What is the Myers-Briggs?

Introduction to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Taken by millions of people annually, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has the following features:

  • Categorizes individuals into groups based on preferences. There are four areas on which individuals are sorted. These four areas interact to produce 16 distinct profiles and each individual is placed into one profile based on his/her responses. The four areas are Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving. Responses are dichotomously scored, such that individuals are “Extraverted” or “Introverted”, “Thinking” or “Feeling”, etc.
  • Results are delivered by a trained MBTI administrator. The measure is restricted, so it can only be administered, scored, and interpreted by a trained MBTI administrator. While this increases the costs associated with personality testing, it also decreases the likelihood that the results will be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
  • Used to make individuals aware of their preferences. Ethical use of the MBTI involves using it to enhance individuals’ awareness of their own and others’ preferences. It is important to note that the MBTI should not be used for making predictions about the ability of individuals or for decisions regarding selection of employees (Ethical Use of the MBTI Instrument, 2015).

Is the Myers-Briggs missing something?

While the MBTI has a legion of fans in HR Professionals, it has many critics in the ranks of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists.  I-O Psychologists are those who are dedicated to the scientific study of human behavior in the workplace and are concerned with things like the validity and reliability of assessments.

In Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die, Dr. Adam Grant questions the validity, reliability, and comprehensiveness of the MBTI and likens it to “a physical exam that ignores your torso and one of your arms.”

Lillian Cunningham summarizes academic critics in her Washington Post article – Myers-Briggs: Does it pay to know your type?  – saying that they are concerned that use of the MBTI is “about belief much more than scientific evidence. And it’s administered by leadership coaches who, by and large, have no formal education in the science of psychology.”

My biggest issue with the MBTI, as Grant explains, is that “four letters don’t do justice to anyone’s identity.”  It is an over-simplistic approach to categorizing something as complex as an individual’s personality.

Looking for More?

Not sure if you want to continue using the MBTI? Curious about the different types of personality tests available? Download SIGMA’s guide: Personality Assessments: Typologies versus Continuous Measures to learn about your options.

Looking for a more comprehensive assessment of leadership? Check out our flagship leadership assessment, the Leadership Skills Profile – Revised™ (LSP-R).

About the Author

Glen Harrison

Vice President

Glen oversees SIGMA’s sales and marketing activities. As a skilled presenter and trainer, he has designed and delivered engaging and entertaining workshops and webinars to help leaders and HR professionals enhance their understanding of how our products and services can be used to realize potential within their organizations.