Posts Tagged ‘reliability’

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

March 23, 2019

This is the seventh post in series of post based on a book by Stephen Kosslyn and G. Wayne Miller titled “Top Brain, Bottom Brain.” The subtitle is “Harnessing the Power of the Four Cognitive Modes.” The MBTI is the bane of most psychologists. Once people know that you are a psychologist, it is not unlikely that they will expound on the marvels of the MBTI. Moreover, it is used in some Intelligence Agencies. According to one estimate, about 2.5 million people a year take the test. So HM never resists the opportunity to set people straight on the MBTI.

The MBTI is scored on four dichotomous dimensions:

Extraversion vs. Introversion, which focuses on what sort of activities energize a person: Extraverts draw energy from interacting with others and are dampened down when they spend a lot of time alone; the opposite is true for introverts.

Sensing versus Intuition, which focuses on what a person prefers to pay attention to: Sensing types are very concrete, preferring factual material that is predigested and handed to them instead of material that requires them to abstract and organize meaning to distill underlying principles; the opposite is true for intuitive types.

Thinking versus Feeling, which focuses on decision-making preferences: Thinking types are logical, systematic and relatively detached when making decisions; feeling types are more inclined to rely on emotional considerations and to strive for overall “harmony.”

Judging versus Perception, which focuses on preferences for how to act in the world at large: Judging types like to plan and organize; perceiving types prefer to be open to new possibilities as they arise.

On the face of it these dimensions seem reasonable, and it is clear why this test has intuitive appeal.


The test was not developed by psychologists, statisticians, or any type of professional. Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myer Briggs began to develop this test during WW2 as a tool to help women discover which wartime jobs would be most comfortable and appropriate for them. The test MBTI was the tool. Here are the problems:

It is not based on science; instead, it largely grew out of Jung’s theory of psychoanalysis, which he formulated on the basis of intuition and clinical observations.

Some of the assumptions that underlie the test appear to be contradicted by scientific findings. For example, the MBTI is scored as if “intuition” is distinct from “feeling”—but much evidence now indicates that emotion often underlies hunches.

When items are analyzed so that the underlying factors can be discovered, the results do not correspond to the four dimensions posited by the theory.

When scores are analyzed, they do not cluster around the middle of the dimensions.

in spite of the fact that the test developers stressed that their test is designed to assess preference and not abilities, researchers have examined whether scores predict performance—and they do not consistently do so. Moreover, when they do predict performance, this may be a consequence of the correlation between the MBTI scores and other measures.

Numerous researchers have found that the test has poor reliability. Test takers often get a different score when they take the test a second time.

In addition to the MBTI the authors of “Top Brain, Bottom Brain” also debunk a view of personality that focuses on the anatomical distinctions between the left and right halves of the brain. Although there are differences, under normal circumstance the two halves do interact, and way too much has be made of this theory.


Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

June 30, 2016

When people learn that Healthymemory (HM) is a psychologist, they frequently tell me they know about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to indicate to me that they, also, know about psychology.  What they do not realize is that they are indicating to me that they have a profound ignorance of psychology.  First of all, the developers of the MBTI, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, were not psychologists, nor did they have any psychological training.  Moreover, they developed their theory from Carl Jung’s writings in his book “Psychological Types.”  Carl Jung was psychotherapist in the early days of psychiatry.   Today, he is mainly of historical interest and his impact on current psychiatry or personality theory is small.  Psychometric tools have metrics for assessing utility.  Two standards for assessing psychometric tools are validity (does it measure what it purports to measure ) and reliability (are the measurements consistent).  The MBTI fails on both metrics having poor validity and poor reliability (It will sometimes give different results for the same person on different occasions).

Nevertheless, the MBTI is quite popular in the business sector and in government, including the intelligence agencies.  Moreover, if HM informs a client that the MBTI is garbage, they are still likely to insist on its use.  So, so-called hard nose business people would rather use something that is known and is worthless that they know about, rather than some other tool with measurable value.

When agencies are asked why they find the MBTI useful, you usually get responses such as Harry is always late responding, and now I understand why.  Or Fred does sloppy work, and now I understand why.  For some reason they think that a label implies understanding.  Frankly ,when HM worked in a group, he quickly learned who was reliable,  who was timely, and so forth, and planned his management accordingly.  HM believes that these people who think the label told them something were already aware of the idiosycrancies of their staff.

The only apparent redeeming value of the MBTI is that it has some correlation with four of the Big Five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  These Big five traits are somewhat contentious.
One of the problems with personality traits is that individuals can exhibit different traits in different circumstances.  Moreover, these traits are not fixed, they can change.

Consequently, HM would steer you away from these Big five traits and towards Davidson’s Six Dimensions of Emotional Style.  They are resilience, outlook, self awareness, social intuition, sensitivity to context, and attentional style.  HM would argue that resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, is clearly the most important of these attributes, bu resilience is absent from many personality characterizations.

A primary advantage of Davidson’s approach is that provides a means to grow and adapt.  That is, it employs a growth mindset as opposed to the fixed mindsets provided by previous personality type characterizations.

Enter “Davidson” into the healthy memory search block to learn more about Davidson, his dimensions of emotional style, and also to find exercises to help you change you emotional style.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.