Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

From Academic Kids

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The Center for Applications of Psychological Type ( is a non-profit organization co-founded by Isabel Myers in 1975 for MBTI development, research and training.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a psychological test designed to assist a person in identifying their personality preferences. It was developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers during World War II, and follows from the theories of Carl Jung as laid out in his work Psychological Types1. The phrase is also a trademark of the publisher of the instrument, Consulting Psychologists Press Inc., and the trademark is registered by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust2. The test is frequently used in the areas of pedagogy, group dynamics, employee training, leadership training, marriage counseling, and personal development, although its value has been questioned by scientific skeptics and some psychologists3.

About the test

The test differs from standardized tests and others measuring traits, such as intelligence, instead identifying preferred types. While types and traits are both inborn, traits can be improved akin to skills, whereas types, if supported by a healthy environment, naturally differentiate over time. The test attempts to tell the order in which this occurs in each person, and it is that information, combined with interviews done with others who have indicated having the same preferences, that the complete descriptions are based on. The test then, is akin to an arrow which attempts to point in the direction of the proper description. The facet of the theory which posits that the features being tested for are in fact types, and not traits which can be improved with practice, is hotly debated, lacking definitive proof.

The types the MBTI tests for, known as dichotomies, are extraversion, introversion, sensing, intuition, thinking, feeling, judging and perceiving. Participants are given one of 16 four-letter acronyms, such as ESTJ or INFP, indicating what they prefer. The term best-fit types refers to the ethical code that facilitators are required to follow. It states that the person taking the test is always the best judge of what their preferences are, and the test itself should never be used to make this decision.

The preferences

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A dichotomy is a division of two mutually exclusive groups, or in this case, type preferences.
  • The terms Introvert and Extrovert (originally spelled ‘extravert’ by Jung, who first used the terms in the context of psychology, although 'extrovert' is now by far the more common spelling) are referred to as attitudes and show how a person orients and receives their energy. In the extraverted attitude the energy flow is outward, and the preferred focus is on people and things, whereas in the introverted attitude the energy flow is inward, and the preferred focus is on thoughts and ideas.
  • Sensing and Intuition are the perceiving functions. They indicate how a person prefers to receive data. These are the nonrational functions, as a person does not necessarily have control over receiving data, but only how to process it once they have it. Sensing prefers to receive data primarily from the five senses, and intuition prefers to receive data from the unconscious, or seeing relationships via insights.
  • Thinking and Feeling are the judging functions. They are used to make rational decisions concerning the data they received from their perceiving functions, above. Thinking is characterized as preferring to being logical, analytical and thinking in terms of "true or false". Thinking decisions tend to be based on more objective criteria and facts. Feeling, which refers to subjective criteria and values, strives for harmonious relationships and considers the implications for people. Feeling decisions tend to be based on what seems "more good or less bad" according to values.
  • Judging and Perceiving tell us which of the two preferred functions, the judging function or the perceiving function, is used in the outer world. Those who prefer Judging use their preferred judging function in the outer world and their preferred perceiving function in the inner world, and those who prefer Perceiving use their preferred perceiving function in the outer world and their preferred judging function in the inner world. Judging prefers making decisions and having closure and perceiving prefers to continue accepting data and to leave their options open, waiting to decide later. (The terminology may be misleading for some – the term "Judging" does not imply "judgmental", and "Perceiving" does not imply "perceptive".)

Type dynamics

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The table organizing the sixteen types was created by Isabel Myers, who preferred INFP (To find the opposite type of the one you are looking at, jump over one type diagonally.)
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By using inferential statistics an estimate of the preferences found in the US population has been gathered
The interaction of two, three, or four preferences are known as type dynamics, and when dealing with a four-preference combination it is called a type. In total, there are 16 unique types, and many more possible two and three letter combinations, which each have their own descriptive name. Additionally, it is sometimes possible to observe the interactions that each preference combination will have with another combination, although this is more unorthodox. Complete descriptions will contain the unique interactions of all four preferences in that person, and these are typically written by licensed psychologists based on data gathered from thousands of interviews and studies. The Center for Applications of Psychological Type has released short descriptions on the internet 4. The most in-depth descriptions, including statistics, can be found in The Manual 5.

The type table

The type table is a visualization tool which is useful for discussing the dynamic qualities and interactions of preference combinations. It will typically be divided by selecting any pair of preferences and comparing or contrasting. One of the most common and basic has been used to the right. It is the grouping of the mental functions, ST, SF, NF and NT, and focuses on the combination of perception and judgment. Alternatively, if we group by the rows we will have the four attitudes which are IJ, IP, EP and EJ. There are also more complex groupings, such as combinations of perception and orientations to the outer world, which are SJ, SP, NP and NJ, or combinations of judgement and orientations to the outer world, which are TJ, TP, FP, and FJ.

Descriptions of the function-attitudes

In addition to a person's general preference for introversion or extraversion (attitudes), each function can be introverted or extraverted as well (function-attitudes), and the same function will have different qualities depending on its attitude .

  • Extraverted Sensing is perceiving information from the five senses and being drawn to focus on the moment and the experience of the here and now.
  • Introverted Sensing involves recalling previous events, situations, or data. It compares the present situation with things that happened earlier and notices similarities and differences.
  • Extraverted Intuition involves seeing possibilities and connections or threads between ideas. When presented with data, it looks for possible patterns and meanings.
  • Introverted Intuition looks to what will be and what the deep significance of something is. This process often tunes in to aspects of universal human experience and archetypal symbols.
  • Extraverted Thinking is concerned with organizing and structuring the outer world based on logical principles. It sorts things into hierarchies and judges on objective criteria.
  • Introverted Thinking is the process of analyzing things and testing them against principles. It looks for inconsistency in models and is concerned with precision.
  • Extraverted Feeling is concerned with the likes and dislikes of others and what is socially appropriate. It organizes the external world according to interpersonal relationships.
  • Introverted Feeling evaluates things based on one's own preferences and values. It sees things in terms of like and dislike or good and bad, and it is concerned with harmony and congruence.

Cognitive function dynamics in each type

In each type, all four of the cognitive, or mental functions, which are sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling, are present and arranged in a different order. The type acronym is used as a quick way to figure out this order, which is slightly different in introverts and extroverts. An important point to remember is that the first and last letter of the type are used as guides to figure out the order of the middle two letters, which are the main priority. The chart below this section has the dynamics worked out for each type.


If the first letter of the type is an I, such as in INFP, then the dominant is introverted. The next step is to figure out which of the middle two letters this applies to, which is done by looking to the last letter. (The last letter represents the extraverted function). If it is a P, then the dominant will be the third letter, which is the judging function (the process is backwards and slightly confusing for introverts). If it is a J, then it will be the second letter, which is the perceiving function. Already it is possible to tell that the INFP has an introverted dominant, and that it is feeling, which is called introverted feeling. Also evident is that the auxiliary is intuition. A rule of thumb is that the last three functions are always extraverted in introverts, and introverted in extraverts, so it is extraverted intuition.

The third function of the introverted personality will be the opposite of the second. For the INFP, the second is extraverted intuition, so the third is extraverted sensing. The fourth will be the opposite of the first, which ends up as extraverted thinking.


If the first letter of the type is an E, such as ESTJ, then the dominant is extroverted. The next step, which is slightly different than in introverts, is to figure out to which of the middle two letters this applies. If the last letter is a P, then the dominant will be the second letter, and if it is a J, then it will be the third letter. Thus, we can tell from this that the first or dominant in the ESTJ is extraverted thinking, and the second is introverted sensing. The third, which is the opposite of the second, is introverted intuition, and the fourth is introverted feeling.

Function table

Template:MBTI table

Controversy surrounding the cognitive functions

Isabel Myers interpreted Jung's writing as saying that the auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior functions are always in the opposite attitude of the dominant. Many, however, have found Jung's writing to be ambiguous, and those who study and follow Jung's theories (Jungians) are typically adamant that Myers is incorrect. Jungians posit that Jung made explicit the point that the tertiary function is actually in the same attitude as the dominant, providing balance. More recently, typologists such as John Beebe and Linda Berens have introduced theoretical systems that include all eight functions, with the latter four known as the "shadow functions," residing largely in the unconscious. In their models, the tertiary is in the same attitude as the dominant6.


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Keirsey's four temperaments within the MBTI.
Hippocrates, a Greek philosopher who lived from 460-377 B.C., proposed four humours in his writings. These were blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. In 1978, David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates reintroduced temperament theory in modern form and identified them as Guardian, Artisan, Idealist, and Rationalist. After developing modern temperament theory, Keirsey discovered the MBTI, and found that by combining intuition with the judging functions, NT and NF, and sensing with the perceiving functions, SJ and SP, he had descriptions similar to his four temperaments.7-8

The Manual states on page 59 that, "It is important to recognize that temperament theory is not a variant of type theory, nor is type theory a variant of temperament theory." Keirsey later went on to develop the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which was first included in his book Please Understand Me.

About the test, scoring and psychometrics

The current test asks 93 forced-choice questions, which means there are only two options. Participants may skip questions if they feel they are unable to choose. Using psychometric techniques, such as item response theory, the test will then be scored and will attempt to identify which dichotomy the participant prefers. After taking the test, participants are given a readout of their score, which will include a bar graph and number of how many points they received on a certain scale. Confusion over the meaning of these numbers often causes them to be related to trait theory, and people mistakenly believe, for example, that their intuition is "more developed" than their sensing, or vice versa.

During construction of the test, thousands of items are used, and most are thrown out because they do not have high midpoint discrimination, meaning the results of that one item do not, on average, move an individual score away from the midpoint. Using only items with high midpoint discrimination allows the test to have fewer items on it but still provide as much statistical information as a test with many more items with lower midpoint discrimination. The test requires five points one way or another before it is nearly as sure it can statistically be concerning a preference.

Statistical studies

The 16PF Fifth Edition Technical Manual11 presents correlations between the MBTI scales and the Big Five personality construct, which is a conglomeration of characteristics found in nearly all personality and psychological tests. The five personality characteristics are extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability. The following study is based on a sample of 119 graduate and undergraduate students.

Template:MBTI study

These data suggest that three of the MBTI scales are related to three of the Big Five personality traits. According to this study, there is fairly strong evidence that E-I is extraversion, that S-N is the opposite of openness, and that J-P is conscientiousness. The T-F scale of the MBTI is less clearly related to the Big Five, and the emotional stability dimension of the Big Five is largely absent.


Before purchasing the test, practitioners are required to consent to an ethical code, in addition to meeting the educational requirements of class B and C psychological tests and assessments. After consenting to this code the usage of the indicator is largely unmonitored, which sometimes leads to abuses of the instrument. The ethical code contains, but is not limited to, the following points9-10:

  1. Results should be given directly to respondents and are strictly confidential, including from employers.
  2. Respondents should be informed of the nature of the test before taking it, and must choose to take it voluntarily.
  3. Allow respondents to clarify their results. They are always the last word as to which type is truly theirs. They should then be provided a written description of their preferences.
  4. The test must be used in accordance with The Manual.

Skeptical view

Scientific skeptics such as Robert Todd Carroll, author of The Skeptic's Dictionary, have presented several potential problems with the MBTI. The foremost issue is that the way the MBTI is designed makes it difficult to validate any of the claims it makes about types using scientific methods. Carroll says, "no matter what your preferences, your behavior will still sometimes indicate contrasting behavior. Thus, no behavior can ever be used to falsify the type, and any behavior can be used to verify it."

The basic skeptical claim against the MBTI is that any conclusions made from the types lack falsifiability, which can cause confirmation bias in the interpretation of the results. It has also been argued that the terminology of the MBTI is so vague and complicated that it allows any kind of behavior to fit any personality type, resulting in the Forer effect, where an individual gives a high rating to a positive description that supposedly applies specifically to himself.

Carroll also notes that the theory of psychological types created by Carl Jung was not based on any controlled studies—the only scientific study Jung performed was in the field of astrology. Carroll argues that Jung may not even have approved of the MBTI, quoting, "My scheme of typology is only a scheme of orientation. There is such a factor as introversion, there is such a factor as extraversion. The classification of individuals means nothing, nothing at all. It is only the instrumentarium for the practical psychologist to explain for instance, the husband to a wife or vice versa."

Further, Jung's methods primarily included introspection and anecdote, methods largely rejected by the modern field of cognitive psychology. Further, the MBTI has not been validated by double-blind tests, in which participants accept reports written for other participants, and are asked whether or not the report suits them, and thus may not qualify as a scientific assessment. Still others have argued that, while the MBTI may be useful for self-understanding, it is commonly used for pigeonholing people or for self-pigeonholing.

External links

Unauthorised personality tests inspired by Myers-Briggs / Kiersey

Further reading



  • Note 1: Jung, Carl Gustav (August 1, 1971). Psychological Types (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691097704.
  • Note 2: Consulting Psychologists Press (2004). Trademark Guidelines ( Retrieved December 20, 2004.
  • Note 3: Carroll, Robert Todd (January 9, 2004). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® ( The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved January 8, 2004.
  • Note 4: Martin, Charles Dr. (2004) The Sixteen Types at a Glance ( The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. Retrieved December 20, 2004.
  • Note 5: Myers, Isabel Briggs; McCaulley Mary H.; Quenk, Naomi L.; Hammer, Allen L. (1998). MBTI Manual (A guide to the development and use of the Myers Briggs type indicator). Consulting Psychologists Press; 3rd ed edition. ISBN 0891061304
  • Note 6: Berens, Linda V. Jung's Cognitive Processes ( Retrieved December 21, 2004.
  • Note 7: Keirsey, David (1998). Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Prometheus Nemesis Book Co Inc; 1st ed edition. ISBN 1885705026
  • Note 8: Keirsey, David (2001). Keirsey Temperament versus Myers-Briggs Types ( Retrieved December 20, 2004.
  • Note 9: The Myers & Briggs Foundation. Ethical Use of the MBTI® Instrument ( Retrieved December 20, 2004.
  • Note 10: The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. MBTI® Code of Ethics ( Retrieved December 20, 2004.
  • Note 11: Conn, Steven R (1994) Sixteen Pf Fifth Edition Technical Manual. Institute for Personality & Ability Testing. ISBN 0918296226de:Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

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