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Myers Briggs : A Misunderstood Test that Gives Valuable Information


The 'Myers-Briggs Type Indicator' is a 75 Yes/No questionnaire. It claims to identify the person's preference for understanding and working with the world psychologically; assigning a 'personality type', of which there are sixteen.

But does it actually work? Or is it just another false-lead that will run you in circles? The answer is Yes! ... and yes...


There are some solid limits to the MBTI :

  • If a person waits just over a month and tries the test again, there's a chance they will be given a new 'type.'
  • Research has shown only a third of test-takers will have the same category a year from now.
  • It is easy to lie to the test if there is any motivation to.
  • Most people who take the test land in a sort of 'middle', where two or three questions answered differently would push them into a different type.

Adherents to the test swear by its utility and how it's benefited them in their lives. Detractors cite the vague and fluid results one gets over time. As with most things that have two opposing sides - the truth lands somewhere in the middle.

Short Term, (Not Long Term)

As a personality test, the Myers-Briggs seems to fall terribly short. Far from revealing any consistent bedrock from which anyone acts, it has trouble reaching further than a few months of validity. But a test that is accurate in the short-term and not in the long-term is not a bad test, it's just marketed wrong.

Myers Briggs should be considered as a kind of routine check-up with your doctor. S/he gives you the latest on your general health, what you should do more of and less of to stay in good form. It's akin to checking your blood pressure, stepping on a weight scale, and being asked if you are sleeping well at night.

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MBTI is about preferences and inclinations: your recommended mental 'diet' and 'exercise' for the coming months; after which you should retest (re-assess) how you're doing and any changes that need to be made. The real utility of this test comes from taking it (with a grain of salt) every three months and adjusting yourself accordingly.

Red : Female // Blue : Male

At any given time, the general population will score as such with the test. If you care to read the information for each 'Type', you'll have a handy metric of differing attitudes.

At any given time, the general population will score as such with the test. If you care to read the information for each 'Type', you'll have a handy metric of differing attitudes.

In Type We'll Trust

Every time I took this test, I'd hit the middle ground for Introversion/Extroversion.

I use to take it for a failing of the Myers-Briggs: never giving me an absolute answer; yet when I appraised my actual behaviour it was glaringly accurate. I get away from people to recharge mentally - but I also go into la-la-land if I'm not around people constantly.

As the saying goes, "a cafe is the perfect place to be alone and still have company," and sure enough, I'm the stereotype laptop jocky in the coffee shop corner. I won't talk to anyone, but I can't work well unless other people are there.

My full read-out was 'INFJ.' The writer, the coach, the counselor, the politician, and the priest. The person who prefers short-term work with clear starts and ends. Sure enough as I migrated out of full-time work and into writing, odd-job, and contract work - my sense of self improved and I found new balance in life.

Good For You, Good With Others

In addition to giving a snapshot of your preferences and approach in life, is the option to ask people we work closely with to get a similar snapshot. Many conflicts have been smoothed over in my private life through applications of the test and some respect for Myers-Briggs results.

Knowing which 'Type' a person leans into (and how strongly) gives some topical insight into how they process information, what stimulates, what overwhelms etc.

The Compass, not the Map

All told, the MBTI is a compass being sold as a map. The ease and immediacy of the test (you can take it online, free, from various vendors) tempts us with its nice packaged answers to hard personal questions. '"Just do this!" for the rest of your life, and you'll find peace and happiness.' That's the claim; and it's a silly one.

In truth, life is the map, the test is just another compass. If you find yourself surrounded by mountains, ravines, plains, rivers, oceans, snow, sun, ice... The test and it will tell you: North, South, East, West.

Try the test, and all the best.

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