Do Those Myers-Briggs Tests Actually Tell You Anything About Your Personality?
Have you ever responded to “Got plans tonight?” with “Ugh, I just want to go home.” You’re totally an ISFJ.
Or has anyone ever told you that you’re judgmental and you were like, “Yeah, and your point is?” That’s apparently a sign that you’re a ENTJ.
WTF does any of this mean? Those four-number combos are two of the 16 possible personalities outlined by the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test.
What is Myers-Briggs?
The MBTI was created in the 1940s by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a mother-daughter team of personality researchers. They devised a set of questions, based on the personality theories of famous psychologist Carl Jung, to help determine which category or type a person fell into.
The Myers-Briggs Institute describes Jung’s four key personality components as:
They made the test for one specific reason: “The goal of knowing about personality type is to understand and appreciate differences between people,” they said. They emphasized that no one type is better than the other. Rather, they wanted people to learn about themselves and understand what makes them tick.
Okay, so how does the Myers-Briggs test work?
If you’ve ever seen the results of a MBTI (usually four seemingly random letters), it can look confusing—but the idea is actually pretty simple. The MBTI asks multiple questions in each of the above-mentioned categories to tease out exactly where on each spectrum you fall.
Your personality type is then defined by your preference in each category, written out as four letters. There are 16 possible combinations—meaning there are 16 different personality types. For example, the most common type is an ISFJ, meaning that a person is an introvert who prefers facts, prioritizes feelings, and makes hard judgments.
What can you learn about yourself?
Broadly speaking, personality theory says that some traits naturally occur more often with other traits—like enthusiasm and assertiveness.
A group of these connected traits is called a personality type. Your personality type influences your interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills. So, the more you know about yourself, the more you can understand yourself and set yourself up for success. At least, that’s the theory!
It’s insanely popular, especially with businesses. In fact, 89 of the Fortune 100 companies say they use it to inform personnel or leadership decisions, reports Forbes. Overall, more than 2.5 million people take the MBTI every year in one form or another.
How accurate is Myers-Briggs?
Not everyone is a fan, though. Many experts think the MBTI is junk science at best.
Forbes calls it “nonsense, sciencey snake oil” and says it has no more reliability and validity than a Tarot card reading.
“The MBTI is about as useful as a polygraph for detecting lies,” Adam Grant Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Wharton, told Psychology Today. Ouch.
And despite how commonly it’s used in work settings, there’s no relationship between your MBTI personality type and your job performance, according to a study published in the Journal of Management.
Should you take it?
Most of the people who take the MBTI aren’t doing it because they are looking for a definitive guide to themselves. They’re doing it for the same reason we take Buzzfeed quizzes about what our favorite ice cream or pet says about us: It’s just fun to learn more about yourself. Plus, talking about personality, likes, and dislikes makes for great dinner conversation and can be an opener for talking about deeper issues in relationships, jobs, and life.
If you’re curious, you can take the official version at the MBTI site. They recommend reviewing your results with a certified MBTI counselor to get the most out of the test. If you’re interested in a version with a more humorous explanation and instant results try the 16 Personalities Test, a super popular spin-off, online.
Bottom line: Take the MBTI if want to do something fun while learning a little more about yourself — just don’t take it too seriously.
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