People have for long categorized a wide array of personality types and have developed tests, like the Myers Briggs Personality Test, to attempt to define a person’s actual personality based on psychological measures, not just an outsider’s interpretation. While the scientific veracity of some personality tests has been called into question, personality tests like the Myers Briggs Personality Test are used in many places (work, schools, even dating profiles) around the world. Why is the test developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook-Briggs, so popular?
When a person is described as “having personality,” it is open to interpretation whether it is a negative or positive thing. For example, if you are told you have a big personality, it may mean the person views you as outgoing or bold. It could also be that the person finds you loud and brash. You may have heard someone described as having a Type A personality, which is usually associated with aggressiveness and the need for control. How one person views another personality is dependent on the interactions the two individuals have with one another, and the perception of another personality boils down to personal bias and opinion.
Why the Myers Briggs Test?
Many workplaces and other institutions prefer to use the Myers Briggs Test because of a few key reasons:
- The questions are easy. There are no wrong answers, and a person does not need to have any specialized knowledge to answer the questions. The person just has to answer honestly.
- The test does not compare one person with a group. Rather, the test only analyzes the individual’s preferences and forms the results based on the answers. It is not subjective to someone else’s idea of what the definition of a specific personality type is.
- The results are easy to interpret. A person does not have to be a scientist or doctor to interpret the results of the test. Although the results should be reviewed by someone certified to “grade” the test results, it does not have to be administered in a clinical setting.
With this particular test, personality is divided into 16 types made up of 4 specific components.
The Different Myers-Briggs Personality Profiles
As explained by www.myersbriggs.org, the test begins by evaluating preferences specific to four categories:
- Favorite World – Extroversion or Introversion
- Information – Sensing or Intuition
- Decision Making – Thinking or Feeling
- Structure – Judging or Perceiving
From the test-taker’s answers to a series of questions, the preferences in the above four categories are combined to form a personality type – one of 16 combinations of the four main categories. Each type and a very short description of the strongest traits follows:
- ISFJ (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) – Quiet yet friendly, reliable and accurate, and concerned with others’ feelings.
- INFJ (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging) – Insightful, committed to values, organized and decisive.
- INTJ (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging) – Creative and able to see long-term cause and effect, skeptical and independent, with high standards both personally and for others.
- ISTP (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving) – Tolerant and analytical.
- ISFP (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving) – Quiet and kind, avoids conflicts.
- INFP (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) – Idealistic, curious, and accepting unless values are compromised.
- INTP (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving) – Quiet, unassertive, creative.
- ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) – Logical, contained, and possessing an unusual ability to focus in depth on problems.
- ESTP (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving) – Flexible, tolerant and spontaneous.
- ESFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving) – Outgoing, exuberant, sociable, and approaches problems realistically.
- ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) – Warm, optimistic, quick to give and expect affirmation and support.
- ENTP (Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving) – Quick, resourceful, intuitive to others and bored by routine.
- ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) – Practical, organized, and systematic.
- ESFJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) – Cooperative and loyal with a desire to be appreciated by others.
- ENFJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging) – Responsible, attuned to others’ emotions, optimistic and inspiring.
- ENTJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging) – Often takes a leadership role, usually educated, and enjoys planning.
No Winning Personality
When a person takes the Myers-Briggs test, there is no “pass” or “fail.” There are no right answers. To use the test’s results correctly, it is imperative to emphasize a few important points.
- No personality type is superior to another. The 16 profiles are based on a person’s inclinations toward a certain type of behavior or response. Each personality type has strengths and weaknesses. The benefit of knowing which personality type one falls under is that the weaknesses can be addressed and actively improved upon.
- To get the best results from the Myers Briggs Test, the person taking the test must be as honest as possible. A lot of the time, being honest with ourselves is difficult. We want the world to perceive us in a certain way, and we would like our tests results to reflect our best selves. However, as stated above, there is no “best” personality type to be. Each one has benefits and drawbacks, and it is getting to the best possible analysis that is the goal of the test.
- The Myers Briggs Personality Test is not predictive. This means that if someone gets a result that includes traits like “quick to make decisions,” or “uses logic to make judgment calls,” that does not mean that the person is always going to have the correct or best answer. This is a pitfall many employers need to avoid when using the Myers Briggs test in the workplace. Likewise, if a person tests as being more reticent or stoic, that does not mean that person will not be an active participant on a team or a valuable member of an office.
Personality testing is different than psychological testing. Tests like the Myer Briggs Test are based on psychology but are not always scientifically sound. Both psychological testing and personality testing may help a person learn more about themselves, however, which can be beneficial.
Benefits of Psychological Testing
According to ES Learning Support, psychological testing can help children and adults:
- Discover the most effective learning methods for the specific personality type, which increases success in school.
- Increase social success by highlighting strengths and weaknesses that can be addressed with therapy or coping mechanisms. For example, a person suffering from anxiety can learn the best ways to deal with the anxiety if he knows his natural inclinations and can modify or enhance his behavior.
- Enhance self-esteem.
- Evaluate job applicants to estimate success in a particular role.
- Decrease conflicts. For example, if a parent is having issues controlling his angry child, it is possible that by understanding the underlying motivations of the child, the parent will have an easier time dealing with the child’s emotions and redirecting the anger.
Psychological testing, unlike personality testing, is administered by psychologists and can vary from questions like those on a personality test to more predictive or telling questions. Additionally, psychological testing is not as black and white as tests like the Myers Briggs Test. For example, in psychological testing, a person is not simply an “extrovert” or an “introvert”; there are shades of grey.
The lesson one should take away from learning about personality testing is that it can be a starting block to learning more about oneself, but it should not define a person’s actions, thoughts or feelings. More importantly, it should not limit an individual from succeeding in school or in the workplace. The responsibility lies on institutions that use the Myers Briggs Personality Test to take the results with a grain of salt. Also, it is better to use the test as a way of enhancing the workplace, rather than allowing the results to affect hiring (or firing) decisions.