T&D: The Myth of MBTI

WHY Does It Live On?

Another Myth – long in the tooth – is still kicking around: MBTI

Research by its proponents claim validity.

Independent research suggests not. It does not measure what it says it does, and its reliability and validity are questioned.


The Mountain of Data More Than Suggests That MBTI Is Problematic

But some still promote it. That’s unfortunate.

It just seems so intuitive, I guess.

But so is turning away from the skid.

The Tip of the Mountain

Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die

… regardless of your type, it’s hard to argue with the idea that if we’re going to divide people into categories, those categories ought to be meaningful. In social science, we use four standards: are the categories reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive? For the MBTI, the evidence says not very, no, no, and not really.

See the full article – here.

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Nothing personal: The questionable Myers-Briggs test –

From: http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/19/myers-briggs-test-unscientific

The Myers-Briggs personality test is used by companies the world over but the evidence is that it’s nowhere near as useful as its popularity suggests
Personality test
A rigorous and thorough personality test. Photograph: http://www.alamy.com

I was recently reviewing some psychological lectures for my real job. One of these was on personality tests. The speaker mentioned the Myers-Briggs test, explaining that, while well known (I personally know it from a Dilbert cartoon) the Myers-Briggs test isn’t recognised as being scientifically valid so is largely ignored by the field of psychology. I tweeted this fact, thinking it would be of passing interest to a few people. I was unprepared for the intensity of the replies I got. I learned several things that day.

1. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is used by countless organisations and industries, although one of the few areas that doesn’t use it is psychology, which says a lot.

2. Many people who have encountered the MBTI in the workplace really don’t have a lot of positive things to say about it.

3. For some organisations, use of the MBTI seemingly crosses the line into full-blown ideology.

So how did something that apparently lacks scientific credibility become such a popular and accepted tool?

For the rest of the article – please go here.

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Why using Myers-Briggs at work Might Be a Terrible Idea (MBTI)

By Jesse E. Olsen, University of Melbourne and Peter Gahan, University of Melbourne

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Second thoughts about the MBTI – by Ron Zemke in Training at:


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Measuring the MBTI… And Coming Up Short – by David J. Pittenger


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Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless


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From Psychometric-Success

at: http://www.psychometric-success.com/personality-tests/personality-tests-popular-tests.htm

One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological-assessment system based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Two and a half million Americans a year take the Myers-Briggs. Eighty-nine companies out of the US Fortune 100 make use of it, for recruitment and selection or to help employees understand themselves or their co-workers.

Psychologists judge the worth of any personality test by two basic criteria: validity and reliability. Validity indicates that a test measures what it says it measures and reliability indicates that a test delivers consistent results.

Validity of MBTI
The validity of a test estimates how well the test measures what it purports to measure. There are two types of validity that should be considered:

  1. Construct validity – does the MBTI relate to other scales measuring similar concepts?
  2. Criterion-related validity – does the MBTI predict specific outcomes related to interpersonal relations or job performance?

The National Academy of Sciences committee reviewed data from over 20 MBTI research studies and concluded that only the Intraversion-Extroversion scale has adequate construct validity. That is high correlations with comparable scales of other tests and low correlations with tests designed to assess different concepts. In contrast, the S-N and T-F scales show relatively weak validity. No mention was made in this review about the J-P scale.

Overall, the review committee concluded that the MBTI has not demonstrated adequate validity although its popularity and use has been steadily increasing. The National Academy of Sciences review committee concluded that: ‘at this time, there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs’, the very thing that it is most often used for.

Reliability of MBTI
Reliability is the degree of consistency with which a test measures what it is said to measure. Test length greatly affects reliability with longer tests tending to be more reliable. Reliability can be measured using reliability coefficients, and for short personality tests these should be in the range 0.70 to 0.80. The MBTI reports reliability coefficients for its four scales on general population samples in the ranges from 0.61 to 0.87.

at: http://www.psychometric-success.com/personality-tests/personality-tests-popular-tests.htm

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Snake Oil, Science, And Performance Products – by Jeanne Farrington and Richard E. Clark

at: http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/publications/farrington_clark_snake.pdf

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Email exchange August-6-2011 between Guy Wallace and Richard E. Clark, Ed.D., and APA Fellow…

Hi Dick!

May I post this on my Blog: from an email exchange between some of ISPIers, a couple of months back…

The negative evidence about the MBTI has been around for over 20 years (yes, 20). ALL reviews that were undertaken by researchers who were not financially tied in some way to the MBTI organization have turned out negative (very negative).  Since we still have a “Flat Earth Society” in the US and more than a majority of people believe in magic, these research reviews (and others that will come in the future) will not convince everyone (see one of my contributions to the MBTI evidence discussion from a decade ago pasted below – with citations)…



Why many researchers are thinking twice about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

By Richard E. Clark

The very popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is often used for career counseling, to adjust working relationships, and to “type” organizations. It is called “the most widely-used personality inventory in the world” (Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.), with approximately 2,000,000 people a year taking the MBTI.

Why then, are so many researchers upset about this test? Here are four of the reasons researchers and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences question the test’s validity.

1. Positive research on the MBTI tends to be poorly designed and conducted by the same group that sells the test. More objective reviews are negative.

Reviews of MBTI-sponsored studies (for example, Thayer 1988, in Druckman and Bjork, 1991) have identified a pattern of inconsistent and incomplete data and incorrect statistical analyses, such as a lack of baselines, subjects who are aware of the hypotheses being tested, and no overall tests of significance before detailed comparisons are made. Attempts by mainstream psychologists to replicate a number of positive research findings reported by advocates have too often failed (Druckman and Bjork 1991; Pittinger, 1993). Most of the positive studies have been published by Journals of the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, which offers qualifying, certification, and advanced education training for the MBTI. Few studies appear in mainstream psychological journals where peer review is required.

2. While the overall reliability of the test seems adequate, the specific types on the MBTI are not reliable.

The MBTI is a types test, not a traits test. Types tests are required to establish that individuals belong in one single type and that people do not change type quickly or easily. The National Research Council reported that between 60 and 88 percent of the people in about a dozen large groups who took the MBTI in controlled studies changed their type classification within five weeks of taking the test (ibid., 97). Since reliability is a is a necessary condition for all types of validity, this consistent finding is very distressing. It is questionable how anyone can apply knowledge from an instrument that identifies types that change over a short period of time.

3. The MBTI is popular for vocational and career advancement counseling, but there is no evidence that it either discriminates between occupations or predicts performance in occupations.

Studies reported in mainstream psychological and educational journals report that for many occupations, the MBTI does not accurately discriminate between either occupations or people’s performance. For example, the National Research Council reports that while about 12 percent of elementary teachers in the United States are ESFJs (Extraversion, Sensation, Feeling, Judging), “the same percentage of a random sample of U.S. women are also ESFJs,” and that there is “no evidence…presented on relationships [between MBTI types and work] performance in…occupations” (ibid., 98). They also described validity reviews in twenty studies where the Introversion-Extraversion scale seemed to be solid but the Sensation-Intuition and Thinking-Feeling scales were very weak. While the Introversion-Extraversion scale was solid, other measures of this trait were even better. There is no evidence that the test measures sixteen distinct types (Pittinger, 1993). The National Research Council concluded that most of the types described in the test should be tapped by more solid tests.

4. The value of the MBTI may be in increased sensitivity to individual and group differences or for career counseling, but no solid research has been conducted on these issues.

The MBTI might help raise the consciousness of individuals in work environments who implicitly believe that everyone is more or less like them. Being aware that other people have different values and behavior patterns – and that there is value in accommodating those differences in the workplace and in work processes – may produce very positive results for organizations. Yet, as the National Academy notes, “neither the gains in sensitivity nor the impact of those gains on performance have been documented by research. Nor has the instrument been validated in a long-term study of successful and unsuccessful careers. Lacking such evidence, it is a curiosity why the instrument is used so widely, particularly in organizations” (ibid., 99).

The National Research Council concludes that “the lack of a supportive research foundation for the MBTI leads the committee to recommend that the instrument not be used…until its validity is supported by research” (ibid.,100). Without such research, the 2,000,000 people each year who rely on the test as a valid measurement may be wasting their money and time.


Druckman, Daniel, and Robert Bjork, eds. 1991. In the mind’s eye: Enhancing human performance. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Pittinger, D. J. (1993) The Utility of the Myers-Briggs type indicator, Review of Educational Research, 63(4) 467-488.

Thayer, P. W. 1988. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and enhancing human performance. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University.http://www.nap.edu/catalog/1580.html

His response to my request to publish our email exchange:

Yes please.

The more people who know about the MBTI the greater the chance that people will look for the individual difference tests that work. For example, the American Psychological Association’s “Big Five” – they have been validated and found to be excellent predictors of performance at work.



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Nowack, K. (1997). Personality Inventories: The Next Generation. Performance in Practice, American Society of Training and Development, Winter 1996/97 – http://www.opd.net/abstracts5.html

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From Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator


The statistical validity of the MBTI as a psychometric instrument has been the subject of criticism. It has been estimated that between a third and a half of the published material on the MBTI has been produced for conferences of the Center for the Application of Psychological Type (which provides training in the MBTI) or as papers in the Journal of Psychological Type (which is edited by Myers-Briggs advocates). It has been argued that this reflects a lack of critical scrutiny.

For example, some researchers expected that scores would show a bimodal distribution with peaks near the ends of the scales, but found that scores on the individual subscales were actually distributed in a centrally peaked manner similar to a normal distribution. A cut-off exists at the center of the subscale such that a score on one side is classified as one type, and a score on the other side as the opposite type. This fails to support the concept of type: the norm is for people to lie near the middle of the subscale. Nevertheless, “the absence of bimodal score distributions does not necessarily prove that the ‘type’-based approach is incorrect.”

In 1991, the National Academy of Sciences committee reviewed data from MBTI research studies and concluded that only the I-E scale has adequate construct validity in terms of showing high correlations with comparable scales of other instruments and low correlations with instruments designed to assess different concepts. In contrast, the S-N and T-F scales show relatively weak validity. The 1991 review committee concluded at the time there was “not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs”. However, this study also based its measurement of validity on “criterion-related validity (i.e., does the MBTI predict specific outcomes related to interpersonal relations or career success/job performance?).” The ethical guidelines of the MBTI assessment stress that the MBTI type “does not imply excellence, competence, or natural ability, only what is preferred.” The 2009 MBTI Form M Manual Supplement states, “An instrument is said to be valid when it measures what it has been designed to measure (Ghiselli, Campbell, & Zedeck, 1981; Murphy & Davidshofer, 2005).” Studies have found that the MBTI scores compare favorably to other assessments with respect to evidence of convergent validity, divergent validity, construct validity, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability.[5][8][9]

The accuracy of the MBTI depends on honest self-reporting by the person tested. Unlike some personality measures, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or the Personality Assessment Inventory, the MBTI does not use validity scales to assess exaggerated or socially desirable responses. As a result, individuals motivated to do so can fake their responses, and one study found that the MBTI judgment/perception dimension correlates with the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire lie scale. If respondents “fear they have something to lose, they may answer as they assume they should.” However, the MBTI ethical guidelines state, “It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants.” The intent of the MBTI is to provide “a framework for understanding individual differences, and … a dynamic model of individual development”.

The terminology of the MBTI has been criticized as being very “vague and general” as to allow any kind of behavior to fit any personality type, which may result in the Forer effect, where individuals give a high rating to a positive description that supposedly applies specifically to them. Others argue that while the MBTI type descriptions are brief, they are also distinctive and precise. Some theorists, such as David Keirsey, have expanded on the MBTI descriptions, providing even greater detail. For instance, Keirsey’s descriptions of his four temperaments, which he correlated with the sixteen MBTI personality types, show how the temperaments differ in terms of language use, intellectual orientation, educational and vocational interests, social orientation, self image, personal values, social roles, and characteristic hand gestures.

With regard to factor analysis, one study of 1291 college-aged students found six different factors instead of the four used in the MBTI. In other studies, researchers found that the JP and the SN scales correlate with one another.


Some researchers have interpreted the reliability of the test as being low. Studies have found that between 39% and 76% of those tested fall into different types upon retesting some weeks or years later.

One study reports that the MBTI dichotomies exhibit good split-half reliability; however, the dichotomy scores are distributed in a bell curve, and the overall type allocations are less reliable. Also, test-retest reliability is sensitive to the time between tests. Within each dichotomy scale, as measured on Form G, about 83% of categorizations remain the same when individuals are retested within nine months, and around 75% when individuals are retested after nine months. About 50% of people tested within nine months remain the same overall type, and 36% remain the same type after more than nine months. For Form M (the most current form of the MBTI instrument), the MBTI Manual reports that these scores are higher (p. 163, Table 8.6).

In one study, when people were asked to compare their preferred type to that assigned by the MBTI assessment, only half of people picked the same profile. Critics also argue that the MBTI lacks falsifiability, which can cause confirmation bias in the interpretation of results.


In her research, Isabel Myers found that the proportion of different personality types varied by choice of career or course of study. However, some researchers examining the proportions of each type within varying professions report that the proportion of MBTI types within each occupation is close to that within a random sample of the population. Some researchers have expressed reservations about the relevance of type to job satisfaction, as well as concerns about the potential misuse of the instrument in labeling individuals.

Studies suggest that the MBTI is not a useful predictor of job performance. As noted above under Precepts and ethics, the MBTI measures preference, not ability. The use of the MBTI as a predictor of job success is expressly discouraged in the Manual. It is not designed for this purpose.

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From CLO: The Problem With Personality-Based Hiring

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