The Myers Briggs Test

The Myers Briggs test (full name Myers Briggs Type Indicator) is a well-known psychometric questionnaire which seeks to reveal personal preferences in personality perceptions.  It is usually used as a tool for team building, career development and self awareness.

First published in 1962, the Myers Briggs test borrows from Carl Jung’s typological theories in his eponymous work “Psychological Types”.  The main psychological types are broken down into 4 different dimensions of personality, split into 4 possible dichotomies – these are pairs of mutually exclusive preferences for which an individual is classified.

How The Myers Briggs Test Works

The Myers Briggs test is a questionnaire which tries to identify personality preferences based on a respondent’s answers.  Questions are formatted to reflect opposite personality preferences based on the same pair of dichotomy.  In a Myers Briggs test there are only two possible answer options for each question, and respondents may choose to skip questions if they feel they cannot answer them.  A score is then calculated and the preferences highlighted, as well as the degree of sway towards any side of a dichotomy.

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With the 4 dichotomies, one person can be categorised into 16 possible personality types in the Myers Briggs test.  The 4 pairs of opposite preferences are listed below, and they are usually abbreviated by their first letters to a single character (the exception being ‘N’ for intuition):

Focus of energy – Extraversion (E) vs (I) Introversion
Information-gathering preference – Sensing (S) vs (N) Intuition
Mental evaluation process – Thinking (T) vs (F) Feeling
View of the surroundings – Judgment (J) vs (P) Perception

It is important to note that the Myers Briggs test is not an indicator of aptitude or ability – it is a visualisation of preferences selected by the individual.  Neither is it a real test.  There are no right or wrong answers.  All 16 personality types from the Myers Briggs test are value-neutral and no one type is considered better or worse than any of the others.

After learning about personal type preferences, the Myers Briggs test can provide insights for the individual into how he can best interact with others, and help with identifying personal strengths and possible development areas.   Usually a report is generated after completing the Myers Briggs test, and a personal review with a competent person will follow.

This competent person is usually an accredited individual (say a HR officer or a professional coach) and he/she will utilise the report to assist the individual in the interpretation of their preferences, discuss the implications and identify any training requirements.

As the Myers Briggs test is not an aptitude indicator, its use is limited to the front end of any substantial employee training programmes.  It is also dependent on the honesty or openness of the individual.  If the respondent, for whatever reason, chooses to opt for an answer that does not reflect his true preferences, the Myers Briggs test will not flag up any perceived inconsistencies.  It is not designed to do so and thus is reliant on the individual selecting answers truthfully.

Furthermore, whatever additional training requirements undertaken (based on the report) need to be measured separately for attainment of desired outcomes.  The Myers Briggs test, repeated, does not provide any more useful insights (unless a person changes his personal preferences!).  In any emotional intelligence development regime, the Myers Briggs test can be a useful introduction to self-awareness, but does not really complement further development, so companies keen on a holistic treatment of emotional intelligence may opt for other more comprehensive profiling/coaching methods.

One Response to “The Myers Briggs Test”

  • Wim Kuit:

    Dear Damien,

    I agree that the Myers Briggs is a useful starting point in the creation of self-awareness and the promotion of self-reflection. However, as with all merely ‘descriptive’ models of personality preferences the MB provides limited guidance and insights into ‘why’ we develop these preferences. And maybe more importantly, the MB does not provide a rich resource for ‘how’ we can shift out of our habitual ways of thinking/feeling, sensing/perceiving etc. to embrace the desired change. Much like diagnostic categories in clinical psychology, MB codes can create confining boxes when not augmented by other models of change.

    We need to get beyond our personality boxes!

    A more dynamic model – one that reveals the ‘motivation’ behind our personality strategies and preferences – is required for us to achieve deeper and more lasting personal and professional development. The Enneagram is indeed the map for our journey beyond our habitual boxes. The Enneagram not only describes our strengths, positive qualities and gifts, but reveals the patterns of perception and avoidance that get us stuck in self-defeating cycles. By pointing us towards alternative resources within the matrix of our personality styles, the Enneagram provides practical and powerful ways of enhancing our intra-personal and interpersonal intelligence.


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