MBTI: Hots or Hogwash?

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Pretty much everyone and their grandma knows what MBTI they are these days. Like blood types and zodiac signs, it’s the one thing to expect any self-respecting Gen Z and millennials to know. Are you the fun and bubbly ENFP, or the ever-introspecting INFJ? Are you a debater? Then you must be ENTP.

But, like, have you ever taken a step back and think more deeply about it? It sounds neat and all, but 7 billion people that exist on planet Earth can’t be conveniently placed into 16 different categories, can they? That seems too easy, too simplistic. People are complicated after all and reducing their personalities to four little words just doesn’t seem fitting.

It’s a tricky little thing, personality tests. You wouldn’t be able to accurately measure things because personalities exist on a spectrum, after all. So, it begs the question, how accurate is MBTI?

Sceptics will say that MBTI is just another proof of the Barnum effect, where the information is vague enough to be relatable. Then you have the MBTI fanatics that lie on the other far end of the spectrum. 

The answer might be a little more complicated. In social science, there are 4 markers that people use to decide whether the test is good enough. The markers are reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive. Unfortunately, the answer for MBTI IS no, no. no, and no.

This isn’t that surprising. If you ever tried taking an MBTI test, you’ll know how the results can change with your mood. It isn’t uncommon to hear people’s type changing every time they take the test. 

How would that explain scores of people who fit perfectly within the 16 MBTI categories? Surely this means that MBTI is doing something right?

To understand this, we must go back to MBTI’s roots. Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, created the test in the early mid-20th century. Katharine was influenced by the work of Carl Jung and thus, came up with MBTI. It was in the midst of World War 2, that Isabel believed that if people understood each other better, the world would be a better place.  

One of the main goals of MBTI testing was to find the type of occupations best suited for each of the MBTI types. Career preference and satisfaction do seem to have a link to which personality type you are, however, this doesn’t guarantee career performance.

So, is MBTI complete hogwash? Of course not! There is at least a scientific basis for MBTI testing. However, what MBTI reality does is offer people an introduction to the world of personality theories and how they can understand themselves better. There are other scientifically more accurate tests out there, for example, the rigorous Hogan test, which has 206 questions and is based on socioanalytic theory. 

All in all, despite the flak MBTI testing, has been receiving, it is undeniable that for most people it is their first foray into personality testing. Undeniably, MBTI left a huge mark in pop culture and it’s not going away anytime soon. We wouldn’t want them to, anyway. 

Three cheers for MBTI! (Can you tell I’m an ENFP?)

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