Myers-Briggs personalities are identified by four-letter acronyms. courtesy Wikimedia Commons

People still value the Myers-Briggs test despite its flaws

Psychologists have largely disproved MBTI typing, but it helps people categorize thems lves in social situations.

The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator originated in the early 1900s and was standardized in the 1960s by Isabel Briggs Myers, daughter of creator Katharine Briggs. It sought to create a way to properly categorize people through a standardized series of personality types. Subjects taking the test answer a series of questions that place them in one of 16 personality types. These types describe the general nature of different people, from extroversion and introversion to “thinking” versus “feeling” orientation.

The study holds little weight in the scientific community, with many psychologists arguing that it is a useless tool for understanding human beings. In 2013, social scientist Adam Grant stated in an article titled “Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad that Won’t Die” that there is a problem with the test in that the results can too easily change based on the different times one takes it.

So if the test is a scientific fraud that holds no validity, why it is so popular? Why did 89 of the Fortune 100 companies use it as a tool for determining employment? The answer is twofold: it provides a quick and easy system, however flawed, for defining one’s identity, and it also creates an easy way for people to group themselves together. People who receive the same results now have a new community that they can interact with based on these principles even if the test has no scientific weight. However, its scientific faults mean it should not be used in any form of job interview or important decision-making.

The Myers-Briggs test provides an easy answer to describe one’s self to other groups of individuals and for people to begin to understand themselves better. It is difficult to describe one’s characteristics and personality to strangers and the test can go some ways toward redressing that. Therefore, the system provides an easy opportunity for people aware of the system to easily converse on the topic of their groupings.

In the NPR article “How the Myers-Briggs Personality Test Began in a Mother’s Living Room Lab,” author Melissa Block describes why there is such fascination with these types of personality tests. This conception is similar to why Buzzfeed quizzes are so popular. They all provide a quick knowledge of one’s personality. The article suggests that the MBTI works well because it “offers us a really easy and non-judgemental language of the self,” adding, “It offers us a vocabulary to talk about who we are and what our desires are and it doesn’t make us feel like we have to apologize for those desires.”

The test’s relative simplicity and strict categories, though scientifically problematic, work in its favor to provide an efficient system. A more complete and accurate grouping would contain millions of variations due to the complexity of human psychology. By condensing the number, it provides a simple way to explain ourselves to others and see if we connect with them.

While it has some use in everyday conversation, the MBTI should not be used in job interviews or important decisions because of its inherent flaws. Companies who use the test are potentially looking for certain traits that they believe to be advantageous, like extrversion. However, these traits focus on a system of terms that lack necessary scientific backing or rigour and give a false impression of the individual. In addition to the test being inaccurate, the knowledge that companies are looking for certain traits means that people have the ability to study beforehand on which options will lead to the supposedly positive results. These tests provide a false promise of objectivity that potentially causes problems for the individuals involved.

Instead of using the Myers-Brigg Test for future employment, there are better systems available that meet a similar need. While these systems are not perfect, they are more scientifically credible. A newer test, called the Big Five focuses on five traits, extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. A potential sixth term of honesty-humility is also a potential good tool. These five parts each have genetic, biological and neurological bases in the human body and can be seen across the different cultures of the world. While no personality test will be perfect, a constant theme of progress or adjustment of the system in testing procedures will produce better results.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle