main disadvantage of the MBTI is that it may not be very reliable. People tend to get different results if they take the test more than once. This happens 75 percent of the time, according to a review by the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, the MBTI doesn't seem to match the results of other personality tests except in the areas of introversion and extroversion. Therefore, it's questionable that the MBTI is capable of accurately assessing a person's type at all. Many scientists consider the MBTI to be pseudoscientific, and due to its debatable validity it may not even be legal to use the test for hiring purposes -- as many companies do.
Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.