Myers Briggs Personality Tests

14/9/19

Any of you that work in a corporate environment have no doubt been asked to complete some sort of personality or learning styles test. One of the most common is the Myers-Briggs test, named after a mother and daughter who wanted to help women in the 1950's find a job that suited their personality. They based their conclusions on psychoanalyst Carl Jung's work from the 1920's and they grouped people into different personality traits based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) scale. Things like: ISTJ (introversion, sensation, thinking, judgment), for example.

The test is a series of questions that you self report on one or the other side of a yes/no question. For example: You enjoy having a wide circle of friends, Y/N?; You trust reason rather than feelings, Y/N?; It is difficult to get you excited, Y/N. From the answers given to dozens of these type of questions, the MBTI places you in one of 16 personality types, based on dichotomous categories such as whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, or have a disposition towards being logical or emotional (what it calls “thinking” and ”feeling”). From these results it is claimed you should be able to determine what career is best suited to your personality type. The test has proved extremely popular commercially with millions of people taking it, often influencing their careers by its results.

Of course it is complete pseudoscience. Several studies have shown that it is simply astrology for corporations. The biggest flaw is in forcing people to choose one path or another when the vast majority of us change our behaviours day to day depending on our mood, health, circumstances and lots of other variables. One study found 50% of participants re-taking the test 5 weeks later fell into a different personality category the second time around. The descriptions of the various categories are as relevant as horoscopes. INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking judgment) people are described as: "Usually hav[ing] original minds and great drive for their own ideas and purposes. In fields that appeal to them, they have a fine power to organize a job and carry it through with or without help. Skeptical, critical, independent, determined, sometimes stubborn." If you are asked to take one at work, you should be skeptical.

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