A few days ago my friend Alex Soandso asked me to explain why I have such a low opinion of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests.
He forgot who he was messing with. Here is my response.

Ohhh… You asked for it. This is going to hurt. Just a little. A lot.

Point #1:

1 Timotheus 6:20

Point #2:

I’ve taken the MBTI in the past 10 years several times over, thanks to that self-help book Please Understand Me, parts I & II. The results varied each time. My argumentation and despise directed towards its are not based on not having tried the chicken, but on having tried and tested several variations of the chicken and still finding it only tastes like… chicken. Thus my following arguments are based not merely on my own opinions, but on studies and research of other investigator, both skeptics and believers. Opinions on the MBTI in the field of psychology are as split as on this message board, and I shall now dredge forth a few points of evidence, just to give you a hard time. Ain’t I nice?

Point #3:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests originate from Jung’s theory of psychological type (in itself an extension on the ancient study of temperament by Hippocrates and Plato) which in 1921 introduced a sequence of eight cognitive functions by which a personality could be pigeonhol– I mean ‘typed’. Since creation (1) the human types discovered has increased exponentially: from 2 (good and evil) to 4 (Plato) to 8 (Jung) to 16 (Myers-Briggs). I would not be surprised if within the next few years someone finds 32. However, neither the MBTI nor the Jungian models (or Plato for that matter) offer any scientific or experimental proof to support even the existence of these functions, never mind any proof of manifestation. It could thus be argued that the MBTI is ‘unscientific’ by its genesis alone as it offers no evidence for its statements. I don’t wish to discredit Carl Jung per se: he’s a wily Swiss he is. His ideas of integrating the conscious with the unconscious have shaped psychology as we know it and is indeed fundamental to an individuals search for his or her ‘id’ (Freudian pun intended). But I am also certain he would strongly disagree with the MBTI interpretation of his original concepts of temperaments, or at the very least caution its use. But I digress.

To clarify, there are some differences between Jung’s and Myers and Briggs’s interpretations. For example, to Jung a person who is dominant introverted thinking would be considered rational, dominated by the decision-making function. To Myers, however, that very same person would be irrational because the individual uses an information-gathering function to interact with its world. It is this element of world-interaction Jung never included. I admit that from a theoretical point of view we can argue that the MBTI has a moderately successful quantification of Jung’s original principles. However, as I stated above, both models remain theory. There have been no controlled scientific studies supporting either theories. MBTIs can thus be considered less scientific than Evolutionary Theories — and that’s a whole another can of worms you do not want to open in my presence as I’ll have you face-up on the mat so fast it’ll make your head spin. Same goes for Global Warming. I’m just sayin’.

In 1991 the National Academy of Sciences committee concluded that only the I-E scale has adequate construct validity compared to other assessment tools, while the S-N and T-F scales show relatively weak validity. The review committee then stated that there is “not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs”. In contrast it is therefor interesting to note that the MBTI ethical guidelines state that “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.” As the intent of the MBTI is to provide “a framework for understanding individual differences, and … a dynamic model of individual development” it is useful to determine general personality traits but should by no means be used for hiring or firing individuals. Although “used” by some corporations and agencies as you mentioned, it is understood that actually “using” MBTI results is illegal and unethical.

As you correctly stated, MBTIs also lack falsifiability, which can cause confirmation bias in the interpretation of the results. It is therefor easy to control the outcome, either consciously or unconsciously. A person with certain emotional issues for example may respond to certain questions based on their emotional state and return negative or positive results that may worsen their state if the test is taken seriously.

So don’t. MBTIs are tools, much like a doctor’s stethoscope. But “cough twice and turn your head” is no way to determine a person’s health, mental or otherwise. It can give a superficial insight into a type, but that can any other test as well. A simplified version of the MBTI is the Oreo Personality Test. As an example and for my amusement I added it to Appendix B. Take it and weep.

Point #4:

While my statements above were simple uppercuts to MBTIs, I would like to deliver a final roundhouse kick to the wannabe science called “psychology” in general. And since nobody (besides Chuck Norris) can deliver a good roundhouse like the WT Society can, here is quotation from a 1979 Awake article on Mind Doctors.

Both psychologists and psychiatrists borrow respectability and prestige from the breathtaking achievements of such sciences as mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics, according to an article in “Maclean’s” magazine. Calling their professions “science” and associating their bedlam of contradictory speculations with natural sciences based on experimental evidence is hardly convincing. The column in “Maclean’s” concludes: “When a psychiatrist’s, sociologist’s, or psychologist’s advice is given the same weight as a physicist’s, dentist’s or engineer’s, we are deluding ourselves only a little less than those who consulted the entrails of a sheep or the Oracle of Delphi.”

‘Nuff said. As science has begun to replace God in this world, and psychologists clerics, the MBTI has become a modern-day rosary, a tool some people believe will bring them closer to their ‘id’.

I weep for the species.

Conclusion #1:

It is important to remember that the tests and information gained from any of the dozens of MBTI variations out there are empirical. It is a working, interesting instrument to use in the exploration of the human type, but we also don’t quite understand why or how it works. This means its use must be judicious: any small variation or deviation from the test process — as you stated correctly — can change the outcome. Humans are delicate creatures after all. The human ‘id’ is way too complex to be labeled on paper. It would be naive and downright silly to attempt to do so. Of course, it is possible to generalize human psyche in a ‘fortune-cookie’ fashion: state the obvious and general that statistically applies to a large amount of the human population. There is a profession that lives from this concept of generalization: Horoscope writers. Unfortunately many people lend the MBTI way too much credibility, forgetting that it is only a tool and the results biased at best.Conclusion #2:

1. MBTI tests attempt to quantify the unquantifiable and are therefor inherently inaccurate.
2. Although interesting, MBTIs should never be used as a definite determination of personality. Just because the test tells you you are an [insert your letters here] doesn’t mean you really are.
3. Empirical data is just that. Don’t stake your life on it.
4. Yes, in the above come-back I’ve compared MBTIs to stethoscopes, fortune cookies, horoscopes and rosaries. Deal with it.
5. Don’t mess with a student of psychology and avid researcher.
6. Don’t copy and paste from answers.com.
7. My Freudian slip is showing.
8. You may now get off the mat.Appendix A:
Here is some suggested further research for your enlightenment and amusement.

Who were Jung, Freud and Adler, the fathers of psychoanalysis?

—An amusing (but accurate) depiction of Freud, Jung and Adler and their point of view of love.

In-depth research on psycho-babble… i mean -analysis.

Do MBTIs work?

—“Measuring the MBTI… and coming up short.

—Futurama Episode 1 “Space Pilot 3000” Fry’s dilemma over his computer-assigned job result based on a personality test is an obvious jab at the possible misuse of MBTIs.— “Is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator the Right Tool to Use?

Appendix B:

The Oreo Personality Test

Psychologists have discovered that the manner in which one eats Oreo cookies provides great insight into one’s personality. Choose which method best describes your favorite method of eating Oreos:

1. The whole thing all at once
2. One bite at a time
3. Slow and methodical nibbles, examining the results of each bite afterwards
4. In little feverous nibbles
5. Dunked in some liquid (milk, coffee, etc.)
6. Twisted apart, the inside, then the cookie
7. Twisted apart, the inside, and toss the cookie
8. Just the cookie, not the inside
9. I just like to lick them, not eat them.
10. I don’t have a favorite way because I don’t like Oreo cookies.

Your Personality:

1. The whole thing all at once: You consume life with abandon, you are fun to be with, exciting, carefree with some hint of recklessness. You are totally irresponsible. No one should trust you with their children.

2. One bite at a time: You are lucky to be one of the 5.4 billion other people who eat their Oreos this very same way. Just like them, you lack imagination, but that’s okay, not to worry, you’re normal.

3. Slow and methodical nibbles: You follow the rules. You’re very tidy and orderly. You’re very meticulous in every detail with every thing you do to the point of being anal-retentive and irritating to others. Stay out of the fast lane if you’re only going to go the speed limit.

4. Feverous nibbles: Your boss likes you because you get your work done quickly. You always have a million things to do and never enough time to do them. Mental breakdowns and suicides run in your family. Valium and Ritalin would do you good.

5. Dunked: Everyone likes you because you are always upbeat. You like to sugarcoat unpleasant experiences and rationalize bad situations into good ones. You are in total denial about the shambles you call a life. You have a propensity towards narcotics addiction.

6. Twisted apart, the inside, and then the cookie: You have a highly curious nature. You take pleasure in breaking things apart to find out how they work, though not always able to put them back together, so you destroy all the evidence of your activities. You deny your involvement when things go wrong. You are a compulsive liar and exhibit deviant, if not criminal, behavior.

7. Twisted apart, the inside, and then toss the cookie: You are good at business and take risks that pay off. You take what you want and throw the rest away. You are greedy, selfish, mean, and lack feelings for others. You should be ashamed of yourself. But that’s ok, you don’t care, you got yours.

8. Just the cookie, not the inside: You enjoy pain.

9. I just like to lick them, not eat them: Stay away from small furry animals and seek professional medical help–immediately.

10. I don’t have a favorite way because I don’t like Oreo cookies.: You probably come from a rich family, like to wear nice things, and go to upscale restaurants. You are particular and fussy about the things you buy, own, and wear. Things have to be just right. You like to be pampered. You are a prim.


Who’s your daddy now! *Alec does victory dance*

End of line.

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