Is the MBTI useful?

The MBTI is a recognized famous test that assesses personality types and preferences. Personality, for the test, includes the character, behavior, and traits of an individual based on the theories developed by Carl Jung. The MBTI measures the levels of:

    1. Extraversion/Introversion. – how the attention is directed
    2. Sensing/Intuition. – how information is acquired
    3. Thinking/Feeling. – how decisions are taken
    4. Judging/Perceiving. – which lifestyle you adopt

Based on your preferences in these four dimensions, the test sorts you into one of the 16 possible personality types.

The MBTI has proven to have useful applications in counseling, clinical aspects, education, health, psychological aspects, marriage, family, social psychology, religion, management, and organizational development, amongst others.[1] In this article, we will exemplify some of the applications in education and business environments.

Application of the MBTI at the workplace

According to SHRM, the majority of HR professionals indicate that personality tests can be useful in predicting job-related behavior or organizational fit[2]. The MBTI is not an exception; it can be used for team building, for strengthening communication, for decision making, and for diagnosing organizational dysfunctions.[3] Besides, it can also be useful in leadership development, conflict & stress management, and career transition & planning.[4]

Currently, 89 of Fortune 100 companies use the MBTI[5]to build stronger, more effective teams and healthier organizations. Here is an example of the use of the MBTI in teambuilding:

“A thinking manager supervising several feelers gave the feelers strokes for jobs well-done but not for personal qualities, which discouraged the feelers. The MBTI was used to explain to the feelers that the manager’s behavior was a result of psychological type not insensitivity to them” [6]

Another example on MBTI’s team building application was pointed out by Flannes S. He said that Myers-Briggs offers great flexibility and application to the task of selecting and managing the members of a project team, in his words, MBTI helps “choosing a team that really works.” [7]

By understanding why others behave the way they do, team members acquire the knowledge of appreciating each other’s differences, and they realize that such differences are a natural consequence of different psychological types[8]

Application of the MBTI at school

Self-awareness can help students to concentrate their attention on a particular subject, focus on what is essential, and soothe the body and mind in different situations at school. Data from a study[9]indicates that using the MBTI helps students recognize their own and others’ preferences and how preferences affect choices. Further, the data suggest that the experience with the MBTI can enhance understanding of personal strengths and limitations.

Besides helping students to understand themselves better, MBTI also allows teachers to understand their students better. This understanding was proved in an experiment with a group of 116 chemical engineering students; they were taught in a way that accentuated active and collaborative learning and inductive presentation of class material. The main results of the experiment were: “Type differences in various academic performance measures and attitudes were noted as the students progressed through the curriculum. The observations were generally consistent with the predictions of type theory, and the experimental instructional approach appeared to improve the performance of MBTI types found in previous studies to be disadvantaged in the engineering curriculum”[10]. The experiment concluded that the MBTI is a useful tool for helping engineering teachers to understand their students better and to design instruction that can benefit students of all types.

The reliability of using MBTI for understanding students’ preferences was also proved in another study: “Relationships between academic ability and Jungian psychological type preference were examined for samples of gifted, regular, and special education upper elementary students. Contingency table analyses and correlations indicated that gifted students had a significant preference for perception. Regular education students tended to be extraverted, while gifted students tended to be introverted. Also, special education students had a significant preference for sensing.” [11]

Validating the MBTI in “real life.”

There is a powerful debate among scientists discussing that “job types” differ from “life types.” To prove that statement was wrong, Parham, Miller, & Carskadon[12] studied three groups: One group was given standard instructions; the second group answered the test as they would behave on a job; the third group received the standard instructions one time and vocational ones the other, the order split equally between members of this group. Test-retest reliabilities of continuous scores on each of the four MBTI scales for each of the three groups were reported, and there were no significant differences between groups, concluding that the MBTI test shows similar results for “Job types” and “real types.”

A similar debate points out that your reported type is not your “true type.”[13]To contradict this statement, Hammer & Yeakley studied a sample of 120 adults. First, they measured the reported type by the MBTI and then the “true” type by follow-up interviews. The results were in agreement for 85% of the time. Furthermore, agreement on individual scales averaged 95% or better, and when preference scores were in double digits, the agreement was perfect.

It doesn’t matter if you take the MBTI test for academic, work, or other purposes, the type you get is highly probably your true type. And, with the correct training and professional direction, the MBTI can be useful in almost every aspect of your everyday life.

 Disclaimer: There is no evidence of the existence of a personality tool with 100% accuracy. The MBTI is not an exception. To reduce the risk of classifying someone in a wrong type, HR professionals, psychologists, teachers, or counselors should use interviews as a complementary tool. The accuracy of the MBTI depends on honest self-reporting[14], so there’s always the possibility of individuals faking their responses.

Also, it is crucial to consider that the MBTI ethical guidelines state, “It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants.” The MBTI intends to provide “a framework for understanding individual differences, and … a dynamic model of individual development”.

 

By: Ana L. Bravo – Bachelor in Human Resources and Administration. Headhunter, Career Coach, and Business Advisor.

Bibliography:

[1] Carskadon, T. G. (2002). Celebrating Our 25th Anniversary: A Grand Synopsis of 400 Studies In Psychological Type

[2] SHRM.ORG poll

[3] Carpenter et al.,1983; Seeley and Seidler,1985; Gould and Sink 1985; and Pickering 1989

[4] Assessment Tool – Active Communication Ltd. http://www.activecommunication.net/mbti-assessment-tool/

[5] Janet Nguyen at Marketplace

[6] Coe, C.K. (1992) The MBTI potential uses and missuses in personal Administration,515.

[7] Flannes, S. (1998). Choosing the Team that Really Works:  How an Understanding of Personal Style Helps Your Team Succeed. Proceedings of the 29th Annual Project Management Institute Seminars & Symposium Long Beach, California, USA: Papers Presented October 9 to 15, 1998.

[8] Coe, C.K. (1992) The MBTI potential uses and missuses in personal Administration,516.

[9] Moore, Dietz. J., &Jenkins, D. A. (1997). Teaching about self-awareness: Using the MBTI to enhance professionalism in social work education. Journal of Psychological Type, 43,5-11. ED

[10]  Felder, R., Felder, G., and Dietx, E. (2002). The Effects of Personality Type on Engineering Student Performance and Attitudes. Journal of Engineering Education, 91(1), 3–17.

[11] Fourqurean, J., Meisgeier, C, Swank, P., & Murphy, E. (1988). Investigating the relationship between academic ability and type preference in children. Journal of Psychological Type, 16,38-41. ED

[12] Parham, M. N., Miller, D. I., & Carskadon, T. G. (1984). Do “job types” differ from “life types”? The effects of standard vs. vocationally specific instructions on the reliability of MBTI scores. Journal of Psychological Type, 7,46-48

[13] Hammer, A. L., & Yeakley, F. R., Jr. (1987). The relationship between “true type” and reported type. Journal of Psychological Type, 13,52-55

[14] Myers, I.B. &; McCaulley M.H. (1985). Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator #bookad

 

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