Critics of the Myers-Briggs® test have a whole host of complaints to bring against it. The test isn’t valid because you can get different results if you retake it, it uses false/limited binaries, it doesn’t predict work performance — the list goes on and one. And at the end of these sorts of articles, the writers say, “The Myers-Briggs is useful for one thing: entertainment. … like a BuzzFeed quiz.”
Some of the criticisms are true, at least at face value (e.g. you can get different results from retaking the test). But others betray a fundamental misunderstanding of Myers-Briggs® theory (e.g. the idea that it relies on limited binaries/dichotomies). And still others arise from expecting Myers-Briggs® types to tell us something they were never designed to measure (e.g. whether or not you’ll do well in a certain job).
Clearly, I think personality types are useful for more than just entertainment or I wouldn’t be writing about them as much as I do. But do I have a good reason for thinking this? Is the Myers-Briggs® test and theory useful? The answer depends what you’re using it for.
How You Use The Test Determines If It’s Useful
The Myers-Briggs® test is often used in the workplace, and this is where one of the most common criticisms comes in. While there is data suggesting certain types may be more attracted to specific fields than others, using the test to predict performance on the job or as a basis for hiring decisions is not useful. There’s far too much variation among individuals to use personality types as a basis for making career decisions (or other major decisions, including relationship choices).
But your Myers-Briggs® type isn’t intended to guide your life choices. It just describes how your mind works.
This means knowing your type is useful if you want to understand how you learn new information, make decisions, and react to stressful situations. It increases self-knowledge, and if you read about types other than your own it can help give you a greater understanding and appreciation of other people. It can also act as a personal-growth tool, helping you understand your natural strengths and weaknesses.
- Further reading: Here’s What Your Myers-Briggs® Type Can and Can’t Tell You
More Than Entertainment, But It Is Fun
Myers-Briggs® types offer a much more nuanced view of type theory than most critics assume. They judge it based on the idea that the test uses limiting binaries — that you’re either a Thinker or a Feeler (or any of the other dichotomies) with no in between and certainly no recognition that people can use both. In reality, the theory assumes everyone uses Introversion and Extroversion, Sensing and Intuition, Thinking and Feeling, Judging and Perceiving. We just all have a preference for one other the other, and those preferences are described using function stacks.
- Further reading: The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever and Myers-Briggs: Fad or Science?
In the end, type theory is useful for much more than just entertainment if you’re using it wisely. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also entertaining. It’s fun to learn about your type and about how other peoples’ minds work. And we can also use type theory for fun projects like typing Disney villains, or arguing that Luke Skywalker’s portrayal in The Last Jedi is consistent with his character in the original trilogy, or finding out how you’d respond to a zombie apocalypse. There’s no reason it can’t be both useful and fun.
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