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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI) is a personality test designed to assess psychological type. It was developed by Katherine Briggs[?] and her daughter Isabel Myers[?] during World War II. The use of type follows from the theories of Carl Jung.

The test asks subjects a number of questions about themselves. Based on the replies, four binary decisions are made about each subject:

In Myers-Briggs' system, each of these dichotomies has specific, non-normative meanings. Quite often any particular person can act in any way, but prefers particular ways.

  • Introverts are rested and energized by solitude, and very effective in solitary pursuits. Extroverts appear outgoing and are energized by people, and are very effective in pursuits that involve people.
  • "Sensors" want, trust and remember facts, and usually describe themselves as "practical." For a Sensor, intuition is untrustworthy, and might seem like mental static. "Intuitives" prefer metaphor, analogy and logic, and tend to reason from first principles and hunches. Sensors pride themselves on living in the real world. Intuitives pride themselves on seeing possibilities. This can cause conflict.
  • "Thinkers" use impersonal means of reasoning: logic, and verifiable experience. "Feelers" prefer personal reasoning: value judgements and emotions. Thinkers often find Feelers muddle-headed. Feelers often find Thinkers cold and inhuman.
  • "Judgers" prefer to come to decisions, and move on. They can feel betrayed if a decision is "reopened." They are prone to hastiness, but get things done. "Perceivers" prefer to leave their options open to perceive new possibilities and processes as long as possible. They tend to mourn opportunities lost to premature decisions. They are prone to analysis paralysis, but rarely make permanent mistakes.

This process results in a classification into one of sixteen types. Overall the population breakdown by type is:

ISFJ - 13.8% ISFP - 8.8% INFP - 4.4% INTP - 3.3%
ESFJ - 12.3% ESFP - 8.5% ENFP - 8.1% ENTP - 3.2%
ISTJ - 11.6% ISTP - 5.4% INFJ - 1.5% INTJ - 2.1%
ESTJ - 8.7% ESTP - 4.3% ENFJ - 2.4% ENTJ - 1.8%
Totals: SJ - 46.4% SP - 27.0% NF - 16.3% NT - 10.3%
Source: http://www.trytel.com/~jfalt/Tables/stats

These are clustered into four temperaments: SJ, SP, NT, and NF.

  • "SJ"s are traditional, practical people that keep the home fires burning and businesses working. They're always aware of who owns what, and which social positions are held by whom. Their quest is to run everything, because they know best how to use it. Think of Uncle Owen from Star Wars.
  • "SP"s are adventurous, fun-loving, observant, physically skillful, impatient, easily bored and good with tools and art. They read minds, by observing people. They can briefly emulate the other types. Everything is negotiable, and they dare to live in the real world. All the time. Think of Han Solo from Star Wars.
  • "NF"s understand people, literally from the inside out. They're always aware of people's feelings. They can be warm, sympathetic friends, but find offense in the smallest careless remark. They tend to be very skillful negotiators. Their quest is to be all that they could be. Think of Princess Leia from Star Wars.
  • "NT"s are analytical, impersonal, intellectual, rather unworldly, tend to be absent-minded, and forget appointments. They continually try to acquire new skills, and pride themselves on their skills, efficiency and logic. They think the real world is a mutable network of logical possibilities, moved by skills. An example would be Albert Einstein.

The MBTI is popular with recruiters and managers, because studies using this assessment show clusters of different personality types in different professions. For instance, the proportion of engineers who are INTJ is higher than the 2% found in the general population.

There are significant differences by sex, especially on the T vs. F distribution.

Almost all arguments between people tend to be manifestations of a type conflict (e.g. P vs J, T vs F, E vs I, S vs N). The P-J conflict tends to be the most glaring - one person gets mad when the rules are broken and the other gets mad when rules are made. The T-F conflict is another one that's very easy to spot - most husband/wife jokes come from this.

Skeptical view of the MB Type Indicator

Skeptics, including many psychologists, argue that MBTI has not been validated by double-blind tests[?] (In which participants accept reports written for other participants, and are asked whether or not the report suits them) and thus does not qualify as a scientific assessment. Some even demonstrate that profiles can apparently seem to fit any person by confirmation bias, ambiguity of basic terms and the Byzantine complexity[?] that allows any kind of behavior to fit any personality type. See [1] (http://skepdic.com/myersb) for an extensive skeptical treatment of the subject.

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