Why the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is Useful (Even If It’s Not Always 100% Accurate)
After seeing article after article calling the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® “useless” and “meaningless”, I decided it’s time to take a stand for something that has definitely been “useful” and “meaningful” in my life, as well as in the lives of many others. Although I personally think the test is valid (and there’s plenty of research to back that up), the MBTI® is still useful despite it not always being 100% accurate. Here are just a few reasons why!
The creators of MBTI may not have been “qualified” but what makes someone “qualified” to create something useful?
The MBTI is rooted in two different philosophies- those of Carl Jung and mom and daughter duo- Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers. Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers co-authored the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a way to simplify Jung’s theories about personality type. Many discredit Katherine and Isabel’s work because they believe they weren’t qualified to expound on his theories.
According to this logic, we should all throw out our Apple products since Steve Jobs- who dropped out of college after the first semester- wasn’t qualified to help create them. My point is- do qualifications really matter if the end result is useful and effective? According to this Psychology Today article, “research by Ashton and Goldberg (1973) demonstrated that even individuals without formal psychological training can create personality scales that are just as valid as professionally-developed scales.”
Regardless of whether the Briggs women were “qualified” or not, the MBTI assessment is continually being researched and improved upon by trained psychologists to ensure it’s validity.
The MBTI is meant to help you understand yourself better, not predict your future.
Many of the complaints about the MBTI criticize it for
I find it to be a pretty off-base complaint since the MBTI never claimed to predict the future. According to the official CPP website, “[the test] is not, and was never intended to be predictive, and should never be used for hiring, screening or to dictate life decisions.”
The MBTI isn’t meant to be used as a tool to deny people opportunities.
The Myers Briggs tests (the official MBTI, CPP, and 16 Personalities) are there to help us understand ourselves and others better, not to deny people opportunities based on assumptions about how they’ll behave (derived from personality tests).
It’s even stated plain and clear on the official MBTI website that, “The MBTI assessment can be used to inform decisions through discussion, but it should never be used to hire, fire, or promote people.” Workplaces who are using personality tests to filter job candidates are using the test incorrectly.
The MBTI is realistic about people’s strengths and weaknesses.
Another argument frequently made against the validity of the Myers Briggs assessments is that their results don’t address people’s weaknesses. One critic of the test who is in favor of another personality test- one that defines one of their personality types as simply “self-centered”- mentioned that, “You won’t find that [labeling a group of people as self-centered] in Myers-Briggs Type tests because its results are always ‘very nice things.'”
Taking my own INFJ results into consideration, I wouldn’t necessarily consider some of the traits shown
Although your MBTI personality type doesn’t change (if typed correctly),
that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t change.
Some might be wondering… but if you do improve your weaknesses that are stated
Have you ever met anyone with a temper? Even if they were actively trying to lessen their temper, did it ever completely cease to exist? Probably not (and if it did, I want to go to their therapist!). Controlling their temper is something they’ll be working on their entire lives- even if it does improve over time- because it’s an inherent trait.
Our inborn traits can’t be changed, but they can be improved. Well, that is- if we actually take the time to understand what our weaknesses are.
You’re not boxing yourself in by knowing your personality type.
The fact that you can improve within the realm of your personality type is exactly why you’re not boxing yourself in by knowing it. An argument I hear a lot is, “I don’t want to take the MBTI test because I don’t want to feel like I can’t change over time.”
The 16 Personalities website eloquently stated that, “your basic personality type cannot change – however, you can (and should!) change the aspects of your personality that you are unhappy with. By doing this you will strengthen your shadow traits and become a more well-rounded individual, even though your dominant traits will still remain the same. Such a change could be triggered by either the environment you are in or your own will – to each his own.”
Jung also theorized “that people have an innate urge to grow and have everything they need within themselves to become healthy, effective individuals. Psychological type is the compass guiding this growth process.”
The MBTI isn’t meant to be
It’s also important to note that the Myers-Briggs isn’t all-encompassing. A critic of the test, Adam Grant, compared the MBTI assessment to, “a physical exam that ignores your torso and one of your arms.” While I personally think the MBTI encompasses more aspects of one’s personality than most personality tests, it was never intended to encompass every single part. And his comparison to a physical exam is interesting in itself since people usually go to different medical experts for different aspects of their health anyways.
Every person within a certain personality type is going to be different from the next. The 16 Personalities website states that “Our actions are also influenced by our environment, our experiences, and our individual goals. We outline indicators and tendencies, however,
Self-reporting is usually accurate.
Many claim that personality tests such as those rooted in MBTI theories are inaccurate because people report their own answers about themselves- making their answers extremely biased. While it’s true that someone could base their answer on how they want to be perceived (or how they wish they were) instead of how they actually are, studies have shown that’s not usually the case. In fact, most self-evaluations actually align with peer evaluations.
Could someone fake their answers in order to get a certain personality type? Sure. But the official MBTI makes a good point
The MBTI is used to increase understanding. It doesn’t encourage
judgment, separation, or stereotyping.
Among the basic principles of the instrument, as stated in the Introduction to Type® booklet written by Isabel Briggs Myers, are the following:
- Each person is unique and expresses type in a unique way.
- There is no good or bad type.
- Type does not explain everything; humans are complex.
Typemay be used to understand and forgive, but never as an excuse.
- By becoming aware of your own type biases, you can avoid negative stereotyping.
It’s also important to remember that one of the main purposes of the MBTI is to understand others better in order to create more healthy and meaningful relationships. According to the official MBTI website, “Myers and Briggs created the MBTI assessment because they wanted to help people understand themselves and others better and appreciate the differences between them.” The information given, “can help you better understand your friends, co-workers, and family, and improve your interpersonal interactions.”