Critique of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Model

Updated on March 20, 2018
Jessie L Watson profile image

Psyche Major - Purdue University Global. Writer. Philosopher.

I'm currently studying theories of personality in college, and I've finally reached the point where I can consciously assess what I've always felt to be "off" about the ever-popular Meyers-Briggs personality indicator. If you've never tried it, simply do a quick engine search. There are hundreds of them out there to choose from.

According to the Meyers and Briggs Foundation, the purpose of this particular test is to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people's lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment. (TMBF, 2018)

My result was "INTJ" which breaks down into the following dimensions:

Introvert: 44% - INtuition: 62% - Thinking 25% - Judging 19%

Every time I’ve taken this type of test in the past I get something a little different. It would seem to me that the scoring was largely dependent on the frequency of particular questions asked. For example, I recall many of the questions asking about my social inclinations and the way in which I try to understand the world. It would only make sense that my results (introvert/intuition) reflected the questions I was being asked. While this might speak to the validity of the content, I still feel like there wasn’t enough inquiry as to the rest of my character or my life.

My major critique of this test is that it should include (1) a much larger sample of questions and (2) more variance among the type of questions asked. What’s more, the MBTI introvert score seems to closely resemble the scores I’ve received on the Big 5 personality dimension of extroversion which is typically somewhere in the 50th percentile. But by looking at the MBTI results, one might conclude that I am notably introverted whereas the Big 5 scales would say that out of a random group of 100 people I would be more introverted than 50 of them as well as more extroverted than the remaining 50. We can chalk this up to being moderately social - which happens to be the case.

Here's how: The majority of the questions related to either introversion or extroversion didn't account for modern methods of engaging with people such as the use of social media, text, and email. Much of the language was designed around traditional concepts of social behavior.

After adding up my MBTI percent scores, I end up with a seemingly arbitrary total of 150%. It becomes clear that the MBTI does not use the same scales of measurement that you would typically see comparing traits against the average population's test scores. They claim these numbers indicate the continuum of how strongly traits are expressed from 0 - 100 where 0 is the mid-point between any given personality dimension.

Extroversion 100 ------- 0 ------- 100 Introversion

Again, if 25 out of 60 questions from the quiz are based on social behavior than this method of measurement becomes invalid because other traits will not have an equal opportunity to be examined in such great depth. Also, what accounts for the remaining 56% that might otherwise indicate a stronger tendency toward extroversion? What does it mean to be solely introverted yet only maintain a low score of 44 out of 100? How does anything below 50 in either domain even register in the final analysis?

I would also like to dissect some of the terminology used in my scoring. As I understand it, there are about a dozen other results people can receive such as ENFJ, INTP, ENFP, etc. Each one of these acronyms incorporates some aspects of personality that were not reflected in my score. For example, the “P” in ENFP represents “Perception” (Butt & Heiss, 2018). Where would I have had the opportunity to be measured in this dimension? Am I not also a being of perception? According to my results, I have some capacity for thinking and judging but perception just wasn’t part of the package. Interestingly enough, when I think of people who are perceptive, I regard such people as somewhat intuitive as well.

Perhaps this test is designed to tell us about our most defining characteristics. Even so, I’d have to disagree. According to my score, I am disproportionately intuitive compared to the rest of my other traits. I’m not sure what this means from a scientific point of view. After so many years of self-examination, I would never describe the breadth of my character as being predicated on anything like intuition as I understand it. We’ve run into a construct or loaded-term, if you will, where all sorts of strange problems arise…

Using just a few synonyms, let’s say intuition is a matter of “insight” or “instinct”. If so, what are the major differences between insight/instinct and thinking/judging? You might say that one is spontaneous and inexorable while the other is something we generally have control over. But we also have to maintain that personality is something that can be described as a set of behaviors with which we have some degree of agency. To finally segue into the next portion of this essay, let’s see what Carl Jung had to say about being “intuitive”.

In addition to tendencies toward extroversion and introversion, Jung believed that the primary functions of human personality incorporated thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. (Friedman & Schustack, 2013). According to Jung, intuiting is the function of asking oneself “where did [it] come from and where is [it] going?”. This seems like the most basic abstraction a human mind can conjure. Not to mention that it forthrightly contradicts the most generic definition of intuition which is the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning (Oxford Dictionary, 2018).

In order to measure the degree to which these functions are expressed individually, we have to define them properly. How can we come up with a way to talk about something if we’re all using different definitions? More to the point, how can we operationally define and measure intuition without also using terminology relative to perceiving, sensing, and feeling?

I have no choice but to conclude that there is far too much overlap between these definitions. I choose to respectfully abstain from using this method in the future for any reason outside the realm of entertainment. You could argue that it’s just a matter of accepting Jung’s definition but I would have to contend that his definition is no more informative about personality or behavior than any conventional notion of intuition.

Final Note

I do not begrudge those who wish to use this personality scale nor would I want to dissuade anyone from possibly finding some value from it while in pursuit of self-betterment.

Poll

Assuming some of you have taken the test, how would you describe your scoring?

See results

References

Butt, J. & Heiss, M. (2018) ENFP. Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving. Retrieved from http://www.humanmetrics.com/personality/enfp

Friedman, H. S., Schustack, M. W. (2013). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research, Vitalsource for Kaplan University, 5th Edition. [Kaplan]. Retrieved from https://kaplan.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781269309431/

Oxford Dictionary (2018) Intuition. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/intuition

TMBF (2018) MBTI Basics. Retrieved from http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1

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    • Jessie L Watson profile image
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      Jessie Watson 10 days ago from Wenatchee Washington

      K S Lane

      It has been obsolete since the 1930's. Even modern personality measures are somewhat ambiguous. Whatever the population average is of any particular trait will never mean anything in relationship to an individual. And this will always be the case. I think many people simply need education in statistics.

    • K S Lane profile image

      K S Lane 10 days ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Interesting to read about this test from the perspective of someone actually studying psychology. I know people who set huge importance on their scores for the MBTI and base their entire lives and all of their decisions around that four letter acronym. It seems to me that they're limiting their worldview and their opportunities by forcing themselves into a pre-determined box, but hey I guess it's their life and they can do what they want with it.

    • Jessie L Watson profile image
      Author

      Jessie Watson 7 weeks ago from Wenatchee Washington

      Interesting. I've also received INTJ in the past.

      Well, its predictive power should be noted. The FBI designed a perfect profile for the Unabomber back in the 70's using trait factor analysis.(obsessive-compulsive male in his late 30s or early 40s, educated, who likes to make lists, dresses neatly, is a quiet neighbor, and probably has poor relations with women) The only way they were able to do that is because a dude named Gordon Allport spent his entire career boiling adjectives down so that they matched statistical/biological correlations between different human behaviors.

      The Meyers-Briggs gives us sort of a vague idea about universal character traits but its still a bit airy-fairy.

    • mrpopo profile image

      mrpopo 7 weeks ago from Canada

      It's no surprise we're best buds - I'm also an INTJ (whatever that entails).

      I've done the test a few times and occasionally get INTP and ISTJ, but INTJ is the most frequent. It might be because it was the first result I got and I now have a bias for it (I find it hilarious that a significant % of villains are modeled after the INTJ archetype).

      I think there is some value in the results, but it's difficult to distill the information and there's a limit to its predictive power.

    • Jessie L Watson profile image
      Author

      Jessie Watson 7 weeks ago from Wenatchee Washington

      Right on. If that's accurate for you then, hooray! But, from what I've seen, you're an avid hubber with a lot of how-to knowledge. I suspect there's much more to you than how socially available you are.

    • EricFarmer8x profile image

      Eric Farmer 7 weeks ago from Phoenix Arizona

      The Meyers-Briggs Personality Model test has been brought to my attention multiple times in High School and when I was a college student. I don't remember much about my results other than I seemingly always get I for being an introvert.

    • profile image

      wolfcat 2 months ago

      Heh nice job!

    • Jessie L Watson profile image
      Author

      Jessie Watson 2 months ago from Wenatchee Washington

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