Answers to some common MBTI objections
Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die
This article lists four points often given against MBTI. To summarize:
1. The MBTI does poorly on reliability. Research shows “that as many as three-quarters of test takers achieve a different personality type when tested again,”
2. Although there are data suggesting that different occupations attract people of different types, there is no convincing body of evidence that types affect job performance or team effectiveness.
3. A: in the MBTI, thinking and feeling are opposite poles of a continuum. In reality, they’re independent: we have three decades of evidence that if you like ideas and data, you can also like people and emotions. …research shows that people with stronger thinking and reasoning skills are also better at recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions.
B: the feeling type is supposed to tap into my orientation toward people and emotions. But this lumps together three separate traits that capture a positive orientation toward others, the tendency to feel negative emotions, and the receptivity toward these emotions.
4. One of the key elements missing from the MBTI is what personality psychologists call emotional stability versus reactivity — the tendency to stay calm and collected under stress or pressure.
Even introversion-extraversion, the trait the MBTI captured best, is incomplete. …it turns out that like all personality traits, introversion-extraversion is shaped like a bell curve: it’s most common to be in the middle. The vast majority of us are ambiverts: in Dan Pink’s words from To Sell is Human, most people are “neither overly extraverted nor wildly introverted.”
These were my responses:
1. What the MBTI instrument is measuring is Clarity of Preference. If a person gets a different result, it means their clarity has changed (and if they get 50/50, it means they’re totally unclear).
I don’t think there’s any instrument that can fix this. People’s clarities of themselves will change.
Another commenter mentioned it being “classification” rather than “discovery”.
Yes, it’s classification, used as a guideline for the true “discovery”, which is mainly on their own. In MBTI administration, it’s really not even all about the “test” (questionnaire and its results); we’re instructed to describe the preference and have them guess from that what they might be even before giving them the results!
So if they take it again and get a different result, it may mean they’ve simply discovered more about themselves and their true preferences from before. That would be a good thing!
It wasn’t designed to be some absolute identifier, which is what it seems people seem to be expecting of it.
2. The preferences do give ideas of what aspect of a job or team the person might be geared toward. But again, there are many other factors that can change that. Type is just a loose guideline there.
3. These are preferences. everybody does both, but some will lean more toward one, and some toward the other. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about T/F; particularly F. Feeling isn’t directly so much about “emotions”; the dichotomy is best expressed as a rational focus that is either “impersonal” or “personal”/”interpersonal”. A personal or interpersonal focus may pay more attention to emotions, but it’s really defined more as “mirroring a person’s inner state and adjusting one’s behaviors accordingly” or attempting to “display the correct relationship to an event or person” (where an “impersonal” focus is going to “detach” from people and things and look at them more as objects, of course). [Edit: T is a judgment basically made in terms of “true/false”, while F is in terms of “good/bad”].
As for “three separate factors” it covers, which links to an abstract on the Five Factor Model (FFM), I believe a mistake the factor analysts of that system have made is overlooking temperament in their correlations. Particularly the work of Linda Berens, who expanded upon Keirseys temperaments and added another type group, the “Interaction Styles”, which resemble classic temperament, which was historically factored by I/E with something called “people/task”. She also discovered a hidden “people/task” dimension in Keirsey’s temperaments. Both of these factors (which are loosely connected with both T/F and J/P) will resemble FFM “Agreeableness”. It may also figure some in the missing “Neuroticism” scale (the “emotional reactivity” mentioned in point 4), since Eysenck originally used that with the classic temperaments, in place of people/task.
If FFM theorists or others had ever done an analysis with temperament and Interaction style factors, perhaps we would have seen more matches.
4. The original Myers’ work did include a fifth factor (corresponding to Neuroticism) called “Comfort/Discomfort”, (which included subscales, as the other four factors were broken down into), but these were eventually integrated into the subscales of the other factors for Steps II and III. Again, it may actually be built into temperament and Interaction Style, since it did start out as a temperament factor.
As for I/E; again, MBTI is measuring preference clarity. It allows that not everyone is a hard introvert or extravert (And I think Jung even said this somewhere himself). If you prefer one side, even so slightly, it is enough to apply the letter, and the orient the functions.