Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

From New World Encyclopedia
A chart with descriptions of each Myers-Briggs personality type as well as instructions for how to determine one's type

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test based on Carl Jung's theory of psychological types, designed to assist a person in identifying their personality preferences. The test is frequently used in the areas of pedagogy, group dynamics, career exploration, employee training, leadership training, marriage counseling, and personal development, although scientific skeptics and academic psychologists have subjected it to considerable criticism. While the MBTI may not be perfect in its characterization of personality types, it nonetheless allows significant insight into the differences and similarities of people's experience of life. Through such understanding, we can relate more harmoniously together, appreciate each other better, each making our contribution to human society.


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test designed to assist a person in identifying their personality preferences. It was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers during World War II, and follows from the theories of Carl Jung as laid out in his work Psychological Types. The registered trademark rights in the phrase and its acronym have been assigned from the publisher of the test, Consulting Psychologists Press Inc., to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust.

Historical Development

Carl Jung first spoke on typology at the Munich Psychological Congress in 1913. Katharine Cook Briggs began her research into personality in 1917, developing a four-type framework: Social, Thoughtful, Executive, and Spontaneous. In 1923, Jung's Psychological Types was published in English translation (having first been published in German in 1921). Katharine Briggs' first publications are two articles describing Jung's theory, in the journal New Republic in 1926 (Meet Yourself Using the Personality Paint Box) and 1928 (Up From Barbarism). Katharine Briggs' daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, wrote a prize-winning mystery novel Murder Yet to Come in 1929, using typological ideas. She joined her mother's research, which she would progressively take over entirely. In 1942, the "Briggs-Myers Type Indicator®" was created, and the Briggs Myers Type Indicator Handbook published in 1944. The indicator changed its name to the modern form (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®) in 1956.

Description of the Indicator

Did you know?
The MBTI differs from standardized tests measuring traits that can be improved with practice, instead identifying preferred types.

The MBTI differs from standardized tests measuring traits that can be improved with practice, instead identifying preferred types. While types and traits are both inborn, traits can be improved akin to skills, whereas types, if supported by a healthy environment, naturally differentiate over time. This aspect of the theory which posits that the features being sorted for are in fact types, and not traits which can be improved with practice, is hotly debated, lacking definitive proof.

The indicator attempts to tell the order in which this occurs in each person, and it is that information, combined with interviews done with others who have indicated having the same preferences, that is the basis of the complete descriptions. The indicator, then, is akin to an arrow which attempts to point in the direction of the description of the personality.

Extroversion Introversion
Sensing iNtuition
Thinking Feeling
Judging Perceiving
A dichotomy is a division of two mutually exclusive groups, or in this case, type preferences.

The types the MBTI sorts for, known as dichotomies, are extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. Participants are given one of 16 four-letter acronyms, such as ESTJ or INFP, indicating what they prefer. The term best-fit types refers to the ethical code that facilitators are required to follow. This states that the person taking the indicator is always the best judge of what their preferences are, and the indicator alone should never be used to make this decision.


The current indicator asks 93 forced-choice questions, which means there are only two options. Participants may skip questions if they feel they are unable to choose. Using psychometric techniques, such as item response theory, the indicator is then scored to identify which dichotomy the participant prefers. After taking the assessment, participants are given a readout of their score, which will include a bar graph and number of how many points they received on a certain scale. Confusion over the meaning of these numbers often causes them to be related to trait theory, and people mistakenly believe, for example, that their intuition is "more developed" than their sensing, or vice versa.


Before purchasing the test, practitioners are required to consent to an ethical code. After consenting to this code the usage of the indicator is largely unmonitored, which sometimes leads to abuses of the instrument. The ethical code contains, but is not limited to, the following points:

  1. Results should be given directly to respondents and are strictly confidential, including from employers.
  2. Respondents should be informed of the nature of the test before taking it, and must choose to take it voluntarily.
  3. Allow respondents to clarify their results. They are always the last word as to which type is truly theirs. They should then be provided a written description of their preferences.
  4. The indicator must be used in accordance with The Manual.

The preferences

  • The terms Introvert and Extrovert (originally spelled "extravert" by Jung, who first used the terms in the context of psychology, although "extrovert" is now by far the more common spelling) are referred to as attitudes, and show how a person orients and receives their energy. In the extroverted attitude the energy flow is outward, and the preferred focus is on other people and things, whereas in the introverted attitude the energy flow is inward, and the preferred focus is on one's own thoughts and ideas.
  • Sensing and Intuition are the perceiving functions. They indicate how a person prefers to receive data. These are the nonrational functions, as a person does not necessarily have control over receiving data, but only how to process it once they have it. Sensing prefers to receive data primarily from the five senses, and intuition prefers to receive data from the unconscious, or seeing relationships via insights.
  • Thinking and Feeling are the judging functions. They both strive to make rational judgments and decisions using the data received from their perceiving functions, above. Thinking uses logical "true or false, if-then" logical connections. Feeling uses "more or less, better-worse" evaluations. When Thinking or Feeling is extroverted, judgments tend to rely on external sources and the generally accepted rules and procedures. When introverted, Thinking and Feeling judgments tend to be subjective, relying on internally generated ideas for logical organization and evaluation.
  • Judging and Perceiving reveals the specific attitudes of the functions. In J-types, the judging function (T or F) is dominant, and will be directed inward or outward in accordance with the I/E preference. J-types tend to prefer a step-by-step (left brain: parts to whole) approach to life, relying on external rules and procedures, and preferring quick closure. The perceiving function (S or N) is the direct opposite to the judging function. On the other hand, in P-types the perceiving function is the stronger, and follows the I/E preference, whereas the judging function is auxiliary. This can result in a "bouncing around" approach to life (right brain: whole to parts), relying on subjective judgments, and a desire to leave all options open. (The terminology may be misleading for some—the term "Judging" does not imply "judgmental," and "Perceiving" does not imply "perceptive".)
  • Although the above explanation of Judgement and Perception is logically sound and is closer to Jung's definition of J and P, MBTI definition of J and P is different. The MBTI Judging type is not the type with the dominant Judging function and MBTI Perceiving type is not the type with the dominant Perceiving function. MBTI definition of J and P reads like this: "The Judging type is the type that has their strongest Judging function extroverted and the Perceiving type is the type that has their strongest Perceiving function extroverted." So MBTI INTP for example should be Judging type according to Jung, because it has dominant introverted Thinking (Ti), which is Judging function, but it is actually Perceiving type in MBTI because the strongest Perceiving function of MBTI INTP is extroverted iNtuition (Ne), which is obviously extroverted, hence P at the end of the acronym. The only other personality theory similar to MBTI theory is Socionics, which tries to resolve this inconsistency in MBTI theory and stay close to Jung's original definitions.

Type dynamics

The type table

The Sixteen Types
US Population Breakdown
The table organizing the sixteen types was created by Isabel Myers (an INFP person).
Estimated percentages of the 16 types in the United States population.[1]

The type table is a visualization tool which is useful for discussing the dynamic qualities and interactions of preference combinations. It will typically be divided by selecting any pair of preferences and comparing or contrasting. One of the most common and basic Sixteen Type tables is shown on the right. It is the grouping of the mental functions, ST, SF, NF and NT, and focuses on the combination of perception and judgment. Alternatively, if we group by the rows we will have the four attitudes which are IJ, IP, EP and EJ. There are also more complex groupings, such as combinations of perception and orientations to the outer world, which are SJ, SP, NP and NJ, or combinations of judgment and orientations to the outer world, which are TJ, TP, FP, and FJ.

The interaction of two, three, or four preferences are known as type dynamics, and when dealing with a four-preference combination it is called a type. In total, there are 16 unique types, and many more possible two and three letter combinations, which each have their own descriptive name. Additionally, it is sometimes possible to observe the interactions that each preference combination will have with another combination, although this is more unorthodox.

Complete descriptions contain the unique interactions of all four preferences in that person, and these are typically written by licensed psychologists, based on data gathered from thousands of interviews and studies. In the U.S., statistics are available (see Population Breakdown table) regarding the percentage of the population that represents each of the 16 types. They range from the lowest (INFJ) at 1.5 percent, to the highest (ISFJ) at 13.8 percent. The Center for Applications of Psychological Type has released short descriptions on the internet.[2] The most in-depth descriptions, including statistics, can be found in The Manual.[3]

Descriptions of the function-attitudes

Inspector Protector Counselor Mastermind
Crafter Composer Healer Architect
Promoter Performer Champion Inventor
Supervisor Provider Teacher Field Marshal

Each of the 16 types is identified by four letters, referring to the four preferences, such as ENFJ. It may also be characterized by an "archetype." The following descriptions of the characteristics of each type are taken from C.G. Bouree's article on Jung.[4] The chart shows the 16 MBTI personality archetypes.

ENFJ (Extroverted feeling with intuiting): Teacher. These people are easy speakers. They tend to idealize their friends. They make good parents, but have a tendency to allow themselves to be used. They make good therapists, teachers, executives, and salespeople.

ENFP (Extroverted intuiting with feeling):Champion. These people love novelty and surprises. They are big on emotions and expression. They are susceptible to muscle tension and tend to be hyperalert. They tend to feel self-conscious. They are good at sales, advertising, politics, and acting.

ENTJ (Extroverted thinking with intuiting): Field Marshall. In charge at home, they expect a lot from spouses and kids. They like organization and structure and tend to make good executives and administrators.

ENTP (Extroverted intuiting with thinking): Inventor. These are lively people, not humdrum or orderly. As mates, they are a little dangerous, especially economically. They are good at analysis and make good entrepreneurs. They do tend to play at one-upmanship.

ESFJ (Extroverted feeling with sensing): Provider. These people like harmony. They tend to have strong shoulds and should-nots. They may be dependent, first on parents and later on spouses. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and excel in service occupations involving personal contact.

ESFP (Extroverted sensing with feeling): Performer. Very generous and impulsive, they have a low tolerance for anxiety. They make good performers, they like public relations, and they love the phone. They should avoid scholarly pursuits, especially science.

ESTJ (Extroverted thinking with sensing): Supervisor. These are responsible mates and parents and are loyal to the workplace. They are realistic, down-to-earth, orderly, and love tradition. They often find themselves joining civic clubs!

ESTP (Extroverted sensing with thinking): Promoter. These are action-oriented people, often sophisticated, sometimes ruthless—our "James Bonds." As mates, they are exciting and charming, but they have trouble with commitment. They make good promoters, entrepreneurs, and con artists.

INFJ (Introverted intuiting with feeling): Counselor. These are serious students and workers who really want to contribute. They are private and easily hurt. They make good spouses, but tend to be physically reserved. People often think they are psychic. They make good therapists, general practitioners, ministers, and so on.

INFP (Introverted feeling with intuiting): Healer. These people are idealistic, self-sacrificing, and somewhat cool or reserved. They are very family and home oriented, but don't relax well. You find them in psychology, architecture, and religion, but never in business. (Note, Jung was this type.)

INTJ (Introverted intuiting with thinking): Mastermind. These are the most independent of all types. They love logic and ideas and are drawn to scientific research. They can be rather single-minded, though.

INTP (Introverted thinking with intuiting): Architect. Faithful, preoccupied, and forgetful, these are the bookworms. They tend to be very precise in their use of language. They are good at logic and math and make good philosophers and theoretical scientists, but not writers or salespeople.

ISFJ (Introverted sensing with feeling): Protector. These people are service and work oriented. They may suffer from fatigue and tend to be attracted to troublemakers. They are good nurses, teachers, secretaries, general practitioners, librarians, middle managers, and housekeepers.

ISFP (Introverted feeling with sensing): Composer. They are shy and retiring, are not talkative, but like sensuous action. They like painting, drawing, sculpting, composing, dancing—the arts generally—and they like nature. They are not big on commitment.

ISTJ (Introverted sensing with thinking): Inspector. These are dependable pillars of strength. They often try to reform their mates and other people. They make good bank examiners, auditors, accountants, tax examiners, supervisors in libraries and hospitals, business, home economics and physical education teachers, and boy or girl scouts!

ISTP (Introverted thinking with sensing): Crafter. These people are action-oriented and fearless, and crave excitement. They are impulsive and dangerous to stop. They often like tools, instruments, and weapons, and often become technical experts. They are not interested in communications and are often incorrectly diagnosed as dyslexic or hyperactive. They tend to do badly in school.


Hippocrates proposed four humors to describe temperaments: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. In 1978, David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates reintroduced temperament theory in modern form and identified them as Guardian (SJ temperament), Artisan (SP), Idealist (NF), and Rationalist (NT). After developing his temperament theory, Keirsey discovered the MBTI, and found that by combining intuition with the judging functions, NT and NF, and sensing with the perceiving functions, SJ and SP, he had descriptions similar to his four temperaments.[5]


Scientific skeptics such as Robert Todd Carroll, author of The Skeptic's Dictionary, have presented several potential problems with the MBTI. The foremost issue is that the way the MBTI is designed makes it difficult to validate any of the claims it makes about types using scientific methods. Carroll says, "no matter what your preferences, your behavior will still sometimes indicate contrasting behavior. Thus, no behavior can ever be used to falsify the type, and any behavior can be used to verify it."

The basic skeptical claim against the MBTI is that any conclusions made from the types lack falsifiability, which can cause confirmation bias in the interpretation of the results. It has also been argued that the terminology of the MBTI is so vague and complicated that it allows any kind of behavior to fit any personality type, resulting in the "Forer effect," where an individual gives a high rating to a positive description that supposedly applies specifically to him.

Carroll also notes that the theory of psychological types created by Carl Jung was not based on any controlled studies —the only statistical study Jung performed was in the field of astrology. Carroll argues that Jung may not even have approved of the MBTI, quoting, "My scheme of typology is only a scheme of orientation. There is such a factor as introversion, there is such a factor as extraversion. The classification of individuals means nothing, nothing at all. It is only the instrumentarium for the practical psychologist to explain for instance, the husband to a wife or vice versa."

Further, Jung's methods primarily included introspection and anecdote, methods largely rejected by the modern field of cognitive psychology. Further, the MBTI has not been validated by "double-blind" tests, in which participants accept reports written for other participants, and are asked whether or not the report suits them, and thus may not qualify as a scientific assessment. Still others have argued that, while the MBTI may be useful for self-understanding, it is commonly used for "pigeonholing" people or for self-pigeonholing.

The MBTI has been criticized on the two measures of any psychometric test: validity and reliability. Test-retest reliability has been reported as being low, test takers who retake the test often test as a different type. Validity has been questioned on theoretical grounds as outlined above. Critics have also noted that neither of the two people responsible for the design and construction of the test, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, had any scientific, medical, psychiatric, or psychological qualifications.

Although many have criticized the MBTI and its construction, research on brain processes has provided substantial support for this model. Such research has identified 16 different ways in which people process information and their corresponding brain mechanisms.[6] These 16 processes of the "Human Dimensions Model" (HDM) correspond very closely to the 16 types of the MBTI, lending scientific credibility to the test.


Despite criticism, the MBTI is widely used in the corporate world, the nonprofit sector, the field of life coaching, and by the general public. The field of corporate coaching, which works with individuals in corporations to improve business performance, finds that an understanding of each individual's type and temperament provides an invaluable tool to maximize coaching effectiveness. Clients participate in a self –assessment of temperament, cognitive processes and working style, either one-on-one or in a group session. This has the following benefits:

  1. It provides the facilitator/coach with the type of information to help understand their preferred coaching approach.
  2. It provides a tool for clients to better understand and manage their own behavior.
  3. Understanding others' temperaments and types allows for more cohesive teamwork and greater productivity.

The MBTI is often viewed as a welcome relief in the psychological testing world that is often built on assessments of weaknesses, "good" and "bad" characteristics, or evidence of pathology. Interest and use of the MBTI may be accounted for in large part by its descriptive and neutral characterization of the ways we perceive and relate to our world. It supports appreciation of diversity by allowing us to view "our uniqueness as our strength, our styles as useful, and our perceptions as assets." Since MBTI does not claim a "best" style, we can better appreciate our own contributions and especially the contributions of others who are fundamentally different from us. This perspective leads to a rich and healthy interdependence that assists individuals to work through differences and appreciate each other's uniqueness. It therefore can be used in a variety of settings - from time management to weight management to mediating once impossible conflicts and irreconcilable differences. As a tool, it can be used across a wide span of age groups to help reach challenging and commonly valued objectives. It is a process of understanding that allows us to expand ourselves and contribute to others.


  1. Estimated Frequencies of the Types in the United States Population CAPT—Center for Applications of Psychological Type. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  2. Charles Martin, The Sixteen Types at a Glance. The Center for Applications of Psychological Type, 2004. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  3. Isabel Briggs Myers, Mary H. McCaulley, Naomi L. Quenk, Allen L. Hammer, MBTI Manual (A guide to the development and use of the Myers Briggs type indicator) (Consulting Psychologists Press, 1998, ISBN 0891061304).
  4. C. George Boeree, Carl Jung. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  5. David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. (Prometheus Nemesis Book Co. Inc., 1998. ISBN 1885705026)
  6. Alan R. Kahn, and K.A. Radcliffe, Mind Shapes: Understanding the Differences in Thinking and Communication. (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2005, ISBN 1557788499).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Berens, Linda V., & Dario Nardi. "Ways to Describe Personality" in The 16 Personality Types: Descriptions for Self-Discovery. Fountain Valley CA: Telos Publications, 1999. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  • Berens, Linda V., & Dario Nardi. "What Is Best-Fit Type?" in The 16 Personality Types: Descriptions for Self-Discovery. Fountain Valley CA: Telos Publications, 1999. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  • Berens, Linda V., Cooper, Sue A., Ernst, Linda K., Martin, Charles R., Myers, Steve., Nardi, Dario., Pearman, Roger R., Segal, Marci., & Melissa A. Smith. "Applications of Type in Organizations" in Quick Guide to the 16 Personality Types in Organizations: Understanding Personality Differences in the Workplace. Fountain Valley CA: Telos Publications, 2001. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  • Georgia State University. GSU Master Teacher Program: On Learning Styles. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  • Jung, Carl Gustav. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books, 1965. ISBN 0394702689
  • Jung, Carl Gustav. Psychological Types (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6). Princeton University Press, 1971. ISBN 0691097704
  • Kahn, Alan R. and K.A. Radcliffe. Mind Shapes: Understanding the Differences in Thinking and Communication. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2005. ISBN 1557788499
  • Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Prometheus Nemesis Book Co Inc., 1998. ISBN 1885705026
  • Kroeger, Otto, and Janet M. Thuesen. Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love and Work. Delta Publisher, 1989. ISBN 0385298285
  • Martin, Charles R. "Role of Type in Career Mastery". in Quick Guide to the 16 Personality Types and Career Mastery: Living with Purpose and Working Effectively. Fountain Valley CA: Telos Publications, 2001. ISBN 0971214441 Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  • Myers, Isabel Briggs. "Personal letter to Mary McCaulley" in The MBTI Qualifying Program: The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. 1970, 20.
  • Myers, Isabel Briggs. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Davies-Black Publishing; Reprint edition, 1995 (original 1980). ISBN 089106074X
  • Myers, Isabel Briggs, Mary H. McCaulley, Naomi L. Quenk, & Allen L. Hammer. MBTI Manual (A guide to the development and use of the Myers Briggs type indicator). Consulting Psychologists Press; 3rd ed edition, 1998. ISBN 0891061304
  • Paul, Annie Murpy. The Cult of Personality Testing: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves. New York: Free Press, 2004. ISBN 0743243560
  • The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. MBTI® Code of Ethics. 2004. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  • University of Florida. "Guide to the Isabel Briggs Myers Papers 1885-1992" in George A. Smathers Libraries. Department of Special and Area Studies Collections, Gainesville, FL., 2003. Retrieved February 28, 2019.

External links

All links retrieved November 10, 2022.


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