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Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers were the developers of the Briggs Myers Type Indicator (BMTI), which later was renamed the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in 1943 (Geyer, 2013 August). Katharine and Isabel came from a family that believed in both men and women receiving a good education, in an era that was not favorable of women being educated. Katharine wrote articles and essays and eventually wanted to become a fiction writer that ultimately led to her interests in people’s personalities. She attempted her own theories of personality types but became fond of the work of Carl G. Jung’s Psychological Types. Isabela on the other hand, also highly educated, found her interest in novels, short stories, and plays. In pursuit of helping people during the war, she came across the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale, which placed people in jobs according to their characteristics. From there she decided to team up with her mother Katharine who already invested several years in researching personality types (“The Remarkable”, 2017).
The MBTI was created to help women make decisions about job selections, where they would fit into the workplace, and determined how effective they were (Watson & Flamez 2015). The MBTI is a set of questions that was intended for individuals to find out the type of person they were and what were their likes and dislikes (Geyer, 2013 August). The questionnaire was a family effort; developed and funded by Katharine and Isabel as well as other members (Geyer, 2014). The original construct of MBTI was based off Briggs and Myers understanding of Jung’s typology for the functions of Perception (thinking and feeling) and Judgment (sensation and intuition) (Geyer, 2014). The opposite pairs of the construct are called dichotomies that are made up of function, attitudes and lifestyles, resulting to 16 personality types. There are also two preferences for each dichotomy (Watson & Flamez 2015). It was stated that MBTI was not intended to measure personality, hence the word Indicator is used instead of assessment, instrument, inventory, or tool. The MBTI are results from statements of individuals and should be accompanied by feedback and discussion (Geyer, 2014). The first standard form C was developed in the 1940’s, and several revisions have been made since (Geyer, 2013 August). Currently forms M (1998) and Q (2000) are being used.
Developmental Age Group
Form M is used for ages 14 and older with a 7th grade reading level, consists of 93 forced choice questions, and takes between 15-25 minutes to complete. Form Q assesses individuals 18 years and older, contains 144 forced choice questions, and should take 25-30 minutes to complete (Watson & Flamez 2015). Both forms have Item Response Theory questions (IRT) which measures the correlation between the items being tested and the suggested interests of an individual. IRT is based on computer scoring and provides profile reports (Geyer, 2013 August), which is different from the earlier scoring, distributing points from 0-2 (Geyer, 2013 November).
The MBTI assessment can be implemented for various reasons. The application of the MBTI can be used to help improve management practices, teaching, learning, career development and relationships. Studies show this has been proven a highly reliable test, although it has been revised several of times (Geyer, 2013). Isabel Myers along with other professional psychometricians, tested the revised version, producing new item formats and scoring methods (Geyer, 2014). Consequently, each revision led to greater improvements over the previous form, which in turns, speaks truth to the reliability of the instrument.
The personality indicator is required to be 70% or higher to be proven reliable. The MBTI is proven to be 85% reliable, which reflects a test in where there is a consistency in the scoring (Furnham, 2017). According to the MBTI manual, these specific factors are dependent on various factors such as gender, age, education, achievement levels and on the strength of the individual’s preferences (Randall et. al, 2017). A reliable assessment is favored because the certainty of getting the same results reassures that the same thing is being measured. The only possible way to test reliability of the MBTI is to administer the test on two different occasions, this is known as “test-retest reliability.” For example, a study indicates that the reliability of M form (Chinese version) ranged from 0.89 to 0.94 in a national sample of 3,036 participants (Li et al., 2014), while in another national sample, of 2,859 participants, the reliability ranged from 0.91 to 0.92. Particularly, this test-retest reliability, is evidenced by the consistency in the results of the M form (Li et al., 2014). There is consistent supportive evidence regarding the construct validity of the MBTI, which allowed a determination that the structure of the assessment is both generalizable and accurate (Randall et al., 2017).
In contrast to reliability, there are controversial issues concerning whether or not the MBTI is a valid tool for measuring personality (Adamowicz, 2015). Often, the instrument is compared to other assessments to measure its’ validity. The difference between the MBTI and most other psychological measures is that the MBTI is specifically not to measure traits, but rather to sort people into equally valuable groups, based on the Jung’s theory (Ayoubi et. al., 2014). For example, a study focused on the validity of the MBTI assessment, where it has been proven that the validity is supported by positive empirical evidence (Randall et al., 2017). The instrument and the 95 item markers in the Inventory yield four distinct psychometric dimensions that are consistent with the theoretical constructs of the MBTI (Furnham, 2017).
However, this supports the idea that MBTI can be used with confidence to distinguish separate personality types in terms of the four dichotomous dimensions. It is measuring what it is sought out to measure. In theory, validity is measured by taking all three entities into consideration: content validity, criterion validity and construct validity. Each of the three types of validities is assessed independently to determine both the rigor and appropriateness of an assessment instrument (Erford, 2013).
Up until the development of the MBTI, no one had successfully come up with an instrument to measure Jung’s typology (Geyer, 2013 November). And since the creation, there have been many forms and replications of the assessment in other countries (Geyer, 2013 November). One consideration would be the importance of cultural differences in regard to human nature (Geyer, 2013 August). Other considerations come from the several researches of the MBTI, which concludes there are many facets to look at i.e. individuals having more than one make-up of personality, gender differences, different personality types in various professions, as well as teaching and learning styles based on personality types (Geyer, 2014). In Myers’ earlier research conducted, her scales were derived from her female studies and the scores provided were separate from males and females (Geyer, 2013 November).
In a study conducted by Brandt and Laiho, they wanted to determine if personality types had an affect leadership style regardless to gender (Brandt & Laiho, 2013). Women are perceived to have a feminist style which refers to a style that is considerate; thinking of their subordinate’s feelings, participation, satisfaction, and friendship. In contrast, men have a masculine style which is considered effective and include characteristics of being self-assertive, aggressive, and coarse. The MBTI was used for the leaders to self-assess and it was compared to the appraisals of subordinates to determine who had a favorable leadership style (Brandt & Laiho, 2013).
Many proponents of this assessment believe the appeal and popularity of the MBTI lies in the title of the test itself (Tavris, 2018). In being referred to as an indicator rather than a test, a great deal of tension and anxiety is alleviated among those taking the assessment due to the MBTI being a “predictor” rather than definitive in nature in offering finite results based on “correctness” (Tavris, 2018). Such an assessment enables individuals to gain greater self-awareness of their own personal strengths and weaknesses rather than through classification by a numerical score or value (Tavris, 2018).
The MBTI has been successful in identifying an individual’s communication skills and applications, learning styles and preferences, instructional strategies, relationships and interactions, leadership skills, conflict resolution and decision-making strategies (Sample, 2008). Benefits of the above can be observed in various settings such as business schools, educational settings and physician leadership in non-clinical jobs. In looking at one example of a research study conducted in a Norwegian business school in 2015, the results obtained from 6,000 adult managers who completed the MBTI showed the correlation between increased promotions in shorter periods of time among those possessing the dominant Extroverted/Sensing personality domain. Those displaying extroversion as the predominant trait also reported greater feelings of job satisfaction (Furnham & Crump, 2015). Many individuals within the business industry view the MBTI as a competent tool not only to be used in the hiring process, but also as a means to build teams based on matching individuals of similar personalities or in pairing those of opposing strengths in efforts to balance out strategies, decisions and reach effective conflict resolution. This is best achieved through understanding and accepting of differences in communication styles, motivators and roles (Amato & Amato, 2005). Many individuals in educational settings also embrace the MBTI pointing to the advantages in students being able to explore or select career, vocational or higher educational options in accordance with their personality strengths (Sample, 2008). Results of the administered assessments show high correlation between an individual’s dominant personality domain to their intended career or educational field of interest (Sample, 2008). In analyzing yet another area, it is evident that the MBTI has been popularly utilized in the medical field, as well, and has shown how physicians with a Thinking/Judging personality seem to gravitate toward roles of leadership in the field, successfully relating to the traits common among executives (Aranda & Tilton, 2013). In addition to the various examples of advantages of the MBTI, such an assessment is administered within a short amount of time at a Level B qualification. Individuals can obtain a better understanding of their behaviors, as well as, those of others, thus creating an opportunity to improve relationships, pursue goals, develop strategies and change overall outlook (Watson & Flamez, 2015).
While it is evident that many benefits exist in utilizing the MBTI, such an assessment is not without its flaws, with the high cost of the test itself being a significant factor costing as much as $5000 per session to administer the assessment (Tavris, 2018). Personality dimensions are continuous, but unfortunately are often reduced to the polarity of the 4-dimension category obtained in this assessment, placing individuals at a great disadvantage (Krauss Whitborne, 2014). An individual’s unique personality traits are reduced to the two dominant domains of the obtained result, when in reality, most individuals fall into the middle spectrum of the 4-dimension category rather than portraying these extreme dominant forms (Krauss Whitborne, 2014). Certain situations or circumstances cause individuals to react differently, thus resulting in the possibility of the less dominant traits to emerge (Riggio, 2014). Many times, organizations, businesses or institutions place too much emphasis on the results of the dominant trait obtained, causing many individuals to be “labeled” by this feature while other less dominant personality traits, skills, education, experience and current circumstances are overlooked (Krauss Whitborne, 2014). Consequently, many individuals are surpassed for career opportunities or selected for career choices that many not be the proper fit due to relying predominantly on such results rather than taking into accord the other factors and variables described above (Adamowicz, 2015). Studies thus show that this assessment alone is not a successful predictor of job performance and should not be utilized as the sole determinant for job selection or individual classification, but rather utilized in conjunction with other skills, qualities and knowledge (Watson & Flamez, 2015).
Many state that the MBTI portrays individuals in a rigid, “black and white” light, unfortunately causing individuals to adopt what is known as the “Barnum Effect”, meaning that they internalize the labeled personality dimension, resulting in the development of either an inflated view of self or creating limitations that are non-existent with no option for a middle ground (Krauss Whitborne, 2014). Often times, individuals also provide false responses on the assessment in efforts to appear more appealing as appropriate candidates for employment or relationships (Haberstron, 2017). Other challenges exist in the variation of results obtained in the test-retest component. Research shows that 35% of people who completed the MBTI at various times obtained a different personality dimension result, attributing differences in circumstance, situations or internal feelings as major factors in such variation (Riggio, 2014). For this reason, many questions this assessment reliability and validity.
Ethical Principles of the MBTI
The MBTI and the case of Hillary will examine the ethical principles used by the counselor in choosing to administer the MBTI. The purpose of the study is to explore the effectiveness of the use of the MBTI in the counseling process for career planning and for personal growth.
Career and employment counselors use the MBTI to help client better understand their preferences and strengths (Rashid & Duys, 2015). The MBTI lends itself to helping individuals better understand themselves, their motivations, their natural strengths and their potential for growth. Knowledge of psychological preferences as marked by the MBTI enables individuals to look at themselves in relation to others, to their work, and to their overall environment (Kennedy & Kennedy, 2004).
In 2014, Hillary a fifty-four-year-old Caucasian female, sought counseling to “find out what she was doing wrong” after she was terminated from her most recent position. Hillary also wanted to “change fields” because she felt “out of place” and no longer wanted to work in her current field. Other concerns included problems socializing with friends, co-workers and even family members (Roseman, 2014).
The MBTI was administered because Hillary had problems understanding herself and her difficulties in her interpersonal relationships in the workplace and in her personal life. Hillary also wanted to ensure that she was correctly revising her resume, to focus on her transferable skills so as to seek employment outside of her current field (Roseman, 2015). Given that the MBTI is a strength –based instrument, it was presented as a way of beginning a discussion about
how Hilary felt without the pressure to conform to influences of her supervisors, co-workers, friends, family or society (Roseman, 2014).
To guide Hillary in the scope of understanding the MBTI results, the counselor helped Hillary to understand the MBTI does not measure how much an individual possesses a trait, but rather measures how much an individual prefers a trait (Roseman, 2014).
The results from the MBTI allowed Hillary to explore her career choices from a more informed and enlightened perspective. It helped Hillary to reframe her resume from a chronological format to one that emphasized her skill set. The results allowed her to change the way in which she interviewed for a position. It also raised her awareness of the office environment during the interview process (Roseman, 2014).
Hillary’s increase of self-awareness of self-empowerment allowed her to look at a variety of careers she had not previously considered. The test allowed Hillary to recognize that social elements in her career and personal life cannot be avoided but they can be managed by putting coping mechanisms in place (Roseman, 2014).
An evaluation of the MBTI results concluded that Hillary was able to identify her challenges so as to make changes for personal growth. Hillary was able to see other people’s perspective about her and how her behavior and attitudes may impact her relationships in her work environment and with friends and family (Roseman, 2014).
Legal Principles of the MBTI
Legally, the MBTI should not be used in isolation to make any substantial decisions but serve as a tool to guide and inform decisions (Watson & Falmez, 2015). An example of a case where the MBTI alone was not used in isolation to formulate or make any substantial decision is in the case of David R. Hunt, Plaintiff, v.Carolyn Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant. Civil Action No. 3:13-CV-976-DW.United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville, May 23, 2014.
David Hunt filed a complaint to obtain a judicial review of a final decision where he was denied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income by the Commissioner of Social Security Administration. Hunt filed for benefits alleging that he was disabled due to attention deficit disorder, psychological instability and social workplace problems (Hunt & Colvin, 2014).
In order to make an informed decision with regards to Hunt’s eligibility for benefits, a number of tests, assessments and evaluations were done by clinical psychologists, consultative examiners, healthcare providers and vocational professionals (Hunt & Colvin, 2014).
A battery of psychological tests such as the WAIS-IV, NAART, BNT, MCVT, WCST, MAS, ISV, MMPI-II and the WRAT-4 were administered. A battery of vocational and personality tests was also administered to Hunt. These tests included the Career Ability Placement Survey (CAPS), the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS), the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey (JVIS), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and Career Exploration Exercise (CEE). The results of these tests and other evaluations and assessments were used by the Commissioner of Social Security Administration to make a final decision that the plaintiff did not qualify for benefits (Hunt & Colvin, 2014).
How the MBTI Affects the Profession
Although psychologists and researchers within the field remain conflicted in their views of MBTI’s benefits and effectiveness as mentioned earlier, such an assessment continues to be widely and successfully utilized by various counselors in different settings within the field (“Advantages and Disadvantages of Employee Personality Tests”, 2015). Couples and marriage counselors administer such an assessment in efforts to determine compatibility among partners, improve communication and develop conflict resolution. Individual counseling settings incorporate the MBTI to assist individuals in increasing their self-awareness and insight into their strengths and weaknesses, while enabling counselors to help individuals establish goals and overcome personal challenges (Watson & Flamez, 2015). Trained professionals within the field recognize and understand the limitations of the assessment and utilize results in a fashion to better understand the client’s attitudes, traits and needs in efforts to help the client work toward a better self-potential (Watson & Flamez, 2015). As a result, such an assessment provides great insight for both the client and therapist, enabling the client to understand behaviors of self and others, while allowing the therapist to obtain insight and establish an effective ground for building rapport and setting treatment goals (Murphy, 2018).
The effectiveness of the MBTI has been a long-debated topic within the field of psychology. While many agree that such an assessment accurately demonstrates how the understanding of one’s personality traits can predict an individual’s areas of talent, achievement and success across various continuums, many criticize its lack of scientific basis and validity, as well as, rigidity and inconsistency in results obtained (Adamowicz, 2015). However, despite such discrepancies in opinion, the MBTI continues to be one of the most popular and widely administered assessments, not only utilized in the psychology and counseling fields, but also in major business corporations and industries, religious and community organizations, military occupations and government offices (Tavris, 2018). It is estimated that over two million MBTI assessments are administered on a yearly basis across these various settings with high rates of success in reliability of predicting trait preferences and identifying strengths and weaknesses in personality, which in turn enables individuals to gravitate toward jobs and relationships that best fit their identified preferences (Laffoley, 2016). However, despite its growth in popularity over the years, many researchers and psychologists in the field continue to remain skeptical of the MBTIs’ effectiveness and benefits based on its lack of scientific validity and reinforce that such an assessment should not be used in isolation without taking into consideration various other tools, resources and knowledge (Burnett, 2013).
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