I'm sure that many of you are very proud of your ISTJ or ENTJ Myers-Briggs personality type, but if you ask me, you’ve been sold a load of crap (especially if you had to pay for it). Many companies and government agencies still use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to determine decision making based on sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking, assuming that it will tell them everything they need to know about potential employees. This is all well and great, except that there is no actual science behind the test or its results.
Based on the works of Carl Jung, the test sounds like it's grounded in modern psychology. The truth is, though, that the two people who created it had no formal background in psychology. Katharine Cook Briggs was just a superfan of Jung in 1917 who liked to categorize people in an expanded system of 16 different personality types.
Her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, then took over her mother’s research and wrote murder mystery novels in her spare time. She wasn't formally educated in psychology, either.
Briggs went on to form a consulting firm and publish the "Briggs Myers Type Indicator Handbook" in 1944. The test as we know it has been adapted into 20 languages and the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) makes $20 million a year off the test. Something that is such a valuable brand must be rooted in deep scientific research, right?
It turns out, the MBTI is rooted in the same pseudoscience as astrology (sorry to burst your bubble on that one, too) -- it uses only positive wording and asks leading questions to get results that make sense for the test. According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, a researcher at the University of Indiana had the following to say:
“In summary, it appears that the MBTI does not conform to many of the basic standards expected of psychological tests. Many very specific predictions about the MBTI have not been confirmed or have been proved wrong. There is no obvious evidence that there are 16 unique categories in which all people can be placed. There is no evidence that scores generated by the MBTI reflect the stable and unchanging personality traits that are claimed to be measured. Finally, there is no evidence that the MBTI measures anything of value.”
Many other scientists share the view that Robert Hogan stated in his paper, "Personality and the Fate of Organizations": “Most personality psychologists regard the MBTI as little more than an elaborate Chinese fortune cookie."
Other criticism of the test includes a lack of objectivity (since it's all self-reported), vague terminology and the overlapping of some of the traits. Fortune also found an issue with test reliability, observing that if you take the test more than once within a few weeks, you may fall into a different trait type than before.
Being the moneymaker that it is, career coaches and human resources professionals will probably want to take me to the mat on this. But just because it's popular, doesn't mean it can't be a hoax. It turns out polygraph tests aren't all that reliable, either. Oh, and don't even get me started on handwriting analysis.
Obviously, there are more than 16 different types of people. Humans are wonderful, awful and very complicated. You may be an introvert in some situations and an extrovert in others. You may be suited for more career paths than a simple test can tell you.
It’s OK if you like to hang on to your MBTI result like a badge of honor. Sure, share your result with people on Facebook. Use it at a cocktail party to impress people. Just don’t put too much stock in it or use it to make major life decisions, similar to how you shouldn’t do that with your horoscope. You’re not doing that too, are you?