The Myers-Briggs: Guess what, it's useless


There was some conversation about the Myers-Briggs test (or “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment”, if we’re being formal) last night on app.net. I took the test a while back, and I wondered if I’d get similar results if I took it again, so I found a sort-of-legit online one and took it. I got the same results as I did when I took it previously:

It’s obvious why Myers-Briggs and similar tests would appeal to people, especially nerds. It’s a sort of D&D character sheet in real life! Where do you fit in the pantheon of legends?! Which famous historical figure shared your mental proclivities? How many EXP do you need to level up?

Of course, the main reason that the MBTI results appeal to people is that they are unflinchingly positive. There is no way to take the Myers Briggs and discover you are bad at anything. You are just good at different things in different ways.

I wasn’t particularly surprised when I read in an article in the Guardian (amongst many other online critiques) that the MBTI is almost complete crap:

Generally, although not completely unscientific, the MBTI gives a ridiculously limited and simplified view of human personality, which is a very complex and tricky concept to pin down and study. The scientific study of personality is indeed a valid discipline, and there are many personality tests that seemingly hold up to scientific scrutiny (thus far). It just appears that MBTI isn’t one of them.

It’s a pity that so many workplaces have turned MBTI results into a kind of holy grail of interpersonal relationship guidelines.

There’s never going to be a magic codebook of interacting with your fellow humans that’ll allow you to bypass the hard work of, you know, getting to know them and working hard at building relationships. The Myers-Briggs is just a more acceptable corporate cousin to the “seduction community” guide thing that had everyone up in arms recently. You’re going to have to try pretty hard to communicate with some people, and you’re really going to have to get OK with the fact that you can’t put everyone in a comfy little box.

Turns out men aren’t always from Mars, either.