Carl Jung, who was enormously influential in the budding field of psychology, once hypothesized that humans are categorized into “types” – people who perceive rather than judge, who prefer sensing over intuition, and who think rather than feel.
But even then, Jung realized most people would not fit neatly into one category, writing “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.”
A few decades later, Katherine Cook-Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers, neither of whom actually studied psychology, took Jung’s types and slightly altered the terminology to create what is now the widely-used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
The test classifies a person according to four “principal psychological functions.” This includes extraversion versus introversion, intuition versus sensing, thinking versus feeling and judging versus perception.
However, obviously people don’t work that way – so the results of this test are just not reliable.
Anyone involved in the research of human developmental behavior who would not immediately benefit from the continued usage of this test, including clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, do not actually believe in it.
One study which appeared in the Consulting Psychology Journal found that as much as 50 percent of participants who took the test twice arrived at different results, despite the retest occurring five weeks after the initial testing bout.
As a culture, we love to categorize ourselves – Buzzfeed knows this. We love categories and the idea that we understand everything around us.
The results are always positive, and because the descriptions are vague, they are hard to argue with.
I myself thought my original type of “INTJ” described me perfectly, until I recently retook the test and received “INTP.”
The general descriptions could apply to almost anybody, a demonstration of the so-called “Forer Effect,”which has long been associated with purveyors of astrology, fortune-telling and other forms of pseudoscience.
The test itself is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. My original profile, INTJ, was described with words such as “strategic,” “calculating” and “ambitious.”
I never saw myself as a conspiring mastermind, yet because of this description, I accepted it as a part of my identity.
Isn’t that crazy? I changed the way I saw myself because I read something online, contrary to the teachings of so many respected people in my life.
It’s funny how the mantra “Don’t believe everything you read” is never talked about in the context of personality tests.
I was directed towards labor-intensive careers such as industrial engineer, surgeon or computer scientist, none of which appealed to me.
The company that distributes the test, the CPP, reportedly earns 20 million dollars annually from this one test.
And get this – though the CPP markets the MBTI as “reliable and valid, backed by ongoing global research and development investment,” one of its own leading psychologists admitted that “it would be questioned by (his) academic colleagues.”
It’s not like this test is only being used in classes or at home – it’s used in a professional setting as well.
An estimated 200 federal agencies continue to waste money on this flawed test, including the extremely reputable State Department and the CIA, to separate potential employees and determine whether or not they are right for certain tasks.
I have no qualms with taking the test as a form of entertainment, yet the common belief that it has a supernatural predictive power is undeniably false.