The World of Work Project

Myers Briggs Type Indicator Personality Tests

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular, question based personality test with16 described personality type outcomes based on an individual’s internal / external focus, how they make decisions, how they take in information and how they live their outer life.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most popular personality tests in the world at the moment. It’s based on the Karl Jung’s Jungian dichotomies, but with further development by Katherine Briggs who, with her daughter, Isobel Myers, created the MBTI as we know it today. The model uses a series of questions to categorise people into one of 16 different personality types based on four distinct dichotomies.

The Myers-Briggs Dichotomies

The MBTI model uses four distinct dichotomies from which to derive a total of 16 potential personality types. All this means is that people who take the test basically need to determine between four pairs of options relating to some fundamental personality characteristics. These are below.

The 16 Personality types of the MBTI

The 16 personality types used in the MBTI are referred to by the letters of the dichotomies that they correspond to. For example an Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging personality type is known as an ESTJ.

There are many different definitions of what these personality types reflect available on the internet, though the best way to learn about the test is to find a registered MBTI practitioner and actually take the test with them.

In some summaries of the MBTI, the different personality types are also given a name that seeks to capture the spirit of their description. We’ve created a set of these below to give you a loose sense of what each personality type means in the MBTI framework.

Though there are many simple self-tests that you can complete online to learn about your MBTI personality, the best way to get a real view is to complete an official MBTI assessment with an approved provider.

The World of Work Project View

MBTI tests are ubiquitous. There is a huge business behind running them and they are at the same time excellent, and totally flawed and detrimental to the world.

In many ways, MBTI tests are a symptom of our obsession with simplicity and desire for heuristics. We see this desire for ever simpler things everywhere and personality tests are an effort to simplify one of the most complicated things in our existence, the behaviors of people. In reality, the world is really complicated and so are people. It’s absolutely not possible to just categorize people into and wash our hands of their innate complexities.

MBTI is difficult to validate scientifically and many personality tests have been shown to actually barely predict personality. In addition, results can also be easily faked. So clearly they can be seen as flawed and adding little value.

Has the accepted view of personality tests now swung to negative?

However, it’s not quite that simple.

While they have effectively little scientific basis, they can be helpful tools for helping people explore personalities, develop self-awareness and develop a deeper understanding of those they work with. People often find detailed summaries of their MBTI reports moving and highly personal. There are many true believes of these tests who feel that their MBTI results have changed their lives by helping them feel understood and feel a sense of belonging. So clearly the can be very helpful tools for individuals and teams.

Our summary view of these tests is that the problem with them isn’t in the tests themselves, which are fun and informative, it’s that people may look to place reliance on them when they really shouldn’t. While personality can affect job performance, its effect is often no more powerful than other factors such as economic background, social status or traditional intelligence. It’s wrong, or at least unproven, to use these tests to decide the outcomes of individuals in things like job applications, career assessments, child-custody, or prisoner placement (all of which have reportedly happened).

We’re all looking for shortcuts for decisions in the world of work which is understandable. Whatever their other, clear benefits, tests like the MBTI shouldn’t be one of these shortcuts, but we have no doubt many people will continue to use them as such.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This post has been informed primarily by our experiences over our careers and the various tests that we’ve undertaken. It’s also been influenced by general reading on the MBTI and personality tests in general.


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