|Frequently Asked Questions|
What is the MBTI® instrument?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument is a questionnaire designed to make Jung’s ideas about psychological type useful in everyday life. It identifies a person’s four basic type preferences that combine into one of 16 different personality types. These results help you understand normal differences in the way people think, communicate, and interact—differences that can be the source of much misunderstanding. The MBTI instrument has been used for more than 50 years to establish greater understanding between individuals, and has been translated into more than 15 different languages for use around the world.
What do the letters associated with the MBTI instrument mean?
The MBTI instrument has four sets of letters:
- E and I stand for Extraversion and Introversion—indicating whether you get energy from being around people or from time spent alone.
- S and N stand for Sensing and Intuition—indicating whether you become aware of specific facts and concrete details or prefer to focus on hunches and the big picture.
- T and F stand for Thinking and Feeling—indicating whether you tend to make decisions based on logical analysis and the principles involved or prefer to decide by considering your values and promoting harmony for the people involved.
- J and P stand for Judging and Perceiving—indicating whether you prefer your life to be planned and like it when things are decided or prefer to go with the flow and like keeping your options open.
What is psychological type?
The idea of psychological type was developed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875–1961), who described different patterns of normal behavior. Your psychological type is the pattern of behavior you tend to show. On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tool, your psychological type is indicated by your preferences for Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving. Jung concluded that these differences in behavior are perfectly normal and result from people’s inherent tendencies to use their minds in different ways.
Who were Myers and Briggs?
Katharine Cook Briggs (1875–1968) and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers (1897–1980), originators of the MBTI instrument, were keen and disciplined observers of personality differences. Briggs studied Jung’s ideas and extended and applied them by studying family and friends. The two women classified behavior differences, connected them to Jung’s ideas, and wrote questions and developed the Indicator to categorize the differences. This Indicator would go on to become the most widely used personality inventory in history.
What makes the MBTI instrument different from all the other personality tests I’ve heard about?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument has been used for more than 50 years and is continually updated through ongoing research to improve its ability to meaningfully identify personality differences. The most recent update included the use of a representative national sample. No other personality test is backed by as much research and as many years of use as is the MBTI instrument, which has been taken by millions of people worldwide.
The MBTI assessment was the first tool to describe healthy, normal personalities rather than abnormal ones. It identifies 16 personality types that are each equally valid and healthy. Knowledge of psychological type helps people better understand themselves and each other, resulting in more effective and satisfying human interaction.
Is the MBTI tool valid and reliable?
Yes. Research conducted on the MBTI tool has shown that the results it provides are reliable and valid. The MBTI tool’s reliability statistics are excellent, and its validity has been firmly established in hundreds of separate studies. Reliability refers to whether the results are consistent: Do people tend to reply to the items in the same way when they take the test later, and do they tend to get the same type? Can you count on the results? Validity refers to the instrument’s ability to measure psychological type and apply Jung’s theory. Technical information on the research and psychometric properties underlying the instrument are published in the MBTI® Manual and in other scientific publications. Recent updates may be accessed at www.cpp.com/mbtivalidity.
If I already know my personality type, is there any need to take the assessment again?
First, check that your personality type was derived from taking the genuine MBTI tool. Other type instruments are not as reliable and valid.
Second, consider how long ago you took the MBTI assessment and whether your life circumstances have changed dramatically since then. Generally, because the MBTI tool measures inherent preferences, there is no need to take it multiple times. However, if your life has changed significantly, you might find it helpful to take it again. In addition, the newer forms of the MBTI assessment are based on the latest research, so if it has been several years since you took the assessment, you might consider retaking it.
Third, if you have not already done so, consider contacting a professional who can help you take Step II of the MBTI tool, an advanced form that provides more depth to the four-letter type by looking at different facets of each of the four preferences.
Why should I pay to take this test when there are so many free ones on the Internet?
You get what you pay for. The free tests generally do not give reliable and valid results, they are not based on years of research, and they have few or no studies to back up their accuracy. If you are looking for guidance in major life decisions, you will benefit most from the useful and accurate information derived from the MBTI tool.
Is there a best and worst personality type?
As Isabel Briggs Myers wrote in the Introduction to Type® booklet, “There is no right or wrong type, and there are no better or worse combinations of types in work or relationships. Each type and each individual bring special gifts.” Your understanding of psychological type can be used most effectively to help you work with others to enhance your strengths and develop your weaker areas rather than trying to figure out a “best” and “worst” type.
How will knowing my personality type help me?
Knowing your type will help you understand yourself and your behaviors. Knowing your type may also help you appreciate others’ styles and thus enable you to use differences more constructively. You will gain a greater understanding of your strengths and thus be able to look for opportunities to use those strengths for more effective functioning in work and life.
Many individuals have used their understanding of their MBTI type to help them find satisfying jobs, choose academic majors, improve their effectiveness and satisfaction at work, and enhance their interactions and relationships with others.
Will my type change over time?
Because your type is inherent, your basic preferences will likely not change. However, type develops over a person’s life span. Carl Jung theorized that people have an innate urge to grow and have everything they need within themselves to become healthy, effective individuals. Psychological type is the compass guiding this growth process.
Jung’s theory states that the first half of life is spent confirming and using one’s strongest preferences. Then, the second half of life is spent developing lesser-used type-related functions to add balance and depth to life. For example, a person whose type is ENTJ—Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, and Judging—may have spent his early life building a career and seeking advancement. At midlife and later, that person may make more use of what is less preferred for him—Sensing and Feeling—by volunteering in a community organization with many opportunities to help people (F) in a tangible way (S).
Is personality type related to emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence generally refers to one’s ability to manage impulses, empathize with others, and show resilience in the face of stress or obstacles. Often emotional intelligence is broken down into two categories: intrapersonal (your ability to control yourself internally in a positive way) and interpersonal (your skills in getting along with others). Personality type, as identified by the MBTI assessment, is also concerned with internal and external processes, and thus can be a very useful tool for enhancing and developing emotional intelligence.
Should I make career decisions based on my MBTI type?
Career decisions are usually most sound when based on a number of factors—for example, interests, personality, skills, values, and lifestyle needs. Knowing your MBTI type can help you in career decision making, but it should not be the only factor you consider.
Research shows that people of each personality type tend to choose particular career fields and are likely to avoid certain career fields. You may want to consult the latest career books published on the subject or work with a career counseling professional who is certified to use the MBTI instrument to learn more about type and career choices.
Why would an employer ask me to take the MBTI tool, and, if so, do I have to?
Employers use the Myers-Briggs® tool for these purposes:
Many of the nation’s leading organizations (including over three-fourths of the Fortune 100 and many government and nonprofit organizations) use the MBTI assessment with employees and managers.
- Training and development of employees and managers
- Improving teamwork
- Coaching and developing others
- Improving communication
- Resolving conflicts
- Understanding personal styles to maximize effective use of human resources
- Determining the organization’s type
Taking the MBTI assessment should always be voluntary. The MBTI tool should be used to inform decisions through discussion, but not used to hire, fire, or promote people. The ethics stated by CPP, Inc., the publisher of the MBTI tool, maintain that individuals should be free to choose whether or not to take the MBTI assessment and to decide with whom to share results.
How can personality type help me get along better with other people?
The creators of the MBTI assessment came up with the tool to help people appreciate differences and understand themselves and others better. When you take the MBTI assessment and review your results, you learn that there are different ways of interacting with others, accessing information, making decisions, and organizing one’s life. That information can help you better understand your friends, co-workers, and family and improve your interpersonal interactions.
Does the MBTI tool stereotype people?
No, the MBTI tool does not stereotype. Among the basic principles of the instrument, as stated in the Introduction to Type® booklet written by Isabel Briggs Myers, are the following:
Some persons who use the MBTI tool may not be aware of their type biases and may stereotype persons based on MBTI type. This is NOT a proper use of psychological type.
- Each type has special gifts.
- Each person is unique and expresses type in a unique way.
- There are no right or wrong types.
- You are the final judge of your own psychological type; your MBTI results suggest your type based on your responses, but the individual is the final judge of his or her own type.
- Type does not explain everything; humans are complex.
- Type may be used to understand and forgive, but never as an excuse.
- Become aware of your type biases to avoid negative stereotyping.
Are there really only 16 types of people in the world?
The 16 MBTI types are dynamic energy systems—how people use their energy internally and externally; they are not static boxes. The four-letter type cannot be understood fully by simply adding up each preference; a more complete understanding is based on learning about how the preferences interact with one another. For these reasons, there is great variation within type among individuals. You may be an INFP (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving) and know other people who are also INFPs who have some characteristics in common with you, but also have differences from you. The Step II form of the MBTI tool gives you your four-letter type and also looks at five characteristics underlying each preference, thus giving a thorough picture of your MBTI type preferences.
Can I fake my responses so my type comes out a certain way?
If you know the eight preferences of the MBTI assessment and want your type to come out a certain way, you can probably respond in such a way as to either get that type or come close to that type.
But faking responses will not give you useful information. Honest responses to the MBTI assessment followed by a close review of your results can help you increase your self-awareness, improve your decision making, get along with others better, develop yourself as a leader, find work you enjoy, and enhance your relationships. For these reasons, most people choose to respond honestly to the items.
What will the MBTI® tool tell me that I don’t already know?
The MBTI assessment is a self-report tool—it gives you answers based on what you report about yourself—so in one sense, it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. But knowing something and being able to use it effectively in your life are two vastly different things. Most people find that taking the MBTI assessment is enjoyable, and when they get their results, they feel affirmed in that they have received an accurate description of their personality. Many go on to get more information, set new goals, and improve their decision making and relationships based on what they learned from taking the MBTI tool and from the extra efforts they put in after taking the assessment.
What can I do to learn more about the Myers-Briggs® tool and my personality type?
CPP, Inc. is the publisher of the Myers-Briggs® assessment and you can find further information on our site at www.cpp.com. You can also follow the MBTI® assessment and join the conversation on:
If you have questions, contact us and we will be happy to provide further assistance.
How can I contact an MBTI professional consultant?
Most college career counseling offices have professionals on staff who are qualified to interpret MBTI® results, and they usually offer these services to students, alumni, and often also to community members. In addition, many state job agencies and local nonprofit groups offer MBTI assessment and interpretation. Last, major outplacement companies and leadership development programs offer MBTI consulting. Visit the MBTI® Master Practitioner Referral Network at www.mbtireferralnetwork.org for help in locating MBTI professionals in your area.
Will knowing my type help me know the type of person with whom I would be most happy?
No. Relationships are too complex, and what makes people happy is too diverse, for one instrument to capture such information reliably. Successful and happy couples have included people who share the exact same personality type, people whose types are opposite, and people with some preferences in common and others distinct.
That said, the MBTI tool is often used in couples counseling because it can help reveal normal healthy differences between partners. A couple who takes the MBTI assessment and then learns to respect and value each person’s style has built at least part of the foundation for a happy relationship.
Will my type tell me what I am good at doing?
The MBTI tool does not measure competencies in the way a math test can measure your math skills, for example. None of the MBTI questions is designed to determine how good you are at a particular task.
A lot of research exists about what careers people of particular personality types tend to enter, however, as well as about what tasks each personality type tends to enjoy. INTPs and INTJs tend to like the theoretical work of science, for example, and ESFPs and ESFJs tend to enjoy tasks that involve helping others in concrete ways. Thus, the MBTI tool may give you insight into what you enjoy. Often people who enjoy their work do better at it.
Can anyone take the MBTI assessment?
The instrument is intended for use with those ages 14 and above and is written at a 7th grade reading level.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Myers-Briggs, MBTI, and Introduction to Type are registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust.