This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 11 table of contents.

The MBTI

A mother-daughter pair intrigued by Jung's theory developed a simple test for determining which of the traits he described might fit a person. This test, called the Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory (MBTI), is one of the most popular psychological tests today, despite the fact that it was constructed by amateurs who had neither clinical experience nor academic degrees. The urge to find out one's "personality type" from a simple test is apparently irresistible, so—half a century later—certain locations on the internet are filled with people comparing their Jungian signs. After taking the MBTI or a similar test, they identify themselves with four letters at a time, corresponding to the four dimensions Jung suggested. For example, an "ISFJ" would be an Introverted person who emphasized Sensing over intuition, Feeling over thinking, and Judging over reacting.

What is the MBTI?

Of the personality traits Jung described, three correspond to dimensions of the Big Five personality traits: The Jungian judging type is like the dependable dimension in the Big Five: it hinges on the presence or absence of rational decision-making. The Jungian emotional type is like the emotional dimension in the Big Five. And, of course, the introversion/extraversion dimension of Jung's is included in the Big Five. This leaves only two of the dimensions of the Big Five not covered by Jung: agreeableness and intelligence. Jung did not choose to include those two dimensions in his personality typology, although it is probably fair to assume that Jung (like most people) recognized them as important ways of distinguishing between people.

Why might the MBTI produce useful results, despite its informal origins?

The MBTI was not, at the beginning, a validated, standardized test. However, like the Rorschach, its popularity led to the collection of large amounts of data that related the test results to various personal characteristics and behaviors. Consequently, the MBTI can be used to make predictions. (Recall from Chapter 1, that any reliable correlational data can be used to make predictions.) People trying to find out which personality types are most successful as administrators in business environments, for example, have used the MBTI in research.


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