Myers Briggs Discussion

Discussion of the validity and/or usefulness of the MyersBriggs personality test:


Skeptics of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the few pieces of popularized psychology I find generally useful. My first reaction when I was dragged off to take the test was to groan. "I know, I know, I'm an Alpha. Alphas wear red. They work too hard." I left the test a believer, and better able to work with diverse co-workers.

What's good about Myers-Briggs?

The MBTI can only be administered by a psychologist or counselor certified by Myers-Briggs. You can get an approximation of the test from the Keirsey-Bates Temperament Sorter, available on the Web at http://sunsite.unc.edu/jembin/mb.pl. (I think the MBTI is more accurate than the Temperament Sorter.) You can also read Keirsey and Bates's abominably titled book, PleaseUnderstandMe, which is nonetheless a fascinating and well-informed exploration of personality types.

-- BetsyHanesPerry (INTP, Alpha, 5'7")


Jung might have been rather astonished by the image 'landing in one of their boxes'.

He and HermannHesse were known to use I Ching (see JungAndiChing and also MyersBriggsAndJung) Look under ImagesOfOrganization (GarettMorgan?) for the use of metaphores (a.o. Jung's archetypes) under Psychic Prison and (a.o. I Ching) under Flux and Transformation - all in a multiperspectual approach to the study of organizations.

I work with groups a lot and 'had myself tested' in this and other scores (see KirtonAdaptorsInnovators). Not because I wanted to know the boxes I belong in, but because I think it is a good aid when working with people. It gives some insight in our own reactions to other personalities. There is another test that works with 8 'roles' in groups (creator, organizer, navigator, evaluator,finisher, informer...) It helps a lot if a team is balanced in these roles. That is not always possible, but knowing ones favourite role (and second choice) allows us to compensate for missing types or watch out for "overacting".

And it's fun. -- MartineDevos

Furthermore, doesn't Jung assert that one should be trying to become an XXXX; i.e., that your goal in life should be "balance"?


You're not trapped forever. Some years ago, I took this test (well, one similar to it) and came out (firmly) INTJ. This time around, I came out iNXP.

The difference? I dunno. I think I'm kinda similar :-) I switched careers (mathematician to software designer) and decided that two-stepping isn't such a bad thing, but do those account for an xor of -N-- ?

Besides which, being trapped in a box isn't such a bad thing. Look at what it did for Marcel Marceau.

-- WilliamGrosso


Trapped doesn't seem to me to be quite the right term.

The theory here is that there are 16 boxes into one of which every individual falls (whether this is true is one matter for discussion, and whether a 16-way categorization is of sufficient granularity is another). The experience most describe is recognition of their own type based on their preferences. If the description of your type as indicated by the MBTI doesn't sound right to you, it may not be.

One's attitude toward taking the test can make a difference, and the questions can be irritatingly context-free. Questions on preferring specific plans or schedules may be answered differently if you think in terms of vacation plans or software release plans.

Finally, the MyersBriggs types measure preferences, not abilities. The analogy they use is handedness: a right-handed person may be able to use their left hand, and by dint of effort become proficient at doing so, but it doesn't feel as "natural", and does require effort. Social interactions that are natural and even relaxing to an E are draining and require effort for me as an I, for instance.

-- JimPerry


If you are interested in these tests read GiftsDiffering by MyersBriggs. -- MartineDevos

This test is much improved. Not only do I come out a consistent XNTP, but I have a much better idea why. And I didn't have to choose between things that made no difference to me. But imho a more useful framework is the PersonalConstructTheory repertory grid at http://tiger.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/WebGrid/WebGrid.html . -- PeterMerel


If you think MyersBriggs is interesting, check out the EnneaGram... There is an excellent book by Don Richard Riso called "Personality Types - Using the EnneaGram for Self-Discovery". It can be an intense study into the self, and at the same time, it can bring a higher level of self-awareness and self-acceptance... along with a broader appreciation and sense of humor about who we are as humans. I like this book because it describes all aspects of each type - the strengths and the weaknesses, how each type responds to stressors in life, how each type acts/reacts at different levels of integration/disintegration, and how each type relates to the others. Personally, I think it's a fascinating study of the human psyche.

The EnneaGram consists of Nine core personality types. It describes each core personality type, and the two other main sub-types we lean towards when we are stressed, and when we are happy (or in Heart, as it's sometimes referred to). It is a great tool for understanding and dealing with people we may have difficulty with, including ourself (!). We carry parts of all of the nine types, but there is one that is predominant. For example, I am a Nine, and when I'm stressed I go to Six; when I'm in "heart" or happy, I spend more time in Three. It is a definite pattern to my behavior - I'm amazed at how accurate the EnneaGram is... I have several friends with the same experience/opinion.

I believe that Jung and Myers/Briggs incorporated the EnneaGram in their work - it's been around for a long time - perhaps since the time of the Sufi... -- Adriana

See NinePersonalityTypes.


These tests (MyersBriggs, EnneaGram, QI, whatever), designed to measure one's mind and to classify people, are amusing at best, dangerous at worst.

Credulous as I am, I was excited when I first read about MyersBriggs in one of GeraldWeinberg's book. I took the test, and I was appalled by some of the questions.

What the hell are you supposed to answer to:

        31 Children often do not
          (a) make themselves useful enough
          (b) daydream enough

Maybe anyone who can answer that deserves to be classified! And then there is:

        4 Are you usually
          (a) fair minded
          (b) kind hearted

Both? None? It depends? In reality I am sometimes "Introvert", sometimes "Extrovert", sometimes "Judging", sometimes "Perceiving". How I behave at a party does not influence my behavior at a project meeting. Without being lunatic or schizophrenic, I maybe in a good or bad mood.

Why dangerous? This is the kind of stuff easily applied on people's credulity to bring them in a cult.

This is a link to MyersBriggs' entry in the SkepticsDictionary: http://www.skepdic.com/myersb.html.

-- MarcoScheurer (INTP therefore skeptic)


(Some of the Web versions of the device let you skip a question that you don't want to answer either way. But shouldn't there be both "both" and "neither" choices?)

I took two Web versions of the thing on the same day; came out INFP on one, INTJ on the other. Read both detailed descriptions, and both seemed eerily correct! *8) This is how astrology works, also. Has anyone done the obvious test: take N subjects, give them each a questionnaire to fill out, ignore their answers, and give them a random one of the 16 detailed descriptions. Then ask them "how well did this describe you?". One possibility is that most people would think it was eerily correct...

Of course, I imagine a trained whateverer would do a better job than the Web devices.

-- DavidChess


Anyone who was "surprised" by how good the fit for their type is, go and try reading the description of your opposite type. IME most people find about an 80% fit for their own type but also a 50-60% fit for their so called opposite as well. -- BenAveling

The closest to an "opposite type" for me might be ISTJ. I've taken a few versions of the tests at and retaken them at different times. I have different results, but some things stay the same. I am always E??P. I tend to score more towards N than S, and more towards F than T. After reading the "opposite type" (INSJ) description, I have to say that it doesn't describe me at all. Perhaps all of this isn't much different than snooty astrology, that's a tough call. However, it may not be very good, but I think it is a bit more solid than smoke and mirrors. -- EricHerman


I read PleaseUnderstandMe and studied the various types. INTP was obviously much closer than the others. I took the test and it came out ENTP. I looked the test over and realized its weaknesses, because it was asking what I do instead of what I feel, and I have trained myself to be more outgoing. I eventually took the real MyersBriggs test and it came out INTP, but then perhaps I had learned how to take the test by that time.

MyersBriggs is just a model. People are more complicated than that. However, I think it is a useful model, and it has helped me understand and relate to other people better. And I hope it is going to help me act more like a J. If you want to change something, it helps to understand it. -- RalphJohnson


I used to be ENTP (Inventor). Just retook the test with my son, who I guessed would be an S, but he came out ENTP... and I came out ENTJ. I cried, "Can't be, I like being an ENTP." till I looked in the description and found ENTJ is nicknamed "Field Marshall". We all laughed, because the description sure is accurate, now that I have a family and my own business! Field Marshall Dad will be my new title around here. Boy, I'd like to have the chance to go back and be the Inventor, but for now... oops, 15 minutes until we leave, and I have to make sure the boys are dressed and have breakfast! -- AlistairCockburn

Alistair, I've met you -- you're a P. You may be filling a J role, perhaps you've invented a good way to do so, but you are about as 'P' as anyone I've ever run across. -- PhilGoodwin


First time I was tested was in high school: INTJ (with a very strongly expressed "I"). Second time was in the workplace: eNTJ

Am I really more of an extrovert now? No, not really. The difference was my mindset when taking the test. In high school, the "peer groups" mentioned in the test always implied groups that I was not engaged with. Later, I tended to think of "peer groups" as my coworkers and chosen friends... not people with whom I shared an accident of geography and age.

-- MichaelNygard musing on the unstable nature of introspection


I was annoyed by the Keirsey test, especially part II.

Can I honestly choose between the options on the majority of these questions? Here are some examples:

Does interacting with strangers In my opinion there is not an answer to this question. It is like asking,

Does going on a vacation Another one:

Are you swayed more by Well, touching appeals are intended to sway you (hence the "appeal"), and solid evidence is intended to convince you. Certainly, I am not alone in believing that context is essential to answer this question. If I am wondering whether some fantastic claim is true (say an advertisement testimonial, or a conspiracy about the government), or whether an argument is flawed, I would of course want solid evidence, as I try to be a sane human being. On the other hand, if the touching appeal is a personal matter, say something to do with a friend, then I am going to be swayed by a touching appeal - those are the best kind. What is swaying me in this question!?

Yes, I have taken the test, twice. Once I was forced to in school (intp?), and just a few moments ago voluntarily (istj), though I left most questions blank that I didn't 'feel' right about committing to.

Does this test tell you anything? If you agree with what it says, is it like a spotlight exposing your secrets, or in reality just a confirmation bias, telling you what you wanted to hear? And that is when it is specific, when it is general, then it could well appeal to human nature in general, hence sound cunningly familiar to everybody.

-- DavidPorter

I think that if you don't think there's an answer to the question, that says something about your personality, too - that you're just not extreme. Personally, I always find that being with people taxes me. I am so far I-type that it's not funny. It's not that I don't sometimes like to spend time with people, or even seek them out, but after I spent time socializing I always have to recover by spending time alone.

My father is a classic E-type, and I can tell he's just the opposite - he can spend time alone, but he needs to recover from that by spending time with people.

-- AaronHumphrey (INTP)


The great appeal of a test like MBTI is that it's an invitation for us to talk about ourselves. Who can resist? Find those people and hire them.


There are 2 types of people in the world - those that classify people into groups and those that don't. I belong to the latter.


This doesn't classify, this gives you more color pens to build your own picture of the world. Nobody forces you to paint with the pens you don't want.

As ENFP, I ended up today as revamping a company structure and taking charge of applying my insights. A lot of networking in sight. Why can't I just shut up and not being so convincing?

-- PhilippeBack


I like some of the skeptics' takes on these classifications. It's easy to doubt the validity of these tests (as well as IQ tests, career surveys, aptitude tests, etc.). And any practical application of the test results (e.g., team building based on types) should be handled delicately (or not at all). In general, though, most of the prevailing personality theories have long been accepted as accurate by the psychology, academic, and business communities at large (MBTI and Keirsey included). So, while personality theory is a very interpretative field, time and again, the theories support themselves in practice.

The questions are meant to be context-insensitive. They are not supposed to predict your behavior in a specific situation - they are supposed to predict your tendencies without regard to context. They intentionally force you to choose one way or another, even though you could probably select "it depends" as your answer to every question. By making you pick the option that you feel describes your tendencies most of the time, it is getting beyond situational behavior and focusing on personality traits. Even if you choose the "wrong" option (that is, you pick an answer that in most cases does not describe your tendency), the sum total of all your answers should still indicate a trend, or a leaning in a certain direction.

Anyway, I'm an ENFP, so I like to think that fuzzy answers are better than concrete ones! ;-)


The reorganization is done. Was fun.

As ENFP too, I'll say that nobody can make concrete answers, as those answers are carrying the referential of the sayer. Meaning, since referentials can be freely chosen, no answer has a real value except the one you *choose* to give it. Yes, there isn't any sense in the world. So, be as crazy as you want and enjoy ! (BTW, we are crazy to work in IT, this proving that).

-- PhilippeBack


It's well worth reading the skeptics' entry on MyersBriggs at http://www.skepdic.com/myersb.html - even if you disagree with their conclusions, the discussion is very interesting.

I agree that the web tests are very poor - I found it more useful to look at the breakdown of personality types, and decide which felt more appropriate to me. This actually gave the same result as the test for me, but was rather more satisfying.

My biggest problem with the on-line test is that it is so saccharine sweet in it's descriptions - it's like a bad horoscope, everyone is wonderful and perfect. What we really need is a list of the negative view of each personality type, just for balance.

For instance, I'm an ENFP (though I'm ENTP sometimes). Kiersey says:
The Champion Idealists are abstract in thought and speech, cooperative in accomplishing their aims, and informative and extroverted when relating with others. For Champions, nothing occurs which does not have some deep ethical significance, and this, coupled with their uncanny sense of the motivations of others, gives them a talent for seeing life as an exciting drama, pregnant with possibilities for both good and evil.
I'd prefer something like :
The Dreamers are vague in concepts, indecisive and impractical. They care more about their own internal world view than practical concerns. Never getting down to work, they instead waste their time writing PissTakes on the web.

-- KornySietsma

http://soli.inav.net/~catalyst/Humor/mbtihaha.htm has negative descriptions of all the types - much more accurate than Keirsey, IMO.


The reason that you are forced to answer A or B and not A and B or neither A nor B, is the basis of this type of testing - forced choice. I agree that you (and I) could feel comfortable answering either A or B on some (many?) questions. The secret is to understand what it is designed to report - your personality preference. In order to help you recognize your preference, you should approach each question absent from any influences - if your job didn't require you to be more like this....; if your role as a spouse or parent or friend or whatever didn't encourage you to respond in a certain manner, HOW would you prefer to behave/respond? Also note that as we mature, we learn to use other side or each preference pair more comfortably. I sometimes advise folks to respond as they feel they would have at the age of 18. The instrument (it isn't a test - there are no right or wrong answers) is useful to help us to understand ourselves and others. We use it in working with groups and individuals to help them understand how they prefer to communicate, to learn, to lead or be led. It is just what some of the other posters have said - a tool, but it can be very useful. Your personality type probably will not change over time - if you are actually responding with your preferences absent of any influences.

Incidentally, if you prefer to consider how you might behave under certain circumstances, use a behavior-style instrument like DiSC. These instruments help you to determine responses to situations.

-- Marty Daniels

I believe this comment describes my unease about MBTI. I do not see why the answer I am most comfortable in giving is not my preference. How does being forced to give an answer that does not reflect my beliefs reveal my beliefs? I hope I didn't take your words out of context, but I believe this is one of the fundamental chasms between those who accept MBTI and those who do not. -- WayneMack

Well, do you have a coin in your pocket? If you are forced to give an answer you don't have, you can as well use it. That's why all these "forced choice" tests suck: if they simply had an "I'm flipping the coin" answer, they would have got more info about me.

What I feel wrong with this particular test is that its usual interpretation is misleading. Actually this test doesn't "put people in the boxes". It puts roles in the boxes, and then tries to find which one of these roles the testee prefers to play at that time (and in that environment).

But in the most cases you don't really want to know which roles your testees prefer to play when forced to answer stupid questions. What you want to know is how good are they in the particular roles you might want to assign to them. -- NikitaBelenki


I have an interest in trying to decide what mbti type other people are. To make it easy, there is a separate page for MbtiFamousPeople. -- DaleWoloshin
I like MyersBriggs, and think there may be something to it. But still, consider the Forer Effect[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forer_effect] before you are shocked that it accurately describes you.
MyersBriggs continued the work of CarlJung BUT they are not the only ones, and there are some voices that say that they kinda double screwed the theory to get it right. Socionics Types seem to make more sense to me. -- PeterDamoc


I'm convinced that MyersBriggs is a bunch of crap. It's all superficial nonsense about as sensible and meaningful as horoscopes. The dimensions don't really mean anything, the archetypes definitely don't mean anything, and there's nothing beyond the superficial descriptions at all.

The worst part of it is that MyersBriggs displaced CarlJung's archetypes to such an extent that you can no longer find them. And Jungian archetypes actually meant something, were attached to a theory of personality. But that's what made them so disturbing, they correctly described very deep and disturbing aspects of the human mind. And that's why MyersBriggs became so popular; not in spite of being superficial crap but because it's superficial crap.

Everyone should know what a genuine theory of personality is like, like DabrowskiLevels, so that they can avoid charlatan hucksterism. And hey, if you really want a test of your mind then why don't you test something meaningful like your learning style? (http://webster.commnet.edu/faculty/~simonds/styles/interp.htm) And instead of force-fitting everything into binary either-or choices, you come out on a 7 point scale, which lets you determine whether that particular dimension means anything to you (if you're in the middle then it doesn't). Furthermore, at least you'll be testing something real and meaningful, something intrinsic to yourself, something attached to a prescriptive and predictive theory.

-- RichardKulisz


It's descriptive, not prescriptive.

Why is this listed as an advantage? I view this as a major short-coming. What value are the types to anyone if there is no action associated with them?
The LipsonShiu test seems much more useful ...
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