The Myers-Briggs Personality test, more commonly called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is a psychometric assessment designed to measure preferences in how a person perceives the world and makes decisions. The test was originally based on the work done by Carl Jung and his typological theories published in 1921 in his book, “Psychological Types”.
The original work for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was done by a mother daughter team during World War II. Believing that the knowledge of personality types would help women who were entering the work force for the first time, this team created the Indicator type testing. The goal was to help women identify the type of job they were best suited to be effective. (1)
Over the years the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type test has become one of the most trusted and widely used personality assessment tools available. The test is based on two different cognitive functions that Jung identified: judging functions that relate to thinking and feeling and perceiving functions that relate to sensing and intuition. These functions are then expressed in an introverted or extroverted form.
The model behind the Myers-Briggs test regards individuals much the same way as whether or not they are left-handed or right-handed. Jung believed that individuals were born with, or developed, certain preferred ways of acting and thinking, none of which changed throughout their lifetime. By combining the two judging functions and the two perceiving functions with the issue of introversion or extroversion the Myers-Briggs indicator type came up with 16 possible psychological types. (2)
Interestingly, none of these types is truly better or worse than another. However, Myers and Briggs theorize that people naturally preferred one overall combination over others. Some academic psychologists have criticized this instrument, but proponents point to anecdotal predictions of individual behavior which are accurate and claimed that the test meets the reliability of other psychological instruments. In several studies between 75% and 90% of adults received the same results when the test was administered to the same person more than once.
The 16 different types are usually abbreviated by four different letters. For instance, extroversion is represented by an E, Sensing by an S, thinking by a T, Judgment by a J, Introversion by an I, Intuition by an N, Feeling by an F, Perception by a P. each of the different personality indicators are known to operate under the umbrella of an attitude. These attitudes are introversion and extroversion.
The term introvert and extrovert are used in a special way by the Myers-Briggs type indicator. People who prefer extroversion will draw their energy from action and their flow of energy is directed outwards. Conversely, those who are introverts become less energized as they act and prefer to reflect, thus their energy is directed inwards. Extroverts usually prefer more frequent interaction with individuals while introverts prefer more substantial interaction but less. (3)
The perceiving functions which Jung identified were developed to sensing and intuition categories. These describe how new information is understood by an individual and interpreted. People who are more sensing are likely to trust information that is tangible and concrete and distrust hunches that come out of nowhere. Those who prefer intuition trust information that’s a bit more abstract and can be theoretical. They are more interested in future possibilities and tend to trust flashes of insight.
The second half are judging functions. These categories are thinking and feeling, are used to make rational decisions based on data. Those who prefer to think will decide from a more detached standpoint while those who prefer to feel will make a decision by associating with the situation or looking at it from the inside out.
We all operate in all four functions and each of us has parts of our personality which are introverted and extroverted. None of us are truly singular in mind or function. What makes the Myers-Briggs type indicator a unique method of determining personality function is the way in which it combines these four functions and looks at them through the lens of introversion or extroversion.
The Myers-Briggs type indicator is often used in career counseling, group dynamics, professional development, leadership training, personal development, marriage counseling and executive coaching. Many of today’s college students also undergo Myers-Briggs type indicator testing in order to help them better understand the type of learning methodology which may work best for them and enable them to become more successful in college.
The current version of the Myers-Briggs type indicator has a 93 forced choice question test. In other words, an individual must choose between one of two possible answers. The test is then scored and will attempt to identify the preferences of the individual. Over the years the questions which have been used on this Myers-Briggs type indicator have changed and been refined in order to move an individual away from the midpoint of an answer and provide better discrimination between functions.
A trained psychological evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist is needed in order to accurately evaluate the results of the Myers-Briggs type indicator test. However, there are less stringent testing methods available for those who are interested in learning a bit more about themselves or who want to match their particular personality types with others in career fields.
(1) Center for Applications of Psychological Type: The Story of Isabel Briggs Myers
(2) The Myers-Briggs Foundation
(3) The Myers-Briggs Foundation: Extraversion or Introversion