Myers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI): What You Need To Know


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Rufus Tony Spann is a nationally certified school psychologist and licensed professional counselor based in Washington, D.C.
Rufus Tony Spann, Ph.D., L.C.P.C., L.P.C. Mental Health / Holistic Health
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If you’ve ever seen a combination of four mysterious letters, such as “ISTP” or “ENTJ,” you might be interested to know they’re not just a trendy new acronym. These four-letter codes are possible results of a 93-question (give or take) personality assessment called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—a psychological instrument that’s been around for more than 75 years.

But what exactly do the Myers-Briggs personality types mean, and what can you do once you discover yours? Read on to learn about this widely-used personality test and how the results may help guide life and career decisions.

What Is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?

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.

What Is the Myers Briggs Personality Test Used for?

Many businesses, including a large number of Fortune 500 companies, turn to the MBTI for guidance worldwide. The test has been used as a tool for team-building, conflict prevention and leadership development purposes. The MBTI may also help people determine how compatible they are with one another, romantically or platonically, says Vitelli.

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Myers Briggs Personality Types

To determine a person’s four-letter personality code, the MBTI asks questions to help determine which sides of the four scales they most closely fit.


This scale helps a person understand where they put their attention and how they get their energy. “Extraversion refers to the tendency to be outgoing and action-oriented while enjoying social interactions and feeling more energized as a result. Introversion lies on the opposite end of the scale and reflects the tendency to be more thought-oriented and withdrawn,” says Vitelli. However, introversion doesn’t always mean the same thing as shy. Introversion can also indicate someone who enjoys “living in their head,” reflecting on ideas, thoughts or memories. These types may enjoy company in small groups rather than large crowds and are often comfortable being alone.

Other common traits of extraverts include:

  • Feeling comfortable in groups
  • Being popular or having a large friend group
  • Not thinking something over before taking action

Common traits of introverts include:

  • Avoiding action by overthinking and/or contemplating
  • Feeling removed from the outside world


This scale examines how people take in information from the world around them. “People who prefer sensing tend to be more reality-based and depend on their own senses and what they can learn from hands-on experience,” says Vitelli. “Intuition [type] is more likely to depend on their impressions of the world around them and is more likely to rely on inner feelings to make conclusions.”

Common traits of sensing personalities include:

  • Remembering accurate snapshots of events
  • Being a fact-based problem solver
  • A preference for a realistic “bottom line” approach
  • Valuing experience more than words and/or symbols
  • Overlooking potential possibilities due to overanalyzing facts

Common traits of intuition personalities include:

  • “Reading between the lines”
  • An interest in new, different experiences
  • Bouncing between possible scenarios
  • Valuing impressions, metaphors and symbols more than lived experience
  • A difficulty bringing possibilities to reality


With this scale, the idea is to understand whether a person focuses more on information as it relates to their five senses or on patterns and interpretations. “People scoring highly on thinking tend to be more logic-based and dependent on facts and objective information,” Vitelli adds. “Feeling individuals are more likely to depend on emotions to conclude people and events.”

Thinking personalities commonly display as:

  • Enjoying fields where logic is key
  • Noticing errors or inconsistencies
  • Searching for logical solutions to problems
  • A desire to be fair and make decisions based on logic
  • Believing in direct truth-telling
  • Not always accounting for people’s emotions or experiences
  • Being task oriented and appearing indifferent or uncaring

Feeling personalities typically present as:

  • Enjoying fields involving people or communications
  • Wanting harmony and becoming nervous around conflict
  • Having concern for others
  • Being compassionate and making emotion-based decisions
  • Valuing people’s emotions and believing in delivering news with tact
  • Not always communicating difficult truths directly
  • Appearing indirect, idealistic, or emotional


This scale assesses whether a person prefers more structure in their life or if they’re open to a more flexible lifestyle. “People high on judging are more rigid and inflexible and prefer more structured environments,” says Vitelli. “On the other hand, people high on perceiving tend to be more flexible, open-minded and spontaneous.”

Common displays of judging personalities may include:

  • Enjoying when things are decided
  • Being task oriented
  • Enjoying to-do lists
  • Having a “work before play” attitude
  • Planning ahead to avoid rushing or procrastination
  • Being highly goal oriented, but sometimes missing information due to narrow focus

Perceiving personalities can appear as:

  • Being open-minded
  • Being casual or not one to make plans
  • Mixing work with play
  • Being productive in bursts of energy
  • Receiving added stimulation from pressure or deadlines
  • Having difficulty making decisions

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How to Take the Myers Briggs Personality Test

If you’d like to take the MBTI, you can visit or schedule an appointment with an MBTI-certified practitioner or an organization (such as a school or workplace) that administers the test. The assessment takes roughly 45 minutes to complete, according to MBTIonline.

If you choose to take the MBTI, Vitelli recommends being honest, recognizing the tool’s possible reliability and validity limitations, and not letting your four-letter code rule your existence. “That means accepting that your scores may change over time,” he adds. “And the test shouldn’t be used for making long-term decisions about your life or career.”

Think of the MBTI as a fluid self-awareness tool as opposed to a definitive measure of your personality. You may also choose to take it more than once to see if and how your four-letter personality type code changes over time.

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