Myers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI)

One of the tests of a good model for human behaviour is that when you apply it, your reaction is "tell me something I don't already know."  Of course, the clever bit is being able to describe and classify behaviours so that they cover all people, and that you can use them to predict behaviour accurately.  And most people who've completed a Myers Briggs profile will tell you it got them about right, and that an understanding of the Type Indicators has helped them in dealing with other people.

The MBTI were created by two non-psychologists with a lifelong interest in human personality.  In the early 20th Century, Katherine Myers developed a classification of personality based on her own observations, and only later discovered that it aligned with the more scientific theories of Carl Jung.  Katherine's daughter, Isabel Myers, picked up her mother's ideas and tried to turn them into practical use.  She created the Type Indicators and spent most of the 50's and 60's validating them, but it wasn't until 1975 that they became an established tool in occupational psychology.



The MBTI classify the ways in which we view the world around us, deal with it and react to it.  Like all such profiles, they're not infallible or all-encompassing, and it's possible to behave "against Type."  But by and large your MBTI profile is a good predictor of how you'll think and behave in most situations and with most people.  What's more, if you and your colleagues are aware of  your MBTI profiles, this can help you operate more effectively together.

The MBTI comprise four separate pairs of preferences: there are no positive or negative scales, and no "ideal" profile: you are what you are.  You create your profile by completing a simple questionnaire, and there several versions of varying complexity and value available.

Extraversion E I Introversion
Sensing S N Intuition
Thinking T F Feeling
Judging J P Perceiving

E/I Preference: interest in the world around you

The Extravert (E) is more interested in outer world of people and things, whilst the Introvert (I) is more concerned with the inner world of concepts and ideas.

S/N Preference: how you gather information about the world

The Sensing (S) person takes in the actuality or facts about their surroundings (using their five senses), whilst the Intuitive (N) will prefer looking at connections between what's happening and possibilities that might follow. 

T/P Preference: how you evaluate that information

The Thinker (T) prefers to adopt logical processes to arrive at an impersonal finding, and the Feeling (F) person evaluates by personal, subjective means.

J/P Preference: your attitude to the world

The Judging (J) person prefers an ordered life, with decisions made and conclusions drawn, whilst the Perceiving (P) person takes life as it comes, open to new ideas, not ready to decide.


The profile gives you two overall pieces of information: your four-letter type (INTJ, ESTP, etc), and the strength of your preference on each of the four 'scales'.  Clearly there are 16 possible types, and most profiling systems offer a pen-portrait of each one.

You should use this information in two ways.  Firstly, it gives a structure for you to reflect on your preferred ways to deal with the world around you.  Clearly there are good and bad features of each preference, and it's helpful to know what your strengths or weaknesses are likely to be.  But secondly, the data can help you understand how you deal with other people, probably with a different profile.  There may be times when you'll be comfortable with someone with the same preferences as you, but sometimes opposites attract and can relate well to each other.  There are also pointers to your preferred learning style, motivation factors, and to a lesser extent, preferred occupation.


In general, it's more useful to do the profiling as part of a group - either a work team or on some form of training course.  That way you get to compare profiles, and understand how you can (or can't) interact easily with others.

This is not the place to give a full description of all 16 types.  Our purpose is simply to provide an aide-memoire for people who've done the profile, and give a flavour of how it works if it's new to you.  The MBTI look at how we deal with the world around us: if you want to know about the underlying personality that's driving the MBTI profile, you need to use a profiling tool such as Cattell 16PF or one of its variants.

You can read more about the origin of the types in Isabel Myers book, "Gifts Differing", but it won't help you determine your own profile.  For that you need to use one of the several profiling tools available through licensed users of the MBTI process.  For more information on the the 16 personality types and what they mean for you, look at "I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just Not You."  This book has been popular with people who've been profiled, found that the information is helpful, and want to become more adept at understanding themselves and others in terms of MBTI.


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