Posts Tagged MBTI
In part 1 of this series, I gave my take on some of the weaknesses and limitations of MBTI and its underlying Jungian theory of psychological types. In part 2, I tried to reconstruct Jung’s ideas into a rather over-simplified model of how we deal with information and make decisions, leaving out a few of his most troublesome assumptions. Now I will explain how this model influences my work with clients and how I actually use MBTI in practice.
In defence of dynamics
Before I do that though, having criticised the MBTI, I would like to balance things a little.
One of the criticisms levelled at the MBTI is that, compared to other psychometric instruments, it has poor test-retest reliability. This means that if the same person answers the questionnaire on two separate occasions they might come out with different results. This is a fair criticism if what you are trying to measure is a fixed trait which ought not to change over time. Part of this is probably due to the arbitrary allocation of people in the middle of the spectrum to one preference or another, something I have never been comfortable with.
However, if Jung’s model is not really about fixed preferences between opposing traits, but a dynamic balance of complementary functions that depend on the needs of the situation as much as the natural inclinations of the individual, then the low reliability of the MBTI may be giving an insight into the adaptability of our brains.
One way of testing this situational hypothesis might involve getting people to focus on a scenario geared towards a particular mode of thinking before they complete the questionnaire. If you made them think about the same scenario before they did it again then test-retest reliability ought to get better, and if you gave them a different type of scenario it should get worse. If anyone knows of any research along these lines, please let me know.
In my last post I did some deconstructing of MBTI and the Jungian theory of psychological types that inspired it.
Now I’ll have a go at putting it back together again. Although, as with most of my attempts at reconstructing things I have dismantled, it won’t look the same and I’ll probably have a few bits left over!
I finished the last post by proposing that Jung had, in fact, developed a simple but elegant model of cognitive functions. I’ll start from there…
A while ago on LinkedIn someone asked a question about why many career coaches persist in using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) when it seems to be lacking in validity as a testing tool. A number of other contributors joined in the criticism, describing MBTI as being on a par with horoscopes as well as attacking its Jungian origins and amateur-led development. I threw a few comments into the debate to defend MBTI, mainly because I like being a devil’s advocate rather than because I’m a wholehearted believer in the instrument.
Even though I am a qualified practitioner and have used it fairly extensively, I do have a number of doubts and criticisms about the MBTI and Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types on which it is based.
In this post I would like to talk about some of those reservations and ask some questions about what MBTI is all about.
In the next post I will attempt to look at how, despite these reservations, some of the concepts of MBTI can be useful in helping people with career decisions that goes beyond an unconvincing matching of personality types to particular occupations.
For those readers who are not familiar with MBTI concepts and terminology, you might want to do a quick bit of background reading first.