Companies often use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) to determine which of the sixteen personality types candidates, new hires, or employees possess. It is also often used by human resource professionals to build teams with personality types that work well together or to help co-workers interact more effectively with each other. More than 10,000 companies, 2,500 colleges and universities and 200 government agencies in the United States use the test, according to Lillian Cunningham in the Washington Post.
Developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, the test uses the theory of psychological types described by psychologist Carl Jung and attempts to make the types understandable and useful in individuals and groups, according to the Myers-Briggs site.
CPP is a private company that is the exclusive publisher of the MBTI. They also offer certification programs and sell over 800 other related products. While the Myers-Briggs assessment can be taken online for $49.95, individuals administering the assessment and interpreting and applying the results must be certified. Those who meet the education eligibility requirements do not require certification. CPP warns that the educational eligibility requirement only allows individuals to purchase and administer tests; however, “[o]nly those practitioners who attend and successfully complete a certification program for an instrument will be granted the Certified Practitioner designation for that instrument.” The purpose of certification, which costs $1,695.00 plus shipping and taxes, create practitioners who have “an in-depth understanding of the best and most ethical ways to administer the assessment,” according to the CPP website.
However, recently professionals are beginning to doubt the effectiveness and morality of the MBTI. Cunningham points out that CPP’s profit from the “cultlike [SIC] devotion among its practitioners” is roughly $20 million annually. She points out how CPP makes millions off of this personality test through “the elaborate business model and enormous marketing push that have enthroned MBTI in the pantheon of human resources programs.” The business model forces both the person giving the test and the person taking it to pay. The company’s sales team urges HR professionals in companies across the globe to get certified in order to benefit from the test results. CPP even offers sample, formatted letters for business professionals to print out and give to management to justify the expense of an MBTI certification.
Yet the most questionable part of the MBTI is not that a company distributes and profits from it, but that there is no scientific basis for using it.
Myers Briggs began developing the test in her family room in 1921, having no training other than having read a variety of psychology-related books. No major scientific journal has published research on the assessment. Even the three psychologists who work with CPP have not included Myers-Briggs in their own published studies.
Even the theories used in the MBTI, which are based on Jung’s 1921 book Psychological Types, were unsupported and without controlled experiments or data. Jung himself stated that these types were only based on his own observations and were merely approximate categories. “Every individual is an exception to the rule,” Jung wrote.
Joseph Stromberg, author with the Vox, notes that several analyses show the MBTI test is not only unable to predict a person’s success within the workplace, but also that approximately half of those who take the test a second time, get different results, himself included.
Even with its high profile and high profits, the Myers-Briggs test does not appear to be any more accurate at determining profiles than a Facebook quiz.