The Myers-Briggs test is by no means scientifically valid, but it hasn’t stopped workplaces and schools from using it to evaluate applicants. I should count myself lucky that I haven’t had to take the test in the past, but I did recently answer a few questions out of curiosity. Did it accurately predict my personality? Well, no, not really. And I certainly wouldn’t want employers or schools judging me based on my answers.
I never learned about Myers-Briggs in university, although that might be because the only psychology class I took in university was sex psych. In fact, everything I learned, I learned from a Guardian article that just came out last week. The test was created based off of Carl Jung’s theories, but its creators were two untrained housewives. As someone knee-deep in a PhD program, I’m already skeptical. You just don’t learn proper scientific methods in your own kitchen.
My big criticism with the test just so happens to be the dominant criticism it has faced for decades – its binary categories. Unlike other tests that allow you a range of answer options, the Myers-Briggs scale allows you to choose one of two categories. This caused me a lot of trouble. Here are some examples why.
“You are almost never late for your appointments.”
My two answer choices were yes or no. But, first of all, what does “almost never” mean. Does that mean once in five years, or once every month? If I were being honest, I wouldn’t be able to check yes, but I also wouldn’t want to check no, as it makes me seem much more unreliable than I actually am, both as a worker and a person.
“You are more interested in a general idea than in the details of its realization.”
Again, yes or no doesn’t work for me. How about “in specific circumstances”? Or “sometimes”? Or “mildly disagree”? There’s not enough variance here.
“You know how to put every minute of your time to good purpose.”
Who could actually answer this “yes”? Very few of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves. But if it were plotted on a five-point scale that ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”, many of us would agree with the statement. Again, the binary nature is limiting and I don’t think it is portraying me accurately.
I also don’t like that there’s no ranking order to these questions. Maybe planning my actions in advance is more important to me than frequently expressing my feelings and emotions. But they’re on the same playing field, are likely to be skewed because of my limited answer options, and will both equally impact my results. The thought of someone judging me based on this test makes me uncomfortable.
It’s pretty shocking that this test is actually used in an organizational capacity. When I was growing up, there was this trend to take “purity tests” to see how pure you were and then brag about it to your friends. Myers-Briggs reminds me of one of those silly tests that do not at all accurately predict anything.
So if an HR department asks you to take this one, suggest a personality test that offers a more complex reading of human personality. Or simply tell them its dumb – well maybe not in so many words.