Research Paper: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Evaluation

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Myers-Briggs Eval

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Test Evaluation

Carl Jung's theory of personality has been one of the most influential theories of the twentieth century and into the current era, in large part due to the widespread use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument, which was create dot make Jung's theories more clinically practical. This review shows that this popularity is in many ways deserved, as the instrument shows a high degree of convergent validity with other tests and also remains fairly consistent in terms of its test-retest reliability. At the same time, other evidence suggests that the instrument is being used in many ways that it is not particularly suited for, and that it was not designed for. The conducted analysis of previous reviews and current research studies utilizing the MBTI demonstrates the efficacy and the limitations of the instrument.


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an assessment instrument that attempts, with a large degree of success, to make practical Carl Jung's definitions and understandings of personality types. The different sets of opposing preferences Jung described as existing in various combinations in different individuals -- introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving are tested and assigned percentages in this test, yielding a coded four letter "type" expressing an individual's preferences. Studies have found certain characteristics to be typical of various types, supporting both the usefulness and the validity/consistency of the MBTI instrument.

Purpose, Design, and Format

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument was designed to provide a clear method of measuring the personality preferences identified and defined by Carl Jung (with the judging/perceiving preference actually defined by Myers and Briggs) (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). The test is not intended to define specific competencies or personality traits, though it is often misapplied for such means, but rather demonstrates mere preference and from this can be used to predict patterns of interaction (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). It is intended to be used with virtually all populations for those having reached the ability for abstract thought -- the current instrument is written at a seventh-grade reading level, enabling broad applicability and usability of the test (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000).

The actual measurement of the test itself is rather straightforward -- the results of a specific individual's responses to the items on the instrument yield percentages of preference in each of the four category-pairs, showing which preference each individual has in each of these categories as well as the strength of that preference. The implications of these measurements are far more complex than the measurements themselves, however, and this is where confusion and misuse often comes into the picture (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). Individual preferences are not strong indicators of perceptual and interactive patterns, but rather the combination of various preferences can influence behavior. This is still not the same as identifying personality traits, however (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000).

The items that the test contains are all forced-choice binary responses -- respondents must choose from one of two statements that are in conflict with each other from the perspective of the test's defined categories (though the statements might not be mutually exclusive in terms of their language): "I enjoy going to parties" and "I enjoy spending time alone" is a simplified by typical example of the items that appear on the instrument (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). The current form of the instrument was standardized using a diverse range of over three-thousand respondents, all over the age of eighteen and living in the United States (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). Though other adaptation of the instrument exist, this specifically North America-oriented version of the instrument is what is reviewed herein and what has been utilized in the other research reviewed.


The Myers Briggs Type Indicator has remained a popular instrument for many decades and through many updates and forms largely because of the high degree of proven reliability of the instrument. In the latest form of the MBTI instrument, test-retest reliability for the instrument was found to have a range of .83 to .97 over a four-week interval, with internal consistency generally holding above .90 (Fleenor & Mastraneglo 2000). Reliability measures for more complex applications of the test, such as consistency in measures o cognitive processes and other unintended applications, are less consistent and demonstrate the practical limitations of the instrument (Sipps & DiCaudo 1988; Carey 1989).

The instrument has also undergone many different tests of convergent validity, having been used in conjunction with a variety of other instruments used to test the same or similar aspects of personality and found to have a high level of agreement with them (Pulver & Kelly 2008; Brown & Reilly 2009; Sipps & DiCaudio 1988). When compared to results on the Strong Interest Indicator in a study attempting to predict college major choice categories, convergent validity exceeded .90 between the two tests (Pulver & Kelly 2008). The predictive validity of the two tests in conjunction was slightly under .50, however, and the predictive validity of the Strong Interest Indicator on its own exceeded .45, meaning that the MBTI does not have a statistically significant predictive validity on its own in this admittedly narrow, highly-specific, and unintended application (Pulver & Kelly 2008).

The predictive validity of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator instrument is also called into question by certain other applications, despite a continued high level of convergent validity. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire was used in conjunction with the MBTI in a study that attempted to predict levels of transformational leadership based on personality assessment; though there was a high correlation between certain outcomes on the MBTi and self-reported levels of transformational leadership, there was no correlation between any MBTI or MLQ outcomes and actual levels of transformational leadership as measured by reports from other employees (Brown & Reilly 2009). Again, as the MBTI was not designed as a predictive instrument, its predictive validity in many situations is highly lacking.

Use, Strengths, and Weaknesses

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used in many different practical and academic applications, from clinical psychological studies to employee and hiring assessments to lay psychological applications (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). In one study, correlations between subscale indicators derived from responses to the instrument and levels of cognitive complexity were sought, with the result that the MBTI was shown to accurately measure certain aspects of cognitive style, but failed to provide a complete picture of the issue (Carey 1989). Essentially, a series of tests measuring the dependence/independence of the research population -- female college students -- was conducted, followed by giving the subjects the MBTI, and the results were then analyzed, with a strong correlation shown between certain type preferences and independence/dependence (Carey 1989).

The primary strength of the MBTI is in its ability to present a basic and lay understanding of personality preferences and interactions, enabling greater self-understanding but not providing essential information for making decisions or predictions regarding specific individuals (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). The weakness of this instrument, then, lies in its lack of true predictive abilities, and though it shows a high level of convergent validity with several other related or semi-related tests the MBTI does not actually provide an accurate assessment of capabilities, competencies, or many other aspects of personality (Fleenor & Mastrangelo 2000). Used in the manner it was intended, however, it is a highly effective and accurate tool.


Fleenor, J. & Mastrangelo, P. (2000). "Review: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator." In Mental

Measurements Yearbook.

This comprehensive review of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument provides excellent background information regarding the principles and the operation of the instrument. A brief history of Jung's personality theories and Myers' and Briggs' later appropriation and practicalization of these theories is provided, as is the current publication status and other concrete facts regarding the instrument. This is followed by a detailed description of the instrument itself, including the manual that is published along with the instrument and the methods for scoring responses. Reliability and validity figures are also given, with ranges and conclusions that are at times somewhat conflicting, possibly due to the widespread and very common use of this instrument in its existence over the past half-century.

Test-retest reliability is given a range of .83 to .97 over a four-week interval; internal constancy is listed as greater than .90. These are the most direct figures provided in the review, though there are suggestions that actual test-retest reliability across all four categories tested for is more accurately pegged as approximately sixty-five percent rather than the higher listed figure. All in all, however, the authors view the test favorably as long as it is used for the purposes for which it was designed.

Sipps, G. & DiCaudo, J. (1988). "Convergent and Discriminant Validity of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a Measure of Sociability and Impulsivity." Educational and psychological measurement 48(2), pp. 445-51.

The researchers in this study wished to examine specific components and outcomes of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and their correlation to more concrete personality traits. Specifically, the extroversion-introversion scale measured in the MBTI instrument was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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