The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—also referred to as the “Myers-Briggs personality test” or simply the “Myers-Briggs test”—is a self-reported questionnaire. The test helps people assess their personality using four specific dichotomies, or scales: introversion-extraversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling and judging-perceiving.
The MBTI was first developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs, and it’s based on psychologist Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. The purpose of the test is to “make the theory of psychological types described by C.G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives,” according to the Myers & Briggs Foundation. In other words, the MTBI is intended to give clarity and understanding of a person’s personality type in a practical way.
Myers and Briggs first tested friends and family to collect data, workshop the questions and determine how to weigh each answer. In 1951, more than 5,000 medical students across 45 medical schools used the MBTI to help determine which areas of medicine in which they would specialize. Since then, the questionnaire has been used to help people both in and outside the workplace learn more about their personality and the personalities of the people around them.
There are 16 personality types in the MBTI, all of which include a letter for each side of the four scales the person aligns with most. Letters always follow the same order, and scales are abbreviated using the following letters:
- Introversion-extraversion is represented by I or E
- Sensing-intuition is represented by S or N
- Thinking-feeling is represented by T or F
- Judging-perceiving is represented by J or P
Each of the scales operates as a spectrum. Although a personality may not fall perfectly into one type, the four-letter type code represents the side of each of the four scales a person most closely fits.
For example, a person who leans toward introversion, intuition, thinking and judging would be considered personality type INTJ. Naturally, there are 15 other personality permutations across these four spectrums.
No personality type is superior to the others. Each one simply gives a clearer indication of a person’s likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.
Is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Valid?
“Despite the MBTI’s brand name appeal, personality researchers have considerable skepticism concerning its actual validity compared to more conventional personality tests,” says Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., a private practice psychologist and psychology consultant at Mom Loves Best. While scientific journals have published thousands of studies using the MBTI over the decades, some researchers question the MBTI’s objectivity, the questionnaire format and the reliability of the test scores. That said, the MBTI remains one of the most widely-recognized personality tests globally for its simplicity, ease of use and longstanding history as a workplace tool, he says.