Why Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type Is Meaningless (2022)

INFP, ESTJ, ISTP — Do these mysterious sets of letters look familiar? They’re a small sampling of the 16 different personality types laid out by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one of the most widely used personality assessments in the world. More than 2 million people take the self-reporting test each year and it’s become a staple for many companies, schools and government agencies. It’s now so prolific that MBTI results have even become a fixture on dating profiles according to The Washington Post.

Through a series of nearly 100 questions based on the observations of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, psychiatrist and the founder of analytic psychology, the MBTI classifies test-takers into one of 16 distinct personality types based on four sets of binary characteristics: extraversion vs. introversion, intuitive vs. sensing, feeling vs. thinking, and judging vs. perceiving. According to the Myers-Briggs Company, the assessment provides “positive language for understanding and valuing individual differences,” which can help people improve how they communicate, learn and work. Sounds good, right?

But there’s one small hitch: As far as science goes, it’s about as reliable as a horoscope.

How The Myers-Briggs Test Works

In the early 1940s, Mother-daughter duo Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (neither of whom were trained scientists) developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with the intention of helping women entering the workforce find work best suited to their personalities.

To create the type indicator, the two women drew heavily on the influential yet unsupported theories of Carl Jung. Jung hypothesized in his book Psychological Types in 1921 that humans mainly fall into two categories: perceivers and judgers. Perceivers could be further split into people who prefer sensing and those who prefer intuiting, while judgers could be split into thinkers and feelers, resulting in four different types of people. The four types could also be divided into introverts and extroverts.

Jung was not an empiricist and these classifications were shaped by observation and personal experience rather than experiments or data. He admitted that these types were not absolute, saying that, “Every individual is an exception to the rule.”

To create their type indicator, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers took Jung’s types and tweaked them so that people were assigned one trait or another in each of the four categories, based on their answers to a series of two-choice questions.

What Are The Four Categories?

  1. Extraversion (E) - Introversion (I). This measures how people react to their environment. Extroverts are energized by social interactions and like focusing outward. Introverts are the opposite. They prefer their internal world and tend to be drained after a lot of socializing.

  2. Sensing (S) - Intuition (N). This category is about how people collect information. Do they prefer their own senses and what they can experience? Or, do they look for patterns and abstractions?

    (Video) Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless

  3. Thinking (T) - Feeling (F). This scale is about how people make decisions. Someone high on the thinking scale looks at data, facts, tangible and known information. On the other side of the thinking-feeling spectrum are the feelers. They are more likely to make decision based on feelings and emotions.

  4. Judging (J) - Perceiving (P). If you prefer structure and organization, the idea is you’d score high on the judging scale. More adaptable people who would rather have flexibility than structure would be considered high on the perceiving scale.

What Are the 16 Types?

Just How Flawed Is The Myers-Briggs Test?

Here is the major issue. By relying strongly on limited binaries, the MBTI gives an oversimplified view of human personality. But human beings are complicated. We don’t fit into neat categories, but rather fall along a spectrum. People aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts or thinkers or feelers. Data from the Myers-Briggs test itself backs this up, yet in practice, test-takers are lumped into one category or another.

According to Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the MBTI completely overlooks emotional stability vs. reactivity, a key predictor of individual and group patterns of thought, feeling and action.

(Video) Your Meyers Briggs Personality Type is Meaningless

And not only that oversight, but the categories that the test does sample, are incomplete. Grant gives the example of the judging-perceiving scale, which he says captures whether one is an organizer and a planner, “but overlooks the industriousness and achievement drive that tend to accompany these characteristics—together, they form a personality trait called conscientiousness.”

As a result, the MBTI and its results aren’t exactly reliable. Studies have shown that 50 percent of people are classified into a different type the second time they take the test, even if the test-retest period is short (e.g. five weeks). And several studies have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the test at predicting job success.

All of this is why most psychologists have abandoned the Myers-Briggs. But despite its shortcomings, MBTI continues to be a top tool for recruiting, team building, and more. So, what gives?

The Attractiveness Of Personality Type

People love trying to make sense out of chaos. Which would explain so many of us are drawn to the idea of categorizing ourselves. We’re complicated beings and the MBTI, much like our zodiac sign, seems to offer insights about others and ourselves — our habits, preferences, and the way we move through the world. Another attractive element is the flattering spin MBTI puts on every personality type.

Ronald Riggio, an organizational psychologist and Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College, puts it down to the Barnum Effect. This is a psychological phenomenon where subjects who think they’ve been given a valid personality test (but haven’t) and are given a description of their supposed personality type, filled with a mix of positive traits, say the analysis is a good description. In other words, they believe it because it’s flattering and usually pretty general.

So, What Is MBTI Good For?

If there is one thing the MBTI does well, it’s offering a jumping off point for self-exploration or sparking helpful conversations about how we relate to and work with others.

But beyond that, we wouldn’t recommend putting much stock in its predictions, particularly where they pertain to recruiting and HR.

(Video) Why the 16 Personalities (MBTI) is MEANINGLESS
Why Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type Is Meaningless (1)

Libby MacCarthy is a freelance writer based in Toulouse, France. She writes about everything from the climate to clothes. Her work has appeared in HuffPost, Men's Health, The DailyBeast, and Brit + Co.

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FAQs

Why Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type Is Meaningless? ›

Research has found that as many as 50 percent of people arrive at a different result the second time they take a test, even if it's just five weeks later. That's because the traits it aims to measure aren't the ones that are consistently different among people.

Why is the MBTI so unreliable? ›

Some research suggests the MBTI is unreliable because the same person can get different results when retaking the test.

Is Myers-Briggs nonsense? ›

"The research out there says that [the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator] doesn't predict behavior in a consistent way, and psychometrically, the way it's constructed, is pretty odd," says Ronald Riggio, who earned his PhD in Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and currently teaches at Claremont McKenna ...

Why is the MBTI criticized? ›

“The MBTI assessment isn't predictive”

Another common criticism of the MBTI instrument is that there's no evidence to show a positive relation between MBTI types and success within an occupation.

Which MBTI is most likely to misunderstood? ›

Originally Answered: What is the most misunderstood MBTI type? INFJ is likely the most misunderstood due to their chameleon-like nature in social situations.

Has Myers-Briggs been discredited? ›

The Myers-Briggs provides inconsistent, inaccurate results

Research has found that as many as 50 percent of people arrive at a different result the second time they take a test, even if it's just five weeks later. That's because the traits it aims to measure aren't the ones that are consistently different among people.

Is Myers-Briggs scientifically valid? ›

The truth is that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is no less valid or reliable than other personality tests. Nonetheless, rumors persist that the test is wholly unreliable and is not based on research. Unfortunately, the propagation of such falsehoods is particularly rampant among my fellow academics.

Why MBTI is a pseudoscience? ›

The MBTI tests have limited reliability and validity, and are not sufficiently backed by scientific evidence. They remain popular due to a cognitive bias called the Barnum effect, which makes us gullible to vague descriptions of ourselves.

How accurate is Myers-Briggs test? ›

The company's website boasts the assessment has a 90% accuracy rating and a 90% average test-retest correlation, “making it one of the most reliable and accurate personality assessments available.” Many researchers, however, have long questioned the MBTI's scientific merit.

What is the most accurate personality test? ›

The Big Five Personality Test is by far the most scientifically validated and reliable psychological model to measure personality. This test is, together with the Jung test (MBTI test style) and the DISC assessment, one of the most well known personality tests worldwide.

What are the disadvantages of MBTI? ›

MBTI Limitations. Below are the more well-known limitations found in the Myers-Briggs test, including re-test reliability, validity, inability to capture the full extent of personality, and bimodal grouping of people – suggesting that personalities are static.

What's the rarest personality type? ›

INFJ is the rarest personality type across the population, occurring in just 2% of the population. It is also the rarest personality type among men. INFJ stands for Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Judging. This unique combination is hard to find in most people.

Can your MBTI change? ›

According to MBITonline.com, "Because your type is inherent, your basic preferences likely will not change." So, no, your personality type itself cannot change — it's something that you're born with, and no amount of age or experience will change it, because it's innate to you.

Which MBTI is most complex? ›

The INFP may be the toughest personality type of all for others to understand.

What MBTI types are manipulative? ›

The destructive ENFP is manipulative, self-absorbed, and disloyal. They believe the world revolves around them and their interests and ideas. They only care about others in terms of how much they can get out of them.

Which MBTI type is the most mysterious? ›

INTJ. INTJs often do have a mysterious demeanor, which is often very appealing to people. They are independent and private people, who like to keep most things to themselves. This desire to keep to themselves, combined with their naturally enigmatic personalities, causes the INTJ to appear very mysterious.

What is wrong with the MBTI? ›

MBTI personality types are just not reliable enough to make judgments about individual workers, experts say. While people may use personality tests for fun to know and describe themselves better, the results are not necessarily predictive of work success, ethics, or productivity.

Which MBTI is most sensitive to criticism? ›

INTJs are actually one of the types most likely to handle criticism well. If the INTJ feels like someone is delivering the criticism in a constructive and logical manner, they will certainly appreciate it and listen. INTJs enjoy growing and progressing, and are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves.

Which MBTI have high standards? ›

ENTJ. ENTJs have very high standards for themselves and for others. They are always pushing themselves to be better, and believe in growth.

Videos

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3. Adam Ruins Everything - Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Total B.S. | truTV
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4. How Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type Perfectly Explains You
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