It is a widely used theory in media culture which triggers concerns and counterarguments to inquire this popular theory whether it is valid or a mere business scheme to reinforce falsehoods of human traits for urban profit.
The MBTI’s current owner, The Myers-Briggs Company generates over 20 millions USD in revenue with potential clients or respondents from HR corporates, education institutes and state agencies of two million a year.
Brief History of MBTI
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a tool of personality classification and the most widely used psychological test that determines cognitive functional differences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. It is based on Carl Jung’s ‘Psychological Types’ publication as subjective attempt to predict and analyze innate traits, Isabel Briggs and Katherine Briggs, two American writers were invested in the idea of distinctive personality types hence adopted the Jungian theory and developed such assessment as guideline to determine ideal pathways for each personality orientation in the early 1940s.
Myers and Briggs theorized that people experience the world using four psychological functions: sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling. They also believe that these functions are either directed toward the outside world (extraversion) or towards the inner world (introversion). Extraverted types prefer sensing and intuition while introverted types prefer thinking and feeling. In other words, Myers-Briggs generalizes that everyone is either an introvert or an extrovert at their core.
Basic practice of MBTI paradigm
The MBTI personality test is a multidimensional self-verification instrument for assessing personality type that relates psychological preferences to behavioral tendencies. Four dichotomous dimensions categorize respondents either as extraverted (E) or introverted (I), sensing (S) or intuitive (N), thinking (T) or feeling (F), and judging (J) or perceiving (P). Concoctions of the extreme four binaries determine possible innate traits. Each respondent is grouped into 16 four-letter codes: INFJ, ENTJ and ISTP. Each type is claimed to propose a specific behavioral pattern, mirroring aggregations of one’s attitudes, perceptions, and decision-making process.
Respondents are offered various questions that allege to analyze their ‘true type’ via four dichotomies and provide a descriptive result for each personality type.
The popularity of the MBTI test gradually sparked public attention including the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a non-profit organization that provides world-renowned English Proficiency Testings, namely TOEIC and TOFEL, to initiate empirical research on this theory in 1957. However, it was later on dismissed due to improper scientific support and internal review issues.
My first experience with the MBTI personality test was in high school when I was assigned to take the quiz and present my result to the class. The result of the test—that I was an INFJ, introverted, relied on my intuition, valued feeling, and preferred judging—constantly changed over the years. Despite the claim that the MBTI is a scientific instrument providing consistent and accurate information about personality type, many people encounter a similar stance where they alter from one personality type to another after taking the test multiple times.
However, it is immensely used in many educational institutions to categorize students and claim to provide a better cohesive environment. Additionally, It is also used to identify ideal personality types that are applicable towards certain occupations and recruitments in corporations.
The MBTI theory proceeds to remain in the psychological field offering non-psychologists and non-clinical settings to distribute such assessment with vague purposes. Theories with inadequate empirical evidence shall not be regarded as valid and further studies shall be pursued to confirm its validity in the prevention of reinforcement on pseudoscience.
Pseudoscience is more properly understood as theories that pretend to be scientific, but fail to meet standards of empirical science. They are usually characterized by an utopian promise of certain outcomes when adopted and strongly held convictions that cannot be altered under any circumstances, the real challenge lies in isolating and demarcating subjective claims that pass off as genuine scientific ones.
For instance, Astrology is a pseudoscience that claims the universe affects our lives and personalities by assuming that astronomical bodies have an influence on human affairs. According to astrology, each zodiac sign is linked to specific characteristics, both positive and negative. Cross-cultural studies have shown no statistical correlation between astrological signs and personality or between astrological signs and important life events in people’s lives, although several studies have concluded that most people are convinced that astrology is valid.
MBTI fellowship formed a niche community as nexus to facilitate online polarization, diehard believers disdain possible speculations that may affect their dedication to the theory as it proposes a sense of belonging and connectivity of a homogenous circle, it is rather a belief; likewise astrology and psychics, than a empirically validated theory.
It is time to address the validity issues which prompted psychologists and scientists to debate the accuracy of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.
Writers not Scientists
The first pivotal notice is that the two authors of this theory were not formally licensed to propose psychological advice and testing. Moreover, Jungian theory was constructed in the era before psychology was an empirical science thus exploited his own experience as an idealistic model.
The Extreme Classification
The extreme binaries of personality types e.g. Extrovert-Introvert, according to Jungian theory, overly limits individuals into bimodal discontinuous types which barricades the diversity of expressions, whereas personality is not binary but a spectrum, such subjective claim represents zero possibility of continuity and alteration of personality orientation.
People are not categorized as discrete or continuous, many can reside somewhere in between. People’s actions change dramatically based on their surroundings and environment. Some people can be brave in a particular setting, but scared of the same thing in another. We cannot label people, we need to understand that their behaviors can be inconsistent across time and space. Furthermore, the categorizations of personality disorders lack empirical support and should not be used in diagnosis or treatment.
The Promotion of Pseudoscience
The Interference of empirical science by pseudoscience has contributed to a general distrust of the scientific community thus creating a difficult situation in which the public may be more willing to reject generally accepted scientific principles and encourage false narratives that promote problematic hoaxes in the public sphere.
The Barnum Effect
The emotional compatibility toward generic descriptions of personality is conflated with deception hence The Barnum Effect–people incline to internalize positive information, in order to reflect or induce potential tendencies that supplement uniqueness and sentiments.
Especially on personalized psychological testings that appear to provide exceptional analysis to each respondent, psychologists have found that in a personality test group participants were asked to rate the accuracy of personality descriptions. Many considered the statements exceptionally accurate. However, when told that those statements had been randomly generated by a computer and then asked to rate the same descriptions, many agreed that the statements were general and didn’t apply to them.
Self-verification tests are indefinite, the results of the tests can be easily molded by individuals’ state of mind at that time; thus, the outcome is unreliable. Many scientific research found that MBTI is applicable for measuring preferences rather than abilities, the vague definition of ‘true type’ is equivalent to nothing in empirical science; while it is possible that there are different preferences for each dichotomy, it is also possible that this may not be the case.
The Myers-Briggs personality test is a complete hoax, it does not reflect any scientific reality, yet it is still used as a tool for hiring, teaching and monitoring in many organizations around the world. There is no evidence that people fall into distinct categories such as each of the 16 categories and valid correlation between personality types and occupations, it does not reflect how a specific personality type is superior to other types in a particular field. This assessment tool has been used to label people without a measurable outcome.
Why (popular) and what (purpose)?
There are a couple of reasons why these theories are so popular. Firstly, it’s fun and games to do while online, and secondly, they’re pretty easy to access. Moreover, people usually gravitate toward positive or exceptional affirmations to boost one’s self-confidence. But remember, personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test aren’t always as accurate as you might think, people shall be mindful of the scientific controversy surrounding such personality tests.
It is advisable for people who are interested in taking personality assessments online to examine the history of these tests before taking them, in order to avoid falling prey to falsehoods and possible encounters of negative consequences towards mental health. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test potentially carries vague aims either for transactional profit or normalization of pseudoscience in the disguise of empirical science.
Although MBTI is not efficient enough, they are still useful. They can be good models of self reflection, to help you better understand yourself. However, in serious situations, it is mandatory to rely on certified professionals like psychiatrists and therapists who can provide you empirically validated tests for the sake of accurate diagnosis. In a nutshell, MBTI can’t directly diagnose an individual’s mental condition, but it can be entertaining and helpful regarding self-reassurance.