The Case for The Myers-Briggs Indicator

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By Stephen R. Tiebout, Special for USADT.


Psychology, the scientific discipline of the study of human and animal behavior, is a young science. Prior to the late 19th century, the study of “mind” was a discipline practiced as a philosophical or spiritual endeavor. Because Psychology is a new science, we should expect a continuing evolution of psychological theory as well as tweaking and revision of existing theories.

A Brief History of Psychology

In 1879, German physiologist Wilhelm Wundt used the laboratory setting to perform psychological experiments. He is known as “father of experimental psychology”, also then referred to as Structuralism.

William James, American scientist, psychologist, and philosopher introduced the concept that the practice of psychological theory should have practicality. That is, use psychological theory to bring tangible benefits to people.


Sigmund Freud introduced the psychoanalytic techniques to uncover first causes of behavior. One of Freud’s proteges was psychiatrist Carl Jung who later broke with Freud and developed his own theory of analytical psychology. Carl Jung was first to declare a person’s psychological makeup religious by nature. He defined the process of a person becoming whole as “Individuation”. Individuation is the process of balancing opposites, i.e., unconscious with the conscious, but still keeping a measure of separateness. In fact, the core concept of analytic psychology is Individuation.

Jung then posited the reality of two distinct groupings of psychological functions: The Judging “rational” functions- feeling and thinking, and the perceiving “irrational” functions- intuition and sensing.

Jung then stated that the dichotomies are projected in either an extroverted or introverted fashion.

An analogy of these dichotomies is seen in the expression of right handedness or left handedness. One either develops it early in life or is born with it

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

From Jung’s original concepts, Myers and Briggs developed their own theory of psychological type, on which the MBTI is based.

They worked on the MBTI during WWII as a tool to help women in wartime industry zero in on the quality of work they would be most satisfied with. The first test evolved into the MBTI in 1962.

Isabel Briggs Myers mother Katherine Briggs started investigating personality traits in 1917. She saw personality differences between members of the same family. She identified the connection between Jung’s theory and her own. Katherine Briggs four personality types were then matched to Is, EPs, ETJs and EFJs.

Daughter Isabel advanced her mother’s work, which she entirely took over when her mother retired.

The MBTI has been used for over 50 years as a tool to bring tangible benefits to people. It is a measure of personality preferences. That is, how the relative strength of a person’s personality preferences is used to psychologically navigate in the world.

One enduring use of the MBTI is in the field of career counseling. The MBTI Career Report helps people zero in on fields of work that others with their same personality type have reported a high degree of satisfaction with. As such, The MBTI Career Report is a statistically valid testing instrument.

It can be used as a starting point for career search and one of many tools career and guidance counselors, life coaches and corporate managers can use to help others achieve a higher degree of job satisfaction.

Criticism of the MBTI is centered on two points of contention. (1) Over the decades, the MBTI has sometimes been used in inappropriate ways such as a psycho-therapeutic tool or as a forced testing instrument within the corporate environment. (2) Conflicting studies question the validity of the MBTI as a predictor of job satisfaction.

The MBTI should not be used as an end all and be all in gaining understanding of personality preferences. The same can be said of any testing instrument in the field of psychology. Human behavior is a manifestation of complex web of biological imperatives, psychological drives, and intangible yet identifiable motivations based on values, ethics, morality, and spirituality. Use of the MBTI needs to be kept in perspective and applied within the framework of such complexity.

For many, job satisfaction can be an ideal, a goal that is never fully reached. Many factors can affect career satisfaction over and above working a job that is complementary to a person’s personality preferences, including the relative health of a person’s interpersonal relationships and the age of the person. A job that’s appealing to a 20 year old may prove less fulfilling to a 40 year old.


Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a career satisfaction predictor is one of a number of tools a person can use in gaining perspective on what career may prove fulfilling. Likewise, the MBTI is a useful and interesting tool to help gain insight into how one psychologically navigates through life. Using the MBTI ideally should be combined with other tools and guidance to help a person identify fulfilling careers.

Stephen R Tiebout has over 20 years experience helping people discover their personality preference type using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment. He is the administrator of Ransdell, a testing portal for the MBTI. For more information on the MBTI and personal relationships [], visit [].


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