Myers-Briggs test ignores complexities of personality

Nina Zietlow, Feature Editor

ENTJ, the controller. This type is assertive, a natural leader, determined. These are all positive qualities, and like all Myers-Briggs results, the ENTJ feels unique, strong, and valued upon seeing the traits written across the computer monitor. But, like all other results, this is just a spotlight effect: people want to feel important, and this test enables them to do so.

While the Myers-Briggs test is the most popular psychometric test in the world, the ostensibly all-encompassing four letter results have as much scientific basis as one’s zodiac sign.

Yet this test, which reduces complex personalities into a simplified person who fits one of 16 convenient categories, is widely accepted. The Myers-Briggs test is used by companies when hiring new employees, by students when choosing a school, and by St. Paul Academy and Summit School in College Counseling and during Junior Retreat. It shouldn’t be.

The Myers-Briggs test was developed by mother-daughter duo Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers, neither of whom held a degree in psychology or social science. To develop the test they studied the work of psychologist Carl Jung, but the test was created with no previous knowledge of personality and doesn’t accurate reflect Jung’s theories.

The Myers- Briggs test has no consistency in terms of results; According to an article in the Journal of Career Planning and Employment, titled “Measuring the MBTI… And Coming Up Short,” if one retakes the test after a 5 week gap there is a 50% chance that they will get different result than their original one. At least a zodiac sign is not subject to change.

The Myers-Briggs test categorizes people based on four factors: whether they are introverted or extroverted (E or I), rely on sensing or intuition (S or N), rely on thought or feelings (T or F), and finally, are judging or perceiving (J or P).

The flaw with this process is that there is no inbetween.

The spectrum of human personality is far too complex to be filed into one of two categories and in reality most people fall somewhere along a continuum, especially in terms of introverted or extroverted personality.

As a result, it is entirely possible that someone who is both extroverted and introverted will be assigned an introverted personality and thus be recommended for a profession that is entirely different than that of their extrovert labeled counterpart.

This becomes a problem when this person might actually be better suited for a profession that is assigned to extroverted people but never chooses to explore that option because of their Myers- Briggs result.

Many of the issues with the Myers-Briggs test are addressed in its ethical guidelines for use, which emphasize the importance of proper distributions and test taking procedure. These guidelines are essentially a set of rules for the test, including parameters like: the test should only be taken by someone who is willing to take it, results should not be shared unless the test taker wants to share them, and the test should not be used to divide people into groups.

These guidelines illustrate that the Myers-Briggs should not be used to divide people by personality, but the problems with it arise because this is what it is most commonly used for.
Most importantly, at school, the conversation that results from separating students into these rigid groups is highly misleading. The result gained from taking the test truly mean nothing about students’ personalities or how they interact with others.

There are more natural and genuine ways to spark conversation.

Logical fallacies aside, the Myers-Briggs test has no practical use. No one should base their life and choices on a personality test no matter how accurate it feels to them.

The only accurate way to learn one’s personality is to discover it through conversations and interactions, not an inaccurate and misleading test.