Term Paper: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI

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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the most widely used tests in the world for assessing personality characteristics for general non-psychiatric populations. The authors state that it is a self-report inventory, objective assessment that is not diagnostic in a psychopathological sense. Developed by Katherine C. Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers and based on Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung's studies on psychological type, the MBTI is used extensively both in academic and corporate settings. Opinions about MBTI range from those who are leery of personality tests as a whole because of stereotyping and profiling, to those who specifically question this test's reliability, to those who believe that it's an essential tool for helping people become more satisfied with their lives and companies find a means to significantly increase productivity. As with many similar vehicles, the truth most likely lies somewhere in between the extremes of thought. Over the years, numerous studies have shown that MBTI can provide a better understanding of an individual's overall personality traits. However, one always has to be mindful of making broad generalizations and only using one form of measurement to define the complex being called humans.

The first personality tests stretch back into the early 1900s, when Fredrick Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, popularized the idea that employee skills are quantifiable. His time-and-motion studies tried to determine, for example, "How many times a minute should [a secretary] be able to open and close a file drawer?" (Answer: "Exactly 25 times.") (Witt, 2003) In the 1913 book Psychology and Industrial Efficiency, Harvard University professor Hugo Munsterberg asked executives which personal characteristics are desirable in an employee. He used the results to develop screening techniques. Other researchers followed, creating employee-rating methods and other character assessment systems. Personality testing reached its pinnacle thus far with Henry C. Link's Employment Psychology in 1919 where he noted: "The ideal employment method is undoubtedly an immense machine which would receive applicants of all kinds at one end, automatically sort, interview, and record them, and finally turn them out at the other end nicely labeled with the job which they are to do" (Cox, n.d., 6. para)

Regardless of these scholars strong support for assessment systems, they could not convince corporations of their need. Proven connections did not exist between personality type and job success. However, a couple of decades later, Katherine C. Briggs tried again by using Jungian psychology as the rationale. Unlike others before him during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jung saw patterns of behavior. He said psychological types are consistencies in the way people prefer to perceive and make judgments. In Jung's theory, all conscious mental activity could be classified into four mental processes: two perception processes of sensing and intuition and two judgment processes of thinking and feeling. The senses and intuition perceptions are relied on to sort, weigh, analyze and evaluate through the judgment processes of thinking and feeling.

In the early 1940s, the mother/daughter educator team developed the Meyers-Briggs Type-Indicator (MBTI) and defined their own interpretation of Jung's archetypes. Their personality test was used to help employers screen female applicants for factory jobs, which was crucial with the advent of WWII.

In their studies of people and interpretation of Jung's theories, Myers and Briggs concluded there were four primary ways people differed from one another. They labeled these variations preferences. This word was used to draw a similarity to hand preferences, illustrating that people use both hands but most have a preference for one over the other. The first set of mental preferences relates to how people perceive the world and accept information. Those who prefer sensing perception favor clear, tangible data that correlates well with their direct here-and-now experience. To the contrary, those who prefer intuition perception desire information that is more abstract and conceptual and represents imaginative possibilities for the future (Briggs, 1995, pp.67-69).

The second set of mental preferences identifies how people form judgments or make decisions. Those who prefer thinking judgment are inclined to make decisions in an objective and analytical manner and with an emphasis on tasks and results to be accomplished. Those with a preference for feeling judgment make their choices in a more global and value-oriented manner, paying special attention to the impact of decisions and actions on other people. The two other mental preferences in the Myers-Briggs model pertain to energy consciousness, or extraversion vs. introversion, and life management orientation, or judging vs. perceiving (Briggs, 1995, pp.67-69).

There are 16 possible personality types that result from these four perceptions. People who complete the MBTI receive a four letter code, such as ISTJ for "The Inspector" (introverted, sensing, thinking, judgment) or ENFP for "The Champion" (extraverted, intuitive, feeling, perceptive), that indicates their personality type and means to better understand themselves (Briggs, 1995, p. 103). Not spending sufficient time in a preferred mode can result in stress and lack of effectiveness in the workplace and at home.

A type preference does not necessarily translate into a specific set of skills. Further, type is not simply behavior, because people can perform the same task in the same way for different reasons. Types can also be identified cross-culturally, but the expression of people's preferences is contingent on their cultural experience.

Since the 1940s, the MBTI has been given to countless numbers of individuals 14 years and older from all different possible backgrounds. Thousands of studies have been conducted that provide positive results for the test's use. According to the Myers-Briggs Foundation (n.d., 1-6 para.), the MBTI ranks high in reliability, or how consistently the test measures what it attempts to measure. The organization concludes that:

On retest, people come out with three to four type preferences the same 75% to 90% of the time.

When a person changes type on retest, it is usually on "one" of the dichotomous pairs (for example, E-I or S-N), and in a dichotomy where the preference clarity was low.

The reliabilities are quite good across most age and ethnic groups.

For some groups, such as children and underachieving students, reliability can be low; caution needs to be exercised in using the MBTI instrument with these populations. When the MBTI instrument is used with groups that are reported to have been demonstrably lower, the results can be used as a jumping-off point for discussion.

The foundation also states that the MBTI does well in validity or the degree to which the results of a study are likely to be true, believable and free of bias. The organization notes that the shorter version of the test may not provide the accuracy of the longer version.

According to Suzuki (1991, p. 288), "MBTI has unique psychomentric properties. Statistics reported for reliability and validity reflect the intent of the instrument to measure a theory of dichotomies rather than one of continuous traits." From the beginning of her work, Myers clustered items in E-I, S-N, T-F, and J-P into subscales. As part of her analysis of reliability of the scales, she created an X and Y halves for each preference. Reliability numbers of items were computed by correlating the logical split-half scales. Both the 1995 and 1998 manuals report high internal consistency reliabilities of Form G. An Form M. over a variety of samples for split-half correlations of X and Y scores. Internal consistency reliabilities for sample size from 37 to 2,859 are over.90, regardless if the analysis relies on logical or consecutive split-half or coefficient alpha.

Interestingly, in her 1962 manual, Myers poised the question that continues to this day: "How much of any given result is the reliability of the Indicator and how much is the reliability of the person taking it? The potent but as yet unmeasurable variable of type development -- i.e., the extent to which person actually has developed the functions and the attitude he prefers -- enters every equation as an unknown quantity" (Suzuki, 1991, p. 289.) This is something that should be considered by anyone who gives the test. It is a factor that should be addressed with the individuals taking the test, so they can decide how much weight to place on the results.

Not everyone in the field or professional organization agrees with the Myers-Briggs Foundation findings. For example, the Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology notes, to the contrary:

The MBTI's reliability is only fair. One study showed that fewer than half of the respondents retained their initial types over a 5-week period. Consequently, we should be careful about making career decisions based on a classification system that is unstable. People change over time as a result of experience. The MBTI may capture a person's current state, but that state should probably not be treated as a fixed typology.... Is the test diagnostic of successful performance in particular occupations? These questions pertain to validity -- the ability of the test to predict future performance. There have been no long-term studies showing that successful or unsuccessful careers can be predicted from MBTI profiles. Nor is there any evidence… [END OF PREVIEW]

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