Lately, I got entangled in a discussion about the MBTI. This personality inventory, based on Jung’s typology, was created by the American daughter mother couple Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs during the second world war to stimulate American housewives to join the war industry. They had to feel that they could make a valuable contribution, so you need a simple, all positive instrument. Are you neurotic? No problem as long as you’re a thinking introverted type and good at assembling grenades… Are you rational or intuitional? Introverted or extraverted? Everybody knows these simple oppositions, that’s why the MBTI is so popular and easy to apply.
But, the MBTI is about typologies and typologies are wrong, because today you are an A and tomorrow a B and so on, they are not reliable. Furthermore they are a simplification of human personality (e.g The NEO PIR inventory has 30 relevant behavioral facets, grouped over 5 dimensions) and therefore only used by stupid- and fast thinking business people. To overcome this unreliable stereotyping, the MBTI typology was recently changed into preferences, based on eight principles. Everybody has preferences and the highest score is your dominant preference. That will become your life fulfillment!
Furthermore The MBTI police wanted acceptance from the scientific community. How do you get acceptance from the scientific community? By publicizing in a true scientific book or journal. Not in the Journal of Psychological Type, that’s more like peeing in your own backyard. So you connect the MBTI to sound modern science, to the Big five that is. The four scales of the MBTI do more or less the same thing as extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness from Big five inventories like the HEXACO (Big six) or the NEO-PI. But the MBTI scales leave out the unpleasant stuff, like instability and (lack of) integrity. Maybe for 2nd world-war housewives that didn’t matter, but in today’s industry it does.
So you cannot use the MBTI for the serious stuff, like high stakes selection. It’s working is shady, it’s construct validity is too simple, it ‘s content validity is limited and the criterion validity is nowhere in sight. But business is much, much more dynamic than dry scientific parameters. Who wants to talk about neuroticism or lack of integrity on a teambuilding or development event? You don’t blow the whistle when the paychecks are in sight….So that’s why the MBTI is used million times a year, for training and development purposes. No dark side, sunny side up, business is one happy family.
Isn’t it funny that to enter a company you have to pass all sorts of lie proof instruments and procedures, and once you’re inside, you are only allowed to talk about your positive side? You just wonder: where do all the wrong people go? The most valid selection procedure has a validity of lets say .50, so that roughly means 75%1 of the selected employees are true positives. And the other 25%? There must be some psychopaths or a few neurotics the least. But not according to the MBTI. It’s like Disneyworld: they don’t sell tickets, they make everybody happy!
And that’s what MBTI business is all about: the marketing of feeling good. In Britain the ‘nudge’ unit did it with an obligatory bogus personality inventory for jobless people. It was not validated and it is even said that the outcomes were a standard feel good profile for everyone. Well, we don’t need a ‘nudge’ unit, we have the MBTI. In the papers we read how many frauds and psychopaths are damaging the economy and on your MBTI seminar you keep staring around, wondering who is the real creep.
One small comforting thought: MBTI people are not alone, DISC, Belbin, Enneagram, Golden, whatever typology crap there is to make you feel good for a few dollars more…Don’t buy it. For a start, do a valid and reliable personality inventory (e.g. www.HEXACO.org) and find out your levels of neuroticism and integrity. It’ll make you feel good, I promise.
- Dunning, “The Myers-Briggs Personality Test.” Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 31 Aug 2010. Web. 19 Aug 2014.
- M. Paul (2005) The Cult of Personality testing. NY, Free Press.
- S. Prewett, R.P. Tett & N.D. Christiansen (2013). A review and Comparison of 12 personality Inventories on Key Psychometric Characteristics. In: N.D Christiansen & R.P. Tett: Handbook of Personality at Work. NY, Routledge
- H. Reynierse (2013) Type Theory Revisited. Implications of Complementary Opposites for the Five-Factor Model of Personality and Organizational Interventions. In: N.D Christiansen & R.P. Tett: Handbook of Personality at Work. NY, Routledge.