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MBTI Assessment: History, Purpose, and Uses

Ian Matthews, Jennifer Lombardo
  • Author
    Ian Matthews

    Ian Matthews has taught composition, creative writing, and research at the college level for more than 5 years; he's also been an Instructional Designer for more than 3 years. He holds a Master's of Education in Learning and Technology from Western Governor's University and a Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University.

  • Instructor
    Jennifer Lombardo

    Jennifer Lombardo received both her undergraduate degree and MBA in marketing from Rowan University. She spent ten years in consumer marketing for companies such as Nielsen Marketing Research, The Dial Corporation and Mattel Toys. She is currently an adjunct professor of marketing at Rowan University and a social media marketing consultant.

What is Myers-Briggs? Learn about the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) assessment, including its history, purpose, reliability, and how it can be used. Updated: 07/15/2021

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What is the MBTI?

The MBTI assessment, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment, is a personality assessment tool which categorizes individuals into 16 broad personality types with associated behaviors and values. The MBTI assessment is used by school counselors, career professionals, managers, and coaches to help people better understand their own personalities and preferences as well as how they interact with other people in a team or group. In this lesson, we'll examine what the MBTI assessment is, how it came to be, and what each of the Myers-Briggs personality types are.

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History of Myers-Briggs

The MBTI Assessment was developed by a mother-daughter pair. Katharine Cooks Briggs was interested in psychology and the ways that people saw the world differently. This led her to create her own system of personality types. In the early 1920s, Briggs discovered the theories of Carl Jung, a psychologist who had developed a much deeper classification system for personality types. Briggs merged her thinking with Jung's to create the four scales of the MBTI we know today. Briggs' daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, continued her mother's work through the 30s and 40s, designing the MBTI assessment's questionnaire format and tailoring it to the professional world.

Briggs and Myers' work was inspired by the post-war society of the mid 20th century. Veterans were returning from the war and rejoining the workforce, so the two women wanted to find a way for the returning veterans and the members of the workforce to understand each other's viewpoints and work together more smoothly, both in teams and in society as a whole. Myers and Briggs copyrighted the first version of the MBTI assessment in 1943. The first version of the test wasn't published until 1962, though.

Test Overview

The MBTI assessment can help people learn how they can work together, as well as how they behave individually.

A woman and man meeting at a table in a white room. The MBTI assessment is used to determine how meetings like this can go

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is presented as a questionnaire laid out with a series of statements or questions. Responses to these questions give participants a score on each of the four scales of the MBTI, which are:

  • Extraversion-Introversion
  • Sensing-Intuition
  • Thinking-Feeling
  • Judging-Perceiving

Each of the four categories of the MBTI uses a sliding scale spectrum to measure which end of the two opposing points on the scale that the participant tends towards. For each of the four respective scales, whichever end of the scale that the participant scores highest on carries over to help determine their four-letter personality type. The test is administered both online and in-person through the MBTI company. In-person administrators must be certified to give the assessment.

Extraversion-Introversion

The extraversion-introversion scale on the MBTI refers to where a person prefers to focus. Extraverted people tend to focus on the outside world, while introverted people tend to turn their focus inward. A common misconception is that extraverted people are outgoing and introverted people are shy, but that's not necessarily the case. This scale is more about where a person derives their energy: from external sources and relationships, or internal ideas and reflection.

This scale sets the first letter of the MBTI personality type code: E for extraverted, or I for introverted.

Sensing-Intuition

The sensing-intuition scale refers to how a person processes information. Those who tend toward sensing prefer to take in raw information and facts through the use of their five senses. Those who tend toward intuition prefer to connect and conceptualize the information as they take it in, finding patterns and creating meaning from what they're taking in.

This scale sets the second letter of the MBTI personality type code: S for sensing, or N for intuition.

Thinking-Feeling

The thinking-feeling scale refers to how a person makes decisions based on the information they recieve. It's related to the sensing - intuition scale in this manner. Thinking people make decisions by weighing the logic and facts of a situation according to set principles or ideals. Feeling people make decisions by weighing how they will affect the people involved, and how the people will feel as a result of the decision.

This scale sets the third letter of the MBTI personality type code: T for thinking, or F for feeling.

Judging-Perceiving

The judging-perceiving scale refers to how a person interacts with the outside world. It's related to both the information processing and decision-making scales. Judging people tend to use their decision-making scale when they interact with the world. They tend to be more orderly, decisive, and organized. Perceiving people use their information-processing scale when interacting with the world. They tend to be "go with the flow" types with a looser, more open approach to the world.

This scale sets the fourth letter of the MBTI personality type code: J for judging, or P for perceiving.

The MBTI Types

There are sixteen MBTI types. A person's type is constructed from their scores on each of the four scales on the assessment. The types, along with their titles, are listed in the table below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 16 different personality types?

The 16 different personality types on the MBTI assessment are ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ, ENTP, INTP, ENTJ, INTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFP, ISFP, ESTP, and ISTP.

What type of assessment is MBTI?

The MBTI is a personality assessment that categorizes respondents into one of 16 different personalities based on four scales: Extraversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving.

What is the MBTI assessment used for?

The MBTI assessment is used to categorize people's personalities. This gives them more insight into how they interact with the world and with other people. The MBTI assessment is used in the workplace, in schools, and elsewhere to help build more effective teams, identify leaders for organizations or groups, or to help people discover jobs or areas that might suit their personality.

How do I know my MBTI?

You find out your MBTI type by taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, a questionnaire that measures your preference on four different scales. Your preference on each of the four scales determines your personality type, one of 16 possible combinations.

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