Is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test Bunk?

I read a funny tweet the other day that said, “Myers-Briggs is just astrology for people who went to business school.”

Made me laugh! And yes, I’ve totally taken Myers-Briggs tests. In fact, more than once over the years. I seem to waffle between ENFJ and INFJ, and I confess, I never remember my score, so if it comes up in conversation, I have to look it up in this earlier blog post. Hah! 

In the responses to the tweet, several people said that the science behind Myers-Briggs was no good — that researchers couldn’t get repeatable outcomes. A master’s student in Experimental Psych wrote: “The issue with personality tests like the MB is that it has no reliability (test-retest). If a measure isn’t giving you the same results over and over it isn’t good. A ruler that says 2” one time and 4” next is a crap ruler.”

Of course, there were lots of Myers-Briggs fans responding too, and some have found the test really helpful in their lives, and learned something about themselves by taking it. I believe them. (If you’d like to take the MB test, here is the official website, which offers a paid version. I’ve only ever taken a free version of the test, so I don’t know if that affects the accuracy of the results.)

There were still other responses that suggested alternatives to Myers-Briggs. Someone pointed to this test and said,”Lipson-Shiu is still the only personality test worth taking.” For a more science-based personality test, people recommended the Big Five Test. One more quiz that I hear people talk about is Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz about habits. I guess it’s not technically a personality test, but I think it relates. I haven’t taken any of these 3 tests so far, but I would be game to.

How about you? What’s your take on all of this? Do you feel strongly one way or the other about astrology (I’m a Gemini), Myers-Briggs, or other personality tests? Do you feel like they’re mostly just for fun — like getting sorted into your Hogwarts House? Or do you find them helpful and valuable? Have any of you had your kids tested for personality? Or do you watch their star signs? Do you have a favorite test or quiz that I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear.

65 thoughts on “Is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test Bunk?”

  1. I like the Myers-Briggs test although I’ve also heard they aren’t the most accurate. I think reliability with any personality test would be impossible- I personally believe that personality and traits are static and change throughout our lives. Although there are parts of our personality that may stay the change, other parts may change. There are probably problems with having people report on how they view themselves- sometimes it’s hard to really know yourself and most things are on a scale that can’t be broken down as simply as strongly agree, agree, etc. But I think the test (and similar tests- Gardner’s multiple intelligences comes to mind) can help us reflect on who we are and determine how to use and celebrate our unique gifts and work on our weaknesses. I personally test as an INFJ (I’ve taken the test many times and although the percentages change a bit, it’s always been INFJ). When I read the descriptions I often think “that’s totally me!” although some parts I identify with less.

  2. I’ve always thought personality tests and profiling is a little wishy-washy. Also if you can’t remember what all the letters or scores are and how they compare what’s even the point? Lol. Side note – I’m confused by the post title and the use of “bunk. How can bunk and de-bunked mean the same thing?

  3. There’s an interesting episode of The Hidden Brian podcast from NPR that deals with personality tests and how they can positively or negatively affect people. I highly recommend it!

  4. Myers-Briggs is based in part on Jungian psychology, and Jung studied with Freud, and Freud is generally regarded now as elegant literature, without many real insights into the way our emotions and memories work. (Not a Freud expert here, just a professor of European history — i know the new literature on Freud is highly critical but haven’t read it myself)

    My own limited personal experience with the M-B test echoes that initial tweet. I think it’s hokum.

  5. I think it’s fun (and sometimes spot on). On long car trips we like to look up different things like this. My kids love to hear about their Chinese Zodiacs (eerily accurate for them) and kabalarian name analysis. I’ll have to try the MB on them.

  6. I have little commentary on the MB but understanding myself as an introvert has been hugely helpful. I believe that it was MB that first introduced me to the concept.

  7. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies has made sense to me. I especially like that she helps you work with yourself instead of against yourself.

  8. I’ve taken the MB a few times and found it pretty consistent in results. That’s being said, I find personality tests and astrology or anything that capsulizes by categories or “predictable characteristics” a bit scary. Especially when they attempt to predict who is most comparable as a partner or career choices. Results( if taken seriously and scientifically) could deter Simone from exactly what they destine to do, but are too afraid to try— i.e. following a creative career path because it says doctor as a possible profession.
    Anything that limits ones (especially our children’s) pursuit of our passions, dreams, or risk taking feels a bit distopic.

  9. I think it depends on how you use it; unless you take the official MBTI and/or get an interpretation from someone who understands it deeply, there’s tons of room for misunderstanding. I personally have found it useful; I’ve used it to gain insight into how I naturally act/react and how and why other people’s approach, actions, and reactions may be different.

  10. Robin – Great question about “bunk” and “debunk” and I THOUGHT I knew the meaning of the two words but did a quick google search to double check and basically “bunk” means “nonsense” (Is the M-B personality test nonsense?) and “de” means “to remove” so “debunk” means “to remove nonsense, ridicule, falseness.”

  11. You should check out the enneagram. I find it a more holistic view of strengths and weaknesses within different personality types and like that it provides suggestions for growth. The podcast The Road Back to You is a fun place to start.

    1. Marisa overseas

      What I love about the enneagram is that it explicitly says “this is your base, what you revert to when you’re at your weakest points”. It makes allowances for healthy-rounded you and stressed-edgy you. Healthy you can role with the punches life throws and might be more outgoing or more patient or more curious or more considerate, etc. Stressed out you really shows your go-to, survival mode patterns. I apply this thinking to all personality tests and why I get variability between them. Overall, I think personality tests are fun and can be really helpful during your teens and twenties when you’re trying to figure yourself out.

    1. I second the recommendation for Anne Bogel’s book — I treated myself to a copy for Christmas, and I’m really enjoying it. In it, she reviews many of the most popular personality typing methods and offers tips on how to get the most out of your results. There were some I had never heard of — like the “5 love languages” that have really been helping me understand how my husband and I relate.

  12. I think personality tests can be a waste of time and not always very helpful. Hank Green had a video lately on the fact that people can change, and personality tests have us thinking we are locked in to a certain way of being. But we’re not. I’ve become much more extroverted as I get older, but I don’t really feel like an introvert or an extrovert. I feel people are more complicated than what personality tests can reflect, and that our time would be spent much better on actual self-improvement and, well, actually not thinking about ourselves. It’s mostly just navel-gazing nonsense.

  13. I found MB test to be helpful in my life basically understanding my own personality quirks. Over 20 years have taken the test three times, each time revealed the same ENTP. Love it

  14. I’ve always believed the Myers-Briggs test. (I’m an INFJ, myself.) I’ve tested that every time, so I guess it can be valid from time to time. I also really enjoy the 16 Personalities test. I’m INFJ there, too. “The Advocate.” It’s me to a T.

    1. Yes, I love 16 personalities! My husband and I and several friends all found it to be quite accurate. I also used to work in adult education (GED, career development, etc.), and my coworkers and I used this site with each other and also with some students. We found it to be a great discussion starter and a way to help us to better understand each other.

  15. I think self- tests are very inaccurate. We just can’t usually see ourselves well enough. Many professional sports teams pay experts to help them identify the “Brain type” of possible draft picks. They are identified by watching them play the game. Experts watch their fine vs. gross motor skills, facial movements during interviews, etc to identify their type. The rest of us confuse personality with brain type. Which are very different thing. look up braintypes.com

  16. I found the MB to be interesting, but it didn’t really tell me anything about myself that I didn’t already know. As for re-testing, I always test as an INFJ and I’ve redone the test a few times since I first discovered it at 16. My partner always tests ENFP too, but I understand that our situation can’t be extrapolated onto others. While I do like the MB for a bit of fun, I wouldn’t make any life decisions based on it. I think it’s true that personality tests can ‘box’ people into certain ways of being. I’ve always considered myself (and tested) as an introvert, and I recently went into primary education, which is easily one of the most extroverted professions out there. I love it, so it just goes to show that sometimes we need to rethink our own selves as well!

  17. I have yet to see one single argument against MBTI that attacks it at the cognitive functions. Literally every argument against it that I see claims it’s BS solely because some people misuse it or because Myers and Briggs were women.

  18. Personally, I found the MBTI very helpful- but it was a unit in my Educational Psychology class (the teacher was certified to go give the test) and she framed it as not so much about personality, as natural tendencies towards work and learning. She framed it as each of the four areas were about a central tendency. For example, it could be about how much structure you prefer within projects (Perceiver/Judger). Some people prefer, for example, having an extremely planned out itinerary for their vacation; others like spontaneity when they travel. Or work on a group project. or whatever. It works best for not understanding yourself, but for understanding other people. After all, who hasn’t gotten frustrated with someone who is too structured or too free-wheeling in a group project (or many others). These preferences may change as you grow, or may be more or less prominent in certain situations (for example, I was very much a “thinker” who appreciated logic over all in educational settings, and didn’t mind a debate there, but anywhere else, I displayed more “feeler” tendencies). And, just as when talking about whether you’re a visual/audio/kinesthetic learner…. you may have preferences in how you like to best learn or work, but we all have to also learn how to learn and work in our less than ideal ways too. For example, a spontaneous person has to learn how to plan for business projects or a debater has to learn that their Aunt Muriel may think of political talk at Thanksgiving as less of an intellectual exercise than a source of conflict.

    However, there are some very pertinent critiques of Myers-Briggs too, and, ultimately, people self-reporting on their personality and choices will always be a bit suspect. If people don’t find it helpful, they needn’t use it. If it helps them makes sense of themselves or others, it certainly doesn’t hurt anything.

    1. Omg another female INTJ! Hi five Sistah!! There’s less than 1% of us in the US.

      Personally I find the MB helpful. Of course it’s highly dependent on how the questions are phrased and how thorough the test is. But overall it’s helped me understand what motivates people, how they see the world and make decisions. It’s been a huge aid in understanding my friends, especially the Logic/Planning (Thinking/Judging) vs Emotional/Go with the flow (Feeling/Perceiving) decision making perspective. As a rare type, it’s helped me understand why I operate so differently than others and why many people don’t understand me. Interestingly enough, when I tell people I’m Introverted (I fall around 90% in the test), they insist there’s absolutely no possible way. I guess I cover it well.

  19. Myers-briggs is legitimate. I scored as a rare type and this tool helped to understand my self & others in ways I found helpful and transformational. However, the questions measure tendencies. So its easy for some to answer incorrectly. Test questions that are designed to measure innate preferences are going to be more consistent, the HBDI is a good example. They cost money. What also confuses people is MB is just a small part in understanding self & others. It just tells you how you prefer to communicate, how you choose, gain energy or process information. It’s not “either” or “or” as some believe. Example some Sensory’s use Intuation in certain situations. Also it doesn’t measure competencies. To illustrate, you are left handed but you can’t throw well with your left just because your born lefty. MB is only as good as the person using it. As an INFP if I were in a room with 100 other INFP’s I would like some and not so much others. We would have different ideas, abilities, thoughts, likes and dislikes. What we have in common is just like a left or right hander would use his / hers preferred hand. We like wise will use our innate preferences that come natural to us.

  20. NOT a fan of astrology! I like Myers Briggs BECAUSE it moves on a spectrum. It tells me where I am currently. I suppose we all have a “basic” personality. But different stages of our lives & different circumstances can impact who we are. For instance, when I was younger, more gregarious, & had a career that required me to be an energetic motivator, I was a mildly expressed extrovert. Now that I’m older & have a career that requires me to be more contemplative, I’m a distinctly expressed introvert, which feels closer to my real nature. Myers Briggs seems to reflect growth & change. I usually take it at least twice a year to “check in” with myself! 😉

  21. I took MB in college at a hall staff retreat. The idea was to talk about the results with other hall staff members in the dorm and to be able to work together effectively and recognize how we all ticked!
    It has been helpful in my marriage, I am ENFP. My husband is INTJ… I feel like we are close because we compliment each other well… we also understand that we have different approaches, but we work around them!

  22. Hi! I always think tests are fun and a good opportunity for self reflection. I supervise teams of 4-5 people and we’ve taken these tests and used it as a starting point to talk about group dynamics and collaboration. I’ve notice people often are more willing to share insights on what others may perceive as weaknesses or challenges when we do these types of things. The value isn’t from the test itself but the fun, self reflection, and safe space to be vulnerable.

    On a separate note, I love hearing astrology enthusiasts share. Once, someone told me I was being “such a Capricorn”. I was being stressy in that moment—it was a fun way to reframe it for me.

  23. I have taken the official MBTI twice and was an INFP with a slight tendency towards introvert and an ENFP with a slight tendency towards extrovert the other time. I have also taken this free version several times and have gotten pretty much the same results. I consider this free version to be pretty reliable as well when compared to the official MBTI because I’ve had all of my friends who have taken the MBTI and they got the same results. As for my difference between ENFP and INFP, I have now realized that it is affected by my bipolar. When I am in a depressed state I am an I, but when I am in a manic state, I am an E, which has always seemed pretty reasonable to me. I have found the MBTI to be useful, and as a Gifted Teacher, have my students take the free version as one more piece of information and insight into themselves. Sometimes I have a kid say they don’t feel that matches them at all, but most of the time they read the explanations and feel that it is a good fit. Interestingly enough, I have with reasonable accuracy, predicted the results of colleagues and students. So, I definitely like it, and think it is another useful tool to help people become more introspective and self-aware.

  24. I used to find it fun and interesting, but the more questions I had and the more answers I uncovered, the more I spiraled into madness. Maybe it was also because I was not in the most stable state of mind at the time, but the hell I brought upon myself through anger, confusion, and punishment for finding so many contradicting answers, and eventually believing that I genuinely lived a lie, made me want to forget MBTI, drop the four letter label and never find out again. Some doors are better left closed… or maybe I just wasn’t ready yet.

  25. I have usually arrived at INFP sometimes INFJ. Over many years I remain the same. I think it is accurate for self awareness .
    I accept my introversion better now than in previous years.

    I am kinder to myself now. Recently took the VIA test and found it amazingly accurate and quite deep. I love thinking of my appreciation of excellence. I hold it close and accept this new awareness with gratitude. It is so true of me and puts language to my experience .

  26. I believe MBTI is a great tool, when the correct type is found. I actually believe that we don’t have all of the “letters” discovered yet. Each of the four letters represents a somewhat opposite approach to things. If one scores in the 40%-60% range for a category, one probably has a fairly balanced approach to that part, and that can flip-flop over time or test. I highly suggest taking more than one test. The wording of questions can affect the outcome.

    A mistype can negatively affect someone. I highly suggest taking a different tests. I used to think that I was an INTP. I have taken more tests and I have come up as an INFP. I really did not want to accept it at first. I am near the F/T middle, but the peculiarities of the INFP helped me make sense of choices that I had made since first grade! If I had known that I was an INFP, and had studied them, I may have handled conflict differently. It is a breath of fresh air knowing that I am an INFP.

    A surface level understanding of MBTI is bad. Multiple sites need to be explored and studied to gain a good picture.

    It may not be the absolute best scientific method, but things rarely are when dealing with people. It helps me understand myself as well as others.

  27. This is so weird because I just took the test today. I took it a few years ago as well and came up with the same result: INFJ-A. Supposedly less than 2% of the population are this type but I find that hard to believe. I think many of us would have these results. Plus, it’s hard to answer all the questions honestly. I think I may have answered some by what I want to be but not what I actually am. I don’t normally put a lot of emphasis on these kinds of things but they are fun and helpful as far as applying my personality to career and parenting (totally were accurate, too).

  28. “test-retest correlations for the most recent version of the Myers-Briggs tool are in the range of .57 to .81, which is considered quite good for psychometric assessments”

    Source.

    To a certain extent I think the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (that’s its official name) suffers a it from its own success and its seeming simplicity

  29. Following up my post above, yes the link is from a Ph.D. Psychologist who works for the company that publishes the MBTI. But the facts in there speak for themselves

    And finally from the same blog post:
    “To be clear, the MBTI instrument was never intended to be a comprehensive assessment of one’s entire personality, and it doesn’t claim that individuals of the same type are exactly alike.”

    People immediately think the MBTI is aPERSONALITY TEST. This isn’t true. Assuming it is a personality test they immediately have all these expectations about how it is supposed to work and what it is supposed to measure.
    You should read again exactly what it is measuring – it doesn’t measure “personality.”

  30. Really interesting conversation. I think the charm of personality test is that they give us a language to talk about things that are intangible and sometimes difficult to express. Taken in a group or as a couple, they allow for discussion of tendencies or habits or comfort-level that might affect group/couple dynamics; taken as an individual, they allow one to identify what may be going on behind the scenes. I think the thing to remember is that they are not prescriptive…they don’t tell us how to act, should not dictate the future. They simply frame what is going on behind the scenes.

    1. Totally agree. Tests like these have helped to improve my self-awareness and the way I handle myself and others. My husband and I and a few friends have taken many of these types of tests, and they have been great conversation starters. It helps us to better understand one another, and we feel we have great relationships, partially due to these conversations.

  31. I just took the Gretchen Rubins test a couple days ago, I found the first third of the questions were very black-or-white and completely skewed towards the answers she was looking for. I had more than one question where my answer was “none of the above”. I didn’t think the results were very accurate. I consider myself to be pretty average, which says to me that the test wouldn’t be very accurate for a large number of people.

    I’ve also taken the Myers-Briggs test and felt most of the questions would fit a greater number of people, and found it to be a good indicator of my self-perceived personality type. Since these are self-tests, I would question the validity of them at least somewhat as people are rarely unbiased concerning themselves.

    1. Being able to see myself clearly is something I always wonder when taking these sorts of tests (even for fun). I can’t imagine the way I see myself is actually accurate, you know?

  32. As an Organizational Psychologist, it’s worth clarifying what we mean when we talk about a “bunk” MBTI. When used for self-awareness and/or relationship building, many people find it helpful and most psychologists would say it’s fine in that context. That’s not what we have a problem with.

    The reason it’s bunk is because it doesn’t predict anything (i.e., no validity). For example, if I’m hiring someone for a job, the MBTI score is statistically no better than hiring people at random. In contrast, the Big Five is exceptionally useful for predicting things like job performance, satisfaction, etc. It has excellent reliability and is a valid predictor of outcomes across all areas of life. However, from a personal insight perspective, it probably won’t tell you anything new or interesting about yourself.

    I could go on about exactly why the MBTI isn’t valid from a psychometric perspective but that’s probably not interesting to anyone except me and my nerd colleagues ;)

    1. Great clarification of what the validity debate is really about! Anecdotal evidence from fans who find it personally insightful is definitely different from predictability for employment, as I imagine most people would agree.

  33. Every time I try one of those Myers-Briggs tests, I’m struck by three things:
    1. How loaded all the questions are – it’s always very clear which of the two options the test-authors think of as “good” and “bad,” however much they deny it.
    2. How much the test questions create false dichotomies – e.g., nearly everybody is an introvert in certain contexts but an extrovert in others, but the test is all about determining what percent you are of each, which is pretty much meaningless.
    3. The huge swathes of human personality the system ignores: like are you sensitive to beauty and art? are you drawn to spending time with nature? do you like to create things? what is your orientation to spiritual matters? – as far as I’ve been able to see, such issues don’t even register with Myers-Brigg, but I have a hard time seeing how you can claim to be meaningfully assessing personality if these questions aren’t even on your radar.

  34. I am part of a national business group that uses DISC which is not so much a personality test as a behavior test which identifies your “natural” and “adaptive” behavior styles.

    Many of the companies within the group do too, and some even share the DISC profiles of all of their staff in their their company reporting. It is interesting to note how common it is for like to hire like and we often see majority staff sharing the company owners’ DISC profile. True in my own biz for sure.

    We used it early in our business but then didn’t go back or test new hires until last year. Now all of our staff know their own and each others’ profiles and have fun with it. We try to use our understanding of it to suss out how to best interact with our clients too. I like it, but astrology is so much more fun!

  35. Kristyn N Schultz

    I’ve taken the Myers Briggs test a few times in my life and always end up INFJ. It’s almost spooky how accurate the descriptions are for me and those who know me well agree.

    Now, my siblings, who are both so different personality-wise, have taken it and received the same answer, ENFP. I don’t think either of them match descriptions I’ve read of the ENFP type.

    So I guess I can see both sides of its accuracy and it’s faults.

    1. That brings up an interesting question. Are there certain MB letter combinations that consistently seem more accurate than others? Like maybe it’s good for identifying specific sorts of personalities, and not as effective for other types?

  36. I love taking these kinds of tests. I’ve taken various versions of Myers-Briggs over the last 15 years (since high school), and I always get INFJ. The descriptions of INFJ are quite accurate for me. My husband is INTJ, and we feel that description is very true for him as well. I don’t think I’d base any major life decisions on tests like these, haha, but I do think they are great for self-awareness, reflection and fun, informative discussions with others to improve communication/relationships. The INFJ and INTJ types are not super common, and it was helpful for my husband and I to read our descriptions and discuss them. We often feel we approach things differently than most people around us, and the people closest to us lovingly say we’re weird. Honestly, we’ve both always felt like total odd balls, even as kids. (This was more of an internal thing. On the outside, we seemed like pretty normal kids, I think.) Our Myers-Briggs results helped us to understand some of those feelings. (The book The Highly Sensitive Person was also a game changer! And sites like Introvert Dear are also great.) Now, as adults who understand ourselves more, we realize that in some aspects, we are just… different… but we’ve also learned to appreciate those differences and utilize them as strengths instead of hiding them to fit in. So, for me, I think tests like Myers Briggs have been a useful tool along the way.

  37. For me, the shortcoming of these tests is that I am a very different person when I’m with people I’m comfortable with (i.e., close friends and family) vs. people I don’t know very well. Maybe it’s because I’m Korean-American, and I was raised in a relatively non-confrontational culture.

    Random side note re: personality types–many Koreans believe your blood type determines your personality, so if you are looking for yet another way to diagnose your personality (and/or see if you’re compatible with someone), you can read about it here.

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