Understanding The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, A Psychological Test

Posted on October 31, 2010 in Health and Life

By Aashu Anshuman:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

At first look, the test looks like yet another Facebook quiz that annoys you by appearing on your requests page; the catch here is that the results here are certified by Carl G. Jung, world renowned psychologist, psychoanalyst and psychiatrist; and disciple of the father of this business, Sigmund Freud. Based on the former’s 1921 book titled ‘Psychological Types’, the mother-daughter duo of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers identified distinctly 16 discrete personality types, each of which, in general, exhibits certain behavioral preferences. The CPP (formerly Consulting Psychologist’s Press) calls MBTI the “best-known and most trusted personality assessment tool available today”. And despite the skepticism surrounding the test, as many as 2 million assessments are administered annually.

The Theory of Psychological Type was proposed by Carl Jung, in which he proposed the existence of two dichotomous pairs (branching pairs) of cognitive behavior — thinking and feeling (rational functions) and sensing and intuition (irrational functions). Myers and Briggs modified this theory to add two more dichotomous pairs — extraversion and introversion (attitudes) and judging and perceiving (lifestyles). Although people use all of these four cognitive functions, one generally finds more expression in an individual. This dominant function is supported by the secondary (auxiliary) function, and to a lesser degree by the tertiary function. The fourth function called the shadow is always the opposite of the dominant function. The four functions operate in conjunction with the attitudes, that is, each function is used in either an extraverted or introverted way.

The indicator is based on the precept that people fundamentally prefer one choice over the other and not a bit of both. It thus, does not indicate the strength of ability or the degree of aptitude but ascertains the clarity of a preference.

Furthermore, the theory states that an individual naturally prefers one overall combination of type differences. This overall personality type can help determine the most suitable careers for an individual. Thus, an INTP (which, by the way, is my personality type) is best suited for professions like engineering, computer programming and law. This means that my type is Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving. And the preferences of an individual of the type ESFJ (Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging) will be completely opposite to mine.

Even though the indicator is quite popular throughout the world, it has had its share of criticism. Jung’s methods, primarily consisting of introspection and anecdote, have largely been rejected by modern psychology. There is no the scientific or experimental proof for the existence, orientation or manifestation of the dichotomous pairs. Furthermore, researchers have found the reliability of the test to be low, since 39% to 76% of the results have been found to vary upon retesting after some gap. Skeptics call the test vague and general and question the fairness of the test. But some additional work by theorists like David Keirsey has made the test more precise and definitive. One of the major precepts the theory rests on is that individuals are the best judge of their own type. No type is good or bad, just preferred or not preferred by an individual. So I recommend all of you to log onto www.myersbriggs.org for more information on the theory and indicator and an assessment of your personality type.