The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, also known as 16Personalities, is fun, trendy, and considered eye-opening to many who take it. It has been used in workplaces to assign jobs based personality types, including in 200 government agencies in the U.S. Browsing YouTube, you can find countless videos of people taking the test and raving about how much they relate to their results. But is it really accurate? Is it supported by scientific evidence? And if not, why is it so popular?
The backbone of the Myers-Briggs test adapted from Carl Jung’s book Psychological Types. In the book, Jung asserted that people can be sorted into two main groups: perceivers and judgers. From there the first group can be divided into sensing and intuitive and the latter, thinkers and feelers. Additionally, people can be split into extroverted and introverted. Jung openly admitted that his classifications were merely observances, saying “every individual is an exception to the rule”. They weren’t based on controlled experiments; there was no data to support them. The categories were purely based on speculation. Then, in the 1930’s Katharine Briggs discovered Jung’s book. She devoted herself to it and reached out to Jung on multiple occasions requesting explanations. Katharine used his book really as a spiritual quest, a way for her to discover her best self. During WWII, Isabel Briggs(later Isabel Myers), Katharine’s daughter, morphed Jung’s categories into a people sorting questionnaire. She developed each personality type and gave them titles, such as Campaigner, Caregiver and Scientist. Neither Briggs nor Myers had formal experience in psychology, and like Jung their conclusions were based on what they had observed. Because the test was developed without scientific backing, today it falls short in tests of accuracy and consistency.
One of the major faults of the Myers-Briggs test is it’s sole use of limited binaries. The basis of the test is that people either fall into one category or another. There is no in between. But people don’t work that way! We aren’t purely extroverted or purely introverted; we tend to fall somewhere in the middle. As a result, the test is not truly reflective of our personality as it completely disregards human nuances. Another issue with the test is it’s inconsistency. A recent study has shown that almost 50% of people get different results after repeating the test only five week later. This is because the test is subject to change depending on the users mood while they are taking the test.
So if the Myers-Briggs test is inaccurate, inconsistent, and nonreflective of humans, why is it even used? Partly because people enjoy putting themselves in categories. It gives us comfort to organize ourselves in a messy world, and it helps keep us anchored in times of self-doubt and confusion. Also, the results are non judgmental. The test will never tell you you are mean or bossy; each personality description is always flattering. It gives us a feeling of worthiness and makes us feel we can be unapologetically us.