A common question for ice breakers in club meetings and blind dates, as well as popular YouTube video content, is — what is your MBTI?
Perhaps, you have seen 16 different personality categories organized in a color-coded chart, randomly floating around in social media. Perhaps, you have felt left out while your friends excitedly carry on conversations for three hours about being ISFJs or ENTPs.
At a first glance, the 16 different personality categories look like 16 different versions of a jumbled mess of letters without any meanings. However, these gibberish-looking letters are powerful enough to describe who you are and what “category” you correspond to in the world of 7.9 billion people.
In short, Myers-Brigg Type Indicator is 93 questions long, a self-conducted assessment that identifies your personality, strength and preferences by assigning you into one of the 16 categories — ISTJ, ISFJ, INFJ, INTJ, ISTP, ISFP, INFP, INTP, ESTP, ESFP, ENFP, ENTP, ESTJ, ESFJ, ENFJ, and ENTJ, according to Vox.
- “I” stands for introversion.
- “E” stands for extraversion.
- “S” stands for sensing.
- “N” stands for intuition.
- “T” stands for thinking.
- “F” stands for feeling.
- “J” stands for judging.
- “P” stands for perceiving.
Invented in 1942, according to The Myers & Briggs Foundation, and gaining its momentum again recently, the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator has developed into a fad that people use as a source of entertainment. As millions of people take the test and happily recommend it to others through fast-spreading platforms such as social media, the test continues to thrive without any problems.
However, fame is always followed by controversies. Today, numerous psychologists and scientists are questioning the validity and accuracy of the so-called “frighteningly accurate personality test,” according to Vox.
First, the world is not only composed of 16 types of people. Even the individual who is seemingly identical to you, such as a doppelganger, possesses at least some differences that sets him/her apart from you. Therefore, defining people based on 16, crude categories of personalities is blunt and meaningless.
According to Vox, Adam Grant, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, have said that contemporary scientists seldom focus on whether a person decides based on emotions or logical reasonings because everyone utilizes both throughout life.
When one has a prior experience of the situation, that is, when the one already knows the option that would benefit him/her because the wrong option was chosen the last time, one would use logical reasoning. When one has an unusually sulky mood that day and sees everything in a negative way, emotions would contribute the most to decision making.
There are a plethora of other factors that influence decision-making other than one’s typical personality; examples would be the mood that day, the priorities, the people one is surrounded with, the importance of the situation, the favorability of the situation, the prior experience to the situation and many more.
Sometimes, the mood and the people play a pivotal role in the decisions one makes. On other days, the importance of the situation and the favorability influences the decision the most.
Therefore, one would never persist to use only logical reasonings or only emotions when making decisions. The situation shapes the tendency toward one option and the aversion to another.
Another invalidity rests on the fact that the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator is made from unproven theories and lack of psychological background.
According to The Washington Post, Myers and Briggs did not have sufficient knowledge in psychology when they invented the test- their skills for recognizing personalities and relations were solely based on their experiences of caring for family’s emotional needs.
Due to their lack of training in the area of psychological science, Myers and Briggs acquired the background information through books, theories, and questionnaires to close friends and family members.
By collecting evidence to base their tests on miscellaneous papers and novels, Myers and Briggs were only using qualitative data in their study.
An obvious example of using baseless, qualitative data was using unproven facts about human personalities from Carl Jung.
“Jung literally made these up based on his own experiences,” psychologist Adam Grant said, according to Vox.
Adding on to using qualitative data, Myers and Briggs used qualitative data that was theoretical and unproven.
When developing a hypothesis or proposing a claim, mathematical and statistical data is needed to support the statement. However, not only did Myers and Briggs use non-numerical and weak qualitative data that did not contain any statistically bolstered fact, they used an opinion of a psychologist to build the framework of their test, according to The Washington Post.
Indeed, living in a common household without science-related professions, it would have been challenging to conduct sophisticated research to attain quantitative data, such as line graphs showing trends of certain behavior or histograms revealing the frequency of getting one type of personality over the other.
However, even when Myers and Brigg got professional help from a scientist, their research and study had flaws.
One of the significant flaws was wrongly conducting questionnaires by giving them out to a selected group of people, according to The Washington Post. Instead of conducting a controlled experiment by randomly picking individuals from different parts of the world, they reached out to acquaintances and close friends which made it unreasonable to generalize the results of questionnaires to the entire world.
The next point of invalidity relates to how the sample space for the questionnaire was a misrepresentation of the entire population.
According to The Washington Post, Myers-Brigg Type Indicator was made based on studies on families and subjects like doctors, military officials, nurses, and scientists.
Essentially, one of the few attempts of Myers and Briggs to gather data from observational studies was severely rigged and biased due to a severe undercount of the entire population which also consists of children, adolescents, elders and unemployed individuals.
Because those who participated in the survey were educated and experienced with their jobs, it would have been more likely that the results displayed personalities and traits exclusive to only a specific type of people.
For instance, a fair amount of the result would have displayed Thinking (T) over Feeling (F) since military officials are more disciplined and stern when making decisions. Moreover, a significant portion of the result would have exhibited Intuition (N) over Sensing (S) because scientists seek creativity, possibilities and deeper meanings rather than practicality, common sense and realism.
When children were part of the sample space, results would have greatly differed, showing a more diverse aspect of personality in the result.
Because the study was only conducted on people with a strong tendency toward one trait over the other due to their careers, according to Vox, the questions in the actual Myers-Brigg Type indicator assessment turned out to be extreme, only offering two blunt responses to the questions, which is a “yes” or a “no.”
An example is this: “Are you interested in finding deeper meanings in movies or books you encounter? – Yes or No”
To younger individuals, this question would be challenging to answer with only a “yes” or a “no” because it is unlikely that they experienced the scenario the question is asking.
How would a child know what it is like to have a deep insight into something?
Nevertheless, if the questions and answers were not crude and general, the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator would have had an endless amount of personality categories.
And the truth is that there are an endless amount of personalities in the world.
In a world of 7.9 billion people with 7.9 billion different personalities, it is pointless and reckless to attempt to classify every individual into 16 categories.