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Is Myers Briggs valid?
From Dr Dario Nardi-https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/factoids-re-mbtir-instrument-16-types-dario-nardi/?fbclid=IwAR1YtAtUJvrUYLAQdLdiBiecn_JK-PMN2CMsk3j2OEormfeUCPH-CSwn2lYPeople often ask me about the MBTI(R) personality assessment, which provides a data point for the 16 Myers-Briggs types (ESTJ, INFP, etc). Now and then, I also stumble across beliefs about it and type in general that are uninformed (false). Here are some key points to know when talking about the MBTI instrument, whether for conducting research and/or defending it against criticism.1) There is an “official” web page with response to general issues about MBTI construction, validity, etc:The Myers-Briggs Assessment is No Fad - It’s a Research-Based Instrument That Delivers Results research-based-instrument-that-delivers-results/2) The current MBTI instrument, Form M, was constructed by university psychometricians using the most accepted statistical approach called IRT, or Item Response Theory. It is NOT the same version constructed in the 1940s by Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs. Most of the criticism leveled against the MBTI approach was in the early 1990s regarding Form G, which is no longer in use. BTW, in addition to the MBTI (Step I), there is also MBTI Step II and then Step III, which is only available to clinical psychologists and similar folks.3) There is a very extensive MBTI manual that delves into numerous statistical study results, charts, the theory underlying it, etc. It’s huge! You can buy it on Amazon, though it's costly. Your local library may have a copy.https://www.amazon.com/MBTI-Manual-Development-Myers-Briggs- Indicator/dp/0891061304/4) The MBTI instrument is heavily researched and documented. There are thousands of references that address a multitude of facets of its construction and use. To find these, CAPT, or the Center for Application of Psychological Type, offers its huge MILO database. There, you can search and sort through 1000s of articles, including hundreds of dissertations, peer reviewed journal articles, etc. Also, there's the "Journal of Psychological Type".MILO - CAPT.org Isabel Briggs Myers Memorial Library5) The MBTI instrument aims to assess a person’s "preferences" (what we like to do); in contrast, the Big 5 aims to assess measurable behavioral "traits" (what we believe we actually do). A good metaphor is handedness: If we just measure a person's use of his or her hands, we find nearly equal use of both; nonetheless, the vast majority of people have a preferred hand (right or left) that they use in a lead role with more confidence for critical tasks. In assessing preference, MBTI reliability of 50% - 65% (after 9 months) stands far better than 6.25% by chance alone. That’s quite good for trying to psychoanalyze a person’s inner life. BTW, there are numerous Internet knock-offs of the official MBTI instrument, and those are usually illegal, lack proper development, and ignore ethical standards.6) There are several relevant organizations, including a publisher, CPP, or Consulting Psychologists Press (The Myers-Briggs Company), now recently called The Myers-Briggs Company; CAPT, or Center for Application of Psychological Type, which is involved in training and research (CAPT.org); the Myers-Briggs Foundation, which holds key rights (The Myers & Briggs Foundation); and APTi, or Association of Psychological Type international, which hosts conferences, regional events, and webinars, and publishes seasonal articles by professional users (Home). There are also vibrant sister organizations British APT (http://www.bapt.org.uk) and Australian APT (Welcome - Australian Association for Psychological Type Inc.).7) The MBTI instrument is inspired by the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung observed "mental functions" that people tend to engage in and develop preferentially. So his model is about cognition, not behavior, though of course we tend to engage in behaviors that reflect our cognitive biases. Notice that in MBTI and Jungian language, the terms are verbs: Sensing, Intuiting, Thinking, Feeling, Perceiving, Judging, etc. In contrast, the Big 5 terms are adjectival nouns: Openness, Contentiousness, etc. The terms reflect the very different nature of the models, one is cognitive and the other behavioral. If you look at psychology organizations like APA, you will see there is also this deep split where some approaches are cognitive and others behavioral. It is a choice of how to approach the question of personality.8) There is well-documented evidence of heritability of MBTI type. In the huge Minnesota study of genetically identical twins raised apart, the genetic contribution of each MBTI dimension is 40%-60%. You can read more here:Genetic and environmental influences on the continuous scales of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: an analysis based on twins reared apart.9) Admittedly, Dr Jung wasn't thrilled by the MBTI instrument. He intended for professionals to use his “types” framework to assist people clinically. Nonetheless, Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs developed the MBTI instrument to assist people in everyday life such as for careers, relationships, etc and to foster peace in the world. The psychometric approach they took was common at the time (1940s). It is about preference, not performance. Sadly, attacks on Myers and Briggs tend to be personal and sexist; the two women, and other women who worked with them, made tremendous strides in era when many professions were mostly closed to women.10) The theory behind the MBTI instrument proposes a hierarchy of preferences and path ofdevelopment. The MBTI items were not designed to assess this hierarchy or development and thus cannot be used definitively as proof, or used as ammunition against that claim, one way or another. In contrast, the Majors PTI (a well-developed analog of the MBTI), does lend strong statistical support for a hierarchy of preference.11) There is neurological (EEG) evidence of the MBTI types based on the ongoing work of this author (Dario Nardi). Briefly, people who identify with the same type are far more likely to show similarities in magnitude and frequency of brain activity in specific neocortical brain regions and also in wiring of networks across those brain regions than people who identify with dissimilar types. This work in ongoing. You can view a free talk on the subject here:https://vimeo.com/user40810588/review/143815719/c69a1060ef12) Contrary to the claim of many Big 5 proponents, the Big 5 is not entirely scientific. Other psychologists and cognitive scientists criticize Big 5 for assuming that language is the basis of personality (this is called the Lexical Hypothesis). Also, just like the MBTI, it relies on people’s self-reporting. And, Big 5 is a descriptive model (a valid and reliable one), but it lacks explanatory power, which is a key feature of scientific models. That is, Big 5 can't explain “why”, nor does it address development. In terms of cognition or motivation, it can’t explain people's behaviors, only describe them. This is like being able to describe apples but not knowing their chemistry or ecology or lifecycle.13) The MBTI "Form J" has 5 dimensions, not 4. It includes Comfort-Discomfort, which is akin to the Big 5's Neuroticism scale. The MBTI stewards decided to use only 4 dimensions in the standard "Step I" MBTI and utilize the extra scale to help craft "Step III", which is only available to licensed psychologists. The idea is that this dimension is not appropriate in school/work settings where people can feel vulnerable. You can find a little more about this on wikipedia under the MBTI entry.14) In the workplace and schools, the materials that support the use of the MBTI instrument are mostly phrased in positive, egalitarian ways that don't privilege particular behaviors. For example, both Sensing and Intuiting are valuable as different ways to approach the world. In contrast, the Big 5 privileges particular behaviors. For example, with Big 5, you might be high, medium or low Openness. There is no beneficial term for low Openness. The implicit message is that Openness is better. It is not a surprise that companies that have switched to using Big 5 report that clients often react to their Big 5 results in less than positive ways.15) There is an ethical way to use MBTI results in line with APA standards. Firstly it is not a "test" (since there are no wrong answers). You can call it an assessment, instrument, or sorter. Second, the instrument results are a single data point, and ethical use requires afacilitated feedback process to confirm the results or otherwise locate a person’s "best-fit" type. In a psychological context, the proper process is not "test and tell" like Big 5, but “inform and engage” to increase understanding.16) Contrary to what most statisticians believe, "types" (categories) actually do occur throughout nature. Biologically, for example, there is handedness and two primary biological sexes. Mathematically, "types" are simply "attractors" in a dynamic system. An attractor is apattern of behavior to which a complex system is drawn toward. Individual human beings and brains are complex systems, not statistical distributions. You can read more here:Attractor - Wikipedia17) The theory behind the MBTI instrument advises human development. People are encouraged to rely on their strengths, which is a common belief in psychology today (c.f. StrengthsFinder), but they are also encouraged to find balance and meaningful ways to develop their non-preferences. E.g. If you are right-handed, yes, by all means use your right hand, but don't shut out use of your left hand because you want to use both hands together in many situations. Dr. Jung talked about an inferior function, which is similar.18) The BBC, with Menton, aired a show, "What am I like". One of the goals of the show was to demonstrate (or not) inter-rater reliability. That is, can a panel of "type experts" actually arrive at a consistent result based on limited observation (without access to MBTI results)? This is a critical scientific hurtle. The answer: "Definitely!". Watch here on YouTube:19) For those who are interested, there are multiple ways to arrive at 16 types. The methods to arrive at 16 types include: Firstly, MBTI dichotomous preferences (E-I, S-N, T-F, J-P); secondly, 8 Jungian function-attitudes, with 16 dominant and auxiliary pairings (Ni-Fe, Ti- Se, etc); and thirdly, 4 temperaments, each with 4 interactions styles = 16 types (Ex. Get- Things Going Improviser/Artisan). The last of these were developed and refined by Dr. David Keirsey and Dr. Linda Berens (Linda Berens).20) If you want to use the MBTI instrument and type in general in a professional and ethical way, please consider certification, continuing education, and community participation. You can learn how to get started today through these organizations:Home http://www.bapt.org.uk Welcome - Australian Association for Psychological Type Inc.These professional organizations host speakers and welcome members from all over the world. They are touchstones for counselors, coaches, educators, and others who wish toconnect and learn more about the professional use of the MBTI instrument, the 16 types and related models, and Jung's original therapeutic framework.Hope this all helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. Cheers,Dario Nardi, October 11, 2018 ; revised January 7, 2019 [email protected] | Dario NardiPS. Several popular books criticize the MBTI instrument or use of type. Among the gaggle of half-baked criticisms is Merve Emre’s 2018 book, "The Personality Brokers" (in the US) or "What’s Your Type?" (in Australia and Europe). While the book has some useful information about the Myers and Briggs family, its information about the MBTI instrument is outdated and false. Roger Pearman handily analyzes and debunks the book here:https://pearmanpersonality.blogspot.com/. There's also the 2004 book, "The Cult of Personality" by Annie Murphy Paul, which even Emre criticizes. In both cases, the authors fail to get past the mid-1980s in their research and leave readers with the impression they are largely unaware of most of the points above.