In-Depth

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator faces modern scrutiny

If you were to ask anyone that you know whether they thought of themself as complex or simplistic, everyone would say complex. As humans, we tend to consider ourselves as deep and intricate individuals that can’t be easily put into boxes, so one might be put off by the idea of a personality test that divides people into 16 boxes.

However, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator does just that. It is one of the most successful personality tests to ever exist, having been taken by hundreds of millions of people.

The MBTI test is divided into four categories, each split between two options: Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I), Intuition (N) vs. Observant (S), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F) and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P). After a person takes the test, they are given a four-letter combination, with each letter representing one of the categories, such as INTP or ESJF.

According to The Myers & Briggs Foundation’s website, the purpose of the test is to show that random variation in behavior is actually orderly and directly caused by parts of one’s personality.

While the test is commonly viewed as a pillar in personality tests, social studies and AP Psychology teacher David O’Reilly has some doubts about its merit as a personality test.

“The issue with the Myers-Briggs is that it has low reliability and validity strictly as a personality test,” O’Reilly said.

He explained that this is because psychologists generally agree that personality is stable over time, and since people often have different results every time they take the MBTI test, it’s not very reliable.

O’Reilly recounted that he took the test for the first time when he was an undergraduate, and when he took it again when he was in graduate school he got a different result.

“I think those types were an accurate reflection of who I was at the time, but a good personality test should measure the true and unchanging parts of you,” O’Reilly said.

While O’Reilly said that the test is unreliable in the realm of personalities, he does think that it has other uses.

“I think that the MBTI resembles that of a career inventory profile,” O’Reilly said. “Many people and institutions use it for that, and it does a pretty good job.”

Freshman Kate Magee said that she felt as though the test was remarkably accurate after she took it for the first time.

“I got ENTP, which was the ‘Debater’ type,” Magee said. “I found that really fitting, and reading through the pages about it on the website was really interesting.”

Magee added that she especially connected with the “Strengths and Weaknesses” page of the website.

“One of the strengths was ‘quick-thinker,’ which a lot of people have told me I am,” Magee said.

Overall, Magee said that she was surprised by the test’s accuracy in describing her and would recommend it to anyone else.

However, the accuracy can vary for different people, as they did for freshman Brian Haynes, who also recently took it for the first time.

“My results seemed pretty generic,” Haynes said. “They weren’t super specific or accurate to me.”

Haynes tested as an ENFP, a similar type to Magee, and he said that he felt as though only some parts of his personality were reflected in the test.

“The test said that ENFPs often start projects but don’t finish them, and it said that ENFPs try to avoid being noticed,” Haynes said. “Both of those are true about how I am.”

However, Haynes felt that a larger portion of the results didn’t describe him particularly well, especially those about creativity.

“The test said that ENFPs often have a ‘spark of madness’ in them, but I’ve never thought of myself as having that or seen it come out,” Haynes said.

Haynes’ results were hit or miss, but he said that the test was interesting and made him reflect on himself more.

While the MBTI is not O’Reilly’s preferred personality test, he said that the concept of it does hold some benefit.

“Like any assessment, its effectiveness and merit depends on what your purposes and needs are,” O’Reilly said. “As long as the test is not being misused and matches your needs well, then it has merit.”

Margaret Zirwas
Margaret Zirwas is a staff reporter for The Torch. She is a junior at Bexley High School, and this is her first year as a member of the staff. Outside of Torch, she cheers for Bexley.