Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Research Report
Barbara P. Ring, R.N., M.A., FAPA, L.M.H.C.


This report on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological assessment instrument based on Jungian personality type theory, begins with a general introduction to the instrument, including a brief overview of the underlying theory.  It discusses developmental issues; the structural issues of standardization, reliability, and validity; and some of its practical applications in counseling and psychotherapy, career management and counseling, management and leadership, teams, education, multicultural use, and health, stress, and coping.  A personal critique concludes the paper.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Research Report

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, developed to make C. G. Jung's personality type theory understandable and useful in people's lives (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003), has become the most trusted and widely-used psychometric instruments for assessing personality characteristics in non-psychiatric populations.  After fifty-plus years of use, more than two million assessments are administered annually, not only in the U.S., but internationally, as well (Consulting Psychologists Press, paras. 2 & 3, “MBTI,” n.d.).  Applications have been made across a broad spectrum of human experience, including in areas such as counseling and psychotherapy; education, learning styles, and cognitive styles; career counseling; management and leadership in business organizations and the military services; and health-related issues.

Based from its inception upon empirical research, it has spawned its own service and research laboratory, the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), and an independent, self-supporting research journal, the Journal of Psychological Type.  At the writing of MBTI Applications (1996), CAPT's library holdings include over 1100 dissertations; 2000 articles and papers; 800 books; type associations newsletters from North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand; hundreds of conference proceedings; and thousands of audio and video tapes (Center for Applications of Psychological Type, para. 1, “MBTI Library,” n.d.).

Interestingly, the MBTI has been largely ignored by the professional community, even among proponents of constructing and evaluating psychometric instruments according to personality theory—though it remains one of the few attempts to thus implement the principles of construct development (Wiggins, 1989).

The MBTI has a unique and interesting history.  Unlike most personality inventories, it was initially designed to facilitate research interests, and only later adapted for general use.  Isabel Briggs Myers devoted her entire life to the development of an instrument that would be valuable to the largest possible number of people.  Myers' passionate interest in personality type was sparked and cultivated by her mother's (Katharine Briggs) study of personality type and discovery that Jung's typology fit well with her own observations.  The devastating effects of World War II aroused a desire in Myers to do something to promote understanding and harmony among people to help avoid destructive conflicts.
In 1942, Briggs and Myers, with no formal training in psychology or statistics, and no academic sponsorship or research grants, began themselves to develop items to tap attitudes, perceptions, feelings, and behaviors according to their understanding of personality type.  Myers continued her work with unflagging energy and devotion, gathering a vast amount of data, submitting the items to empirical testing, and revising test forms accordingly.  The first version of the MBTI Manual was published in 1962 (Myers, 1962), and revised in 1985 (Myers & McCaulley, 1985).  Shortly before her death at 83 years of age, Myers completed Gifts Differing (Myers with Myers, 1980/1990), a book on personality differences for the general public.  In 1998, concurrent with a major revision of the Inventory, the third edition of the Manual was published (Myers, McCauley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003).  Myers' desire for the MBTI is summed up by her comment to her associate, Dr. Mary McCaulley (n.d.),  "You psychologists focus on what's wrong with people.  The MBTI is about what's right with people.  We must not hurt the MBTI by making it look like your other clinical instruments." (McCaulley, n.d. “Isabel Myers”).

General Introduction to the Instrument:

Brief Overview of Underlying Theory

The MBTI is a psychometric instrument designed to sort people into groups of personality types.  Jungian theory (Jung, 1971) posits that variation in human behavior is not due to chance, but to basic and observable differences in the ways people prefer to use their minds to gather and process information. Perception is the means by which one becomes aware of people, things, events, and concepts; judgment is the means of coming to conclusions about how to handle the information thus gathered.  Sensing perception uses the physical senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling, while iNtuition perceives through an intangible, usually unconscious, sometimes called "sixth" sense.  These are measured on the MBTI's SN index.  Thinking judgment involves making decisions objectively and impersonally, based on laws, principles, and factual information.   Feeling judgement makes decisions subjectively and personally, based on relationships and values—one's own and those of others.  Judgment preferences are reflected in the TF index (Myers, 1980; Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003; Ring, 1998).

Two other indices deal with orientation and attitude.  The EI index indicates Extraversion, an orientation and energy flow toward the outer world focusing on people and things, and Introversion, an orientation and energy flow toward the inner world of concepts and ideas.  Myers added a JP index to Jung's original classifications to describe the process used primarily in dealing with the outer world, the extraverted part of life.  A J report indicates a preference for using a judgment process (Thinking or Feeling), while a P report indicates a preference for using a process of perception (either Sensing or iNtuition).  All four indices are dichotomous, as people tend to develop one preference on the scale at the expense of the other (Myers, 1980; Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003; Ring, 1998).

An MBTI result consists of a four-letter code, such as ESTJ (Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging), to indicate the personality type of the individual.  All possible combinations yield sixteen personality types, each with a distinct descriptive profile of characteristic behavior patterns caused by the dynamic interaction of the individual processes.  Understanding these interactions is essential to understanding the whole type, which is always greater and more complex than the simple sum of its parts.  We all use all of the type preferences and processes at different times, and each is appropriate in certain situations.  However, one's inborn preferences are the most important determinant of which are most used and will, therefore, be best developed.  This gives rise to infinite variation, even among people of the same type (Myers, 1980; Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Ring, 1998).

The MBTI manuals (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003) give an extensive overview of the underlying theory and type dynamics according to Myers’ life-long observations, integrated with her understanding of Jungian typology.  In addition, her book (Myers, 1980), written for the general populace, discusses type development.  Optimum use of the instrument requires a thorough understanding of these by the person who will interpret the results.

Structure and Administration

The MBTI is a self-report instrument with dichotomous scales intended to sort people into type categories, rather than to measure strengths of individual traits or degrees of type development—an important differentiation from instruments based on trait theories.  The items, though written in a forced-choice format, are less aversive than other forced-choice instruments because each item deals with only one polarity, and the responses reflect opposing, rather than competing, choices (DeVito, 1985).  All choices are valid.

Written at an seventh grade reading level, it is appropriate for adults and high school students, though the manuals (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003) advise caution in interpreting results with middle and junior high school students.  The MBTI may be administered individually or in groups, in a paper-and-pencil format, or online.  For paper-and-pencil administration, all necessary instructions are found on the cover of the question booklets, and answers are marked on response sheets.  For valid results, respondents should be voluntary and cooperative, and should adopt the attitude of their most natural, smooth, and effortless functioning, in which they are not working “against the grain”—a “shoes-off self”, as expressed in the manual (Myers & McCaulley).  There is no time limit given.  Hand scoring is done using stencils, and computer scoring services with interpretive reports are available from the publisher.

The MBTI is published by Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. (CPP).  It is available in Form M (Step I), the standard 93 item version that identifies the basic four letter type, and Form Q (Step II), a 144 item instrument that, in addition to the four letter type, gives results for 20 facets of that type to explore variation in the type.  Form M is available in self-scorable and hand-scorable formats, as well as a variety of options for computer scoring and reports.  Form Q must be scored by computer, which generates a detailed report.

Developmental Issues

The Third Edition of the Manual (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003), speaks of the development of the MBTI as a “tradition of change” (p. 9), the changes always being grounded in the traditions of the original intent and method of construction.  The MBTI manuals (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers et al. 1998/2003) offer a thorough discussion of the Indicator’s development, which occurred in a series of stages with constant research and continued refinement of validation and interpretation capabilities, beginning in 1942, and culminating in the publication of Form M, known as Step I, in 1998.  Form Q (Step II), based on Form M, but with expanded subscales, was developed concurrently with Form M.  The psychometric properties and interpretation of Form Q are treated in its own manuals, and will not be discussed here.

Development of the MBTI presented unique challenges not found in other psychological measures, because the intent was not to measure traits people possess, where too much or too little may carry a negative connotation, but to sort them into equally valuable groups to which they theoretically already belong, as posited by Jung’s theory of psychological types (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003).  The overriding issue for the MBTI is basic to the construct validation approach to test development.   When “no criterion or universe of content is accepted as entirely adequate to define the quality to be measured” (Cronbach & Meehl, as quoted in Kaplan & Saccuzzo, 1982, p. 144), the definition of the construct and development of the instrument must occur simultaneously, requiring collection of a large amount of data pertaining to both convergent and discriminant evidence of validity, with repeated revisions and adjustments (Kaplan & Saccuzzo).

Cronbach & Meehl (as cited in Wiggins, 1989, p. 537) point out a difficulty unique to such an approach: “Unless substantially the same nomological net is accepted by the several users of the construct, public validation is impossible….  A consumer of the test who rejects the author’s theory cannot accept the author’s validation.”  Thus the great challenge in the development of the MBTI, designed to ascertain as correctly as possible the true personality preferences of an individual, is that its validity is based upon the validity of the very constructs of type it seeks to identify.  For the one who does not accept the basic assumptions inherent in the theory, no amount of data, however vast, will be sufficient support for the instrument’s validity (Kaplan & Saccuzzo; Wiggins, 1989).

The assumptions of the MBTI are not typical of most psychometric measures.  One assumption is that “true preferences” really exist.  However, accurate identification of such preferences by self-report depends upon good type development and accurate self-knowledge.  This brings up questions of type developmental progression and maturity, and whether preferences actually are inborn and consistent over time.  Consideration was given to evaluation of the samplings to determine which items became less effective as the sample ages decreased (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003).

Another assumption is that, by self-report, persons can indicate, directly or indirectly, preferences that interact to form type.  Assuming also that preferences themselves are often unconsciously formulated, the meaning of questions was less important in item selection than indication of the preference that influenced the response.  Thus, seemingly trivial questions about simple surface behaviors were designed to tap underlying preferences that might not be elicited directly. Attempts were made to make the alternatives of each item equally appealing to the appropriate types, resulting in responses that may be opposed psychologically, but not logically (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003).

Yet another assumption is that the type preferences are dichotomous, rather than extremes on a continuum.  This is the rationale for a forced-choice format.  Also inherent in type theory is that each dichotomy is a choice between qualities of equal value, with no intrinsic good or bad, right or wrong. Thus the respondent is not made to feel defensive about his own personhood, helping to discourage acquiescent and social desirability response sets.  Items are specific only to the targeted preferences, and the alternatives are always presented as forced-choices, rather than separately, to avoid selection of both polarities with no way of determining which is preferred (Myers & McCaulley, 1985).

Perhaps the most major issue of the assumption of dichotomy pertains to whether the two poles of each preference are true dichotomies, or are, in fact, simply extremes of a trait continuum.  In part, the difficulty lies in the fact that most statistical methods are applied to continuous scales. Discontinuous scales would require the use of more complicated and extensive non-parametric measures (DeVito, 1985).  Although MBTI scores can be expressed as continuous scales, and these have been used extensively in parametric statistical studies, considerable effort has been made to gather evidence to support the assumption of dichotomy.

Another difficulty relates to precision in the center of the scale, so as to be more likely to achieve accurate classification according to the respondent’s true preference.  Weighting of scores based on a prediction ratio that rates discriminatory ability of each alternative, popularity of response, and gender differences, was used prior to Form M to balance the sides for greater accuracy in the mid-scale range.  The MBTI was restandardized in 1977 to correct for a cultural trend toward an increased proportion of feeling types that had skewed scoring of the TF index (Myers & McCaulley, 1985).  In the 1978 revision, resulting in Form M, these issues were addressed by using the newer statistical analysis methods and techniques of item response theory (IRT), and differential item functioning (DIF).

Structural Issues


The 309 page revised edition of the manual for the MBTI (Myers & McCaulley, 1985) is, in the words of one reviewer (DeVito, 1985, p. 1030), “extremely clear and complete”.  In addition to the usual information about administration and scoring, and extensive statistical data pertaining to the standardization sample, reliability, and validity of Form G, it contains a full exposition of the Indicator, the underlying theory, and a history of its development.  A considerable amount of information to guide interpretation and verification of results and use of type in counseling, career counseling, and education is also included.

In its 420 pages, the third edition of the manual (Myers, 1980; Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Ring, 1998), builds upon that information with statistical data and rationale for the revision and methods of construction of Form M.  Updated information about further research and practical applications are included.  According to a critical review by John Fleenor (2001, p. 817), this manual is one of the strengths of the MBTI.

Standardization Sample

From 1942 to 1944, the first potential MBTI items were developed and tested on an initial “criterion group” of about twenty friends and relatives of whose types Briggs and Myers were quite certain from their previous years of study and observation.  As development progressed, items were tested on increasingly larger samples, mostly adults who could be expected to have more-developed types, and therefore clearer preferences.  Around 1956, a series of younger-age samplings were introduced and evaluated to determine the efficiency of items as age decreased.  In 1957, internal consistency analysis of Form D used a sample of 2,573 Pennsylvania eleventh and twelfth grade males in college preparatory courses, and a similar sample of girls.  Between 1975 and 1977, a new standardization of items was done in preparation of publication of Form F to verify for cultural changes and investigate the age at which school children could validly be tested.  Samples of 1,114 males and 1,111 females, grades four through twelve in three public schools in Bethesda, Maryland and four private schools in the Philadelphia suburbs were used.  Rescoring of a sample of 3,362 University of Florida freshmen tested in 1972 and 1973 was also done.

 Myers established an MBTI data bank generated from the MBTI scoring program at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. (CAPT) in Gainesville, Florida.  At the publication of the second version of the manual (Myers & McCaulley, 1985), it contained more than 250,000 MBTI records generated from the scoring program at CAPT.  These data form the basis of many of the analyses reported throughout the manual (Myers & McCaulley).

Because most of the earlier research was done using samples of high school and college students, for the 1998 revision, researchers collected a national random sample of people over 18, selected by random-digit dialing of telephones, and using specific population demographic targets based on the latest U.S. census.  Of the more than 8,000 people contacted, about 4,000 who matched the census targets received the MBTI research form and an extensive demographic questionnaire.  About 80% of these responded, yielding a sample of 3,200 adults.  This standardization sample was used for item analysis and item weighting as a foundation for scoring.  However, it was not a true representative sample, because White women tended to be overrepresented, and Black men underrepresented.  For analyses requiring a representative sample, two methods were used to compile a national representative sample of 3009 persons (Myers, 1980; Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003; Ring, 1998).


Early reviews (Mendelsohn, 1965; Sundberg, 1965), based on the first version of the MBTI manual (Myers, 1962), give internal consistency reliabilities for the four scales ranging from .75-.85 with a low coefficient of .44 for the TF index, and test-retest correlations of about .70 for three of the scales and .48 for the TF.  They found these statistics comparable to the leading personality inventories at the time, but stated the need for more reliability studies.

The 1985 manual (Myers & McCaulley) provides an extensive discussion of reliability with seven tables of data.  Internal consistency was measured by the split-half method, with reliabilities again consistent with those of other personality inventories with longer scales.  Estimates varied according to respondent characteristics, with generally lower, though still adequate, reliabilities in younger respondents and other populations of people regarded to be functioning at lower levels of achievement or type development.  Alpha and Pearson’s r coefficiencies for internal consistency were comparable.

Phi coefficients, statistics for categorical data, corrected using the Spearman-Brown prophecy formula, could be expected to underestimate reliabilities of type categories because the MBTI data are not true categories, but rather a result of scoring.  Tetrachoric r correlations, also corrected with Spearman-Brown, are not affected by extreme scores, thus giving greater measurement precision in the mid-scale range, which, containing the cutting point, is critical for accuracy in type classification.  However, the tetrachoric r assumes a normal distribution.  Since MBTI data are not normally distributed, the tetrachoric r could be expected to overestimate reliabilities.  Comparing results of the two methods showed differences of the same order of magnitude, which was interpreted to be evidence in support of adequate reliability in the mid-scale range of continuous scores, and therefore, for reliability of the type categories (Myers & McCaulley, 1985).

Test-retest reliabilities of type categories, derived from product-moment correlations of samples from seventh grade to medical school, show consistency over time.  Reported changes are likely to occur in only a single preference, and most often in scales where the preference was low in the first testing (Myers & McCaulley, 1985).

Harvey (1996) evaluated and summarized results of research on the MBTI’s reliability and validity done in the ten years following the 1985 publication of the second version of the manual.  Results of meta-analytic studies, using generally accepted standards applied to instruments with continuous scores, show the reliabilities of the MBTI continuous scores to be quite good—average overall reliabilities of .84 and .86 for internal consistency measures, and .76 for temporal stability.  These compare quite well with reliabilities of  “even the most well-established and respected trait-based instruments” (p.24).  Respondents with strong preference clarity are classified the same across the four scales 92% of the time on retesting; those of medium preference clarity are classified identically 81% of the time.  The issues of type stability for respondents with low preference clarity,and need for increased measurement precision at the type cutoffs remain among the most pressing problems related to the MBTI’s reliability.  Harvey discussed the advantages of item response theory (IRT) over classic test theory (CTT) in evaluating the psychometric precision of the MBTI, and pointed to then-recent IRT-based research as having the potential for resolving these issues.

Psychometric measures of Form M demonstrate considerable improvement in reliability over Form G.  On all four MBTI scales, the internal consistency is quite high as measured by logical split-half, consecutive item split-half, or coefficient alpha.  There is some variation of reliabilities across groups, with those having a better command of perception and judging, who are more likely to understand the test items and better able to self-report more accurately, performing more consistency.  Selection of test items using IRT research has equalized the items for gender, making weighting of scores unnecessary in Form M.  Test-retest reliabilities of Form M are consistent over time, with agreement rates on re-test much higher than would occur by chance, and greater than on Form G.  In combined samples numbering 424, the average percentage of agreement on retest after four weeks in all four preferences was 65, and on three preferences, 28, as compared to a 6.25% level of agreement by chance.  Again, the reported changes are most likely to occur in preferences of low clarity in the first test.  In his review of the MBTI Form M, Fleenor (2001) points out that basing reliability measures on continuous preference scores is contrary to the theory underlying the MBTI that postulates types are dichotomous, not traits on a continuum.  The use of IRT scoring methods minimizes that problem by giving greater discrimination around the midpoint, resulting in improved  measurement precision of all scales on Form M. (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003).


Because the MBTI is based on theory, its validity must be evaluated according to how well it demonstrates relationships and predicts outcomes posited by that theory.  While the Mental Measurement Yearbooks reviewers of early MBTI forms (Coan, 1978; Mendelsohn, 1965; Siegel, 1965; and, Sundberg, 1965) expressed considerable reservations about its validity, one even stating that it did “not represent a successful operationalization of Jungian concepts” (Mendelsohn, p. 322), all were positive about its potential value in personality assessment.  The second version of the MBTI manual presents a lengthy discussion of validity with considerable data.  Because item selection was based only on empirical evidence of type-sorting ability, the convergent, divergent, and predictive validities are the focus of consideration.

Research evidence was gathered by a variety of approaches.  Type tables, which might on the surface seem to be merely descriptive, actually provide evidence for construct validity by showing a significantly higher percentage of certain types in a specific area of interest (such as occupational preference) than could be expected by chance.   A 29 page table in the manual gives data of convergent validity research in many samples comparing MBTI constructs to similar constructs tapped by various other personality instruments.

Citing the limitations of such correlations due to consideration only of the four preferences without the dynamics of whole type, and the problems of confounding direction and strength of the preferences, Myers & McCaulley (1985) note that the correlations could be expected to underestimate the magnitude of the relationships.  Correlations with the Jungian Type Survey (JTS), the only other instrument that purports to identify Jungian types, indicates a significant commonality of constructs being tapped by both, though with more consistency for the EI and SN scales than the TF (E = .68, I = .66, S = .54, N = .47, T = .33, and F = .23.  The JP index, not an original Jungian concept, is specific to the MBTI.)  The 1985 Manual also reports evidence supportive of construct validity both from comparisons of MBTI results with self-estimates of type based on brief type descriptions, and studies of behavioral observation of differences according to reported type.  Other studies  relating specific characteristics to type, such as creativity and originality, various aspects of memory, orientation to time, fantasy and imagery, anxiety and conformity, optimism and pessimism, and preference for privacy are reported in the 1985 Manual.

Harvey (1996) summarized the expansion of validation research and increasing empirical evidence in support of the MBTI’s convergent, divergent, and predictive qualities in the decade following publication of the second version of the manual.  Of particular interest was the growing number of exploratory and confirmatory factor analytic studies.   Several large sample exploratory factor analyses have produced four-factor structures that are almost identical to the pattern of loadings hypothesized according to the preference scoring system.   Other studies, using the confirmatory approach, have compared the MBTI four-factor model with competing models.  In one case, two five-factor models proposed by trait-based advocates were effectively ruled out, while validity of the four-factor structure was very strongly supported.  For those same models, convergent validity has been found to exist between four of the factors of each and the MBTI preference scales.

Fleenor (2001), in his critical review of Form M, noted that many validity studies reported in the 1998 Manual used continuous scores, which is contrary to the underlying theory.  However, evidence for dichotomies has been actively sought, and research is reported in the 1998 Manual that indicates a division point where there is a change in slope or level, at the bottom of a U-shaped distribution plot, or discontinuity at the midpoint.  Further evidence of dichotomy is found by topographic brain mapping.  Two such studies have suggested that Extraverts demonstrate significantly less cortical arousal and less activity in the anterior temporal lobes than do Introverts.  These findings may be related to Introverts seeking to reduce stimulation from the environment, and Extraverts being geared to respond and seek activity and excitement. This further evidence of dichotomous typology also supports Jung’s view of personality as biologically based  (Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003).

Since the Indicator is intended to help to identify whole type, its validity is dependent upon evidence that the whole is more than just the addition of the four dichotomies.  That is, the characteristics and behaviors that demonstrate the dynamics of combinations of preferences should not be explainable by knowledge of the preferences alone.  Problems arise when applying methods developed and used for trait instruments to the study of typological theories.  Validity research in preference interactions requires multiple and multifaceted dependent variables, measurement precision, and ANOVA or similar complex analysis.  Finding sample sizes with sufficient numbers of the less frequent types can be difficult.  The 1998 Manual discusses these problems at length, and reports research that supports the validity of the instrument to identify whole type and dynamic interactions between various preferences consistent with the theoretical hypotheses.  The Manual also reports research showing that each type can be uniquely described with sets of descriptors, and that type-based predictions are more accurate than trait-based predictions.

Fleenor (2001) concludes that Form M has significantly improved the MBTI, citing improved scoring procedures with the use of IRT, and elimination of gender differences in some scales through the use of DIF analysis.  In his opinion, the MBTI “has some value as a tool for increasing self-insight, and for helping people to understand individual differences in personality type (p. 818),” but cautions that more analyses appropriate to categorical data are needed before it can be recommended without reservation.  Mastrangelo (2001), in his review of Form M, states that “The MBTI should not be ignored by scientists or embraced by practitioners to the extent that it currently is (p. 819).”  He cautions—as does the Manual—that it should not be used to make decisions about a person (such as hiring), and recommends further research addressing consistency and interpretation of scores that show a weak preference on a specific scale.

Utility and Applications

Reliability and validity are at the heart of the MBTI, for it promises great usefulness if it is, indeed, a dependable instrument.  Because personality type pertains to every human interaction, applications for the MBTI are limited only by understanding of the underlying theory and the desire to implement it in practical situations.

Counseling and Psychotherapy

According to Quenk and Quenk (1986) in a review of research on the use of the MBTI in counseling and psychotherapy, a national survey of counselors in community-based treatment settings rated the MBTI as the fourth most frequently used standardized test, after the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Strong Interest Inventory, and Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-R).  Clinical reports and case studies, they say, give evidence regarding the benefits of type knowledge in counseling and psychotherapy.  In addition to lengthy instructions for interpreting the MBTI to clients—actually a part of counseling—the manuals (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003) devote an entire chapter to its use in individual, marriage, and family counseling.  Myers et al. give many insightful principles for understanding the client’s perspective, needs, and motivation according to type, applying therapist self-knowledge of type therapeutically in the counseling process, modeling and teaching clients to understand personality differences in others and how they interact with their own types, specific counseling issues to consider with each type, and using type theory for effective communication.  Quenk and Quenk consider preferred models of counseling and psychotherapy, the relationship of type to supervision in counseling programs, type characteristics of users of psychological services, practitioner type and the therapeutic process, type and therapy outcomes, type and couples, and type and substance abuse.

Career Management and Counseling

In career counseling, The MBTI is useful for self-concept development so important to career maturity (Zunker, 1994).  The manuals (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003) discuss type and occupational choices, including tabular data of correlations with a variety of other personality, opinion, attitude, and interest scales.  Specifically, the General Occupational Themes of the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII) are correlated with the MBTI; when used together, the SCII points to specific careers of interest, and the MBTI shows why those careers are of interest.  Since the SCII corresponds with Holland’s personality types and work environments (Zunker), the many materials based on Holland’s theory are accessible and can be used within the MBTI personality type context.  Extensive data regarding occupational choice and personality type have been gathered over the years of MBTI usage, and statistics have been compiled into lists of occupations and the types represented (Myers & McCaulley; Myers et al.).  These are coded to correlate with the  Dictionary of Occupational Titles (1991), thus making the vast amount of career-related information of the U. S. Department of Labor relevant to personality types.  Introduction to Type and Careers (Hammer, 1993) is a booklet that guides the use of type for setting goals, gathering information, making contacts, and making decisions in the career exploration process.  Hammer (1996a) states the MBTI is among the three most widely used instruments in college career counseling settings, along with the Strong Interest Inventory and Holland’s Self-Directed Search. He identifies three levels of intervention using type: the static level, which addresses the matching hypothesis; the dynamic level, primarily used in career exploration and decision making; and the developmental level, which applies knowledge of differential type development to the sixteen different type paths for career development, useful in understanding issues of midlife career transitions and long-term career development issues.  He discusses the large amount of career-related research generated by the MBTI in the decade since publication of the second version of the manual accordingly.

Management and Leadership

While Walck (1996), in reviewing research on use of the MBTI in management and leadership, found attempts to predict behavior from type to produce mixed results, 30 years of research support a few conclusions.  All four functions appear to have some impact on all steps in the decision making process.  Evidence does not support the idea that leadership style is a function of type.  While type does not appear to be able to predict success in organizations, it may predict how people spend their time.  There is some evidence of an STJ “managerial culture” which all types in management learn to value.  Despite disappointing empirical results, for which Walck faults difficulties in methodology of research, she remains optimistic that new research paradigms will allow type to have a significant impact on management and leadership practice.


Teams have become an integral part of most organizational environments.  The underlying assumption is that the diversity of resources inherent in a team of individuals will enhance the solving of organizational problems (Hammer & Huszczo, 1986).  The publication of team building materials and training programs by Hirsh (e.g., 1985) has provided tools for using type that have made the MBTI a popular tool with organizational development consultants. In using the MBTI, it is assumed that understanding of individual differences will enable teams to identify the skills and abilities each team member brings to a task, and that this knowledge will help minimize conflict by viewing potential sources of misunderstanding as simply natural individual differences.  Hammer & Huszczo, in reviewing the literature, suggest that the very interesting research involving complex dynamics and relationships might better be done by studying patterns of meaning and directions of relationships than by mechanical statistical significance testing.

Education, Learning Styles, and Cognitive Styles

The MBTI has been used extensively in education.  The MBTI Manuals (Myers & McCaulley, 1985; Myers, McCaulley, Quenk, & Hammer, 1998/2003) discuss implications of type for different levels of student aptitude, initiative, interest, and achievement.  Type differences in learning, teaching, and administrative styles are also discussed, with many helpful pointers in applying type knowledge to teaching and administrative methods to maximize student learning.  People Types and Tiger Stripes (Lawrence, 1993) introduces teachers to type theory and its use in the classroom.  In an overview of the voluminous research on type and education in the last decade, DiTiberio (1996) states that learner characteristics consistently confirm predictions of type theory.  Studies seem to indicate that optimal teacher-learner interactions are more complicated than matching like types, and that learning may actually be better facilitated by similar but complementary types between instructor and student.  More research is needed in this area.  Considerable research has confirmed earlier findings reported in the 1985 manual.  The MBTI also has been applied to current issues in education, such as culture and gender, vocational education, nontraditional education, and computer-assisted instruction (DiTiberio).

Multicultural Applications

As the modern world moves toward a more global society, interest in multicultural use of the MBTI has exploded.  Both Jung and Myers felt that psychological type is universal.  If so, the implications of promoting understanding between cultures and increasing appreciation of diversity within a culture are significant.  Consulting Psychological Press listed 14 commercial translations and 15 translations being tested as research instruments in 1996 (Kirby & Barger, 1996).  One important problem in developing translations is separation of underlying type patterns from culturally influenced behaviors.
When it is used with appropriate explanation of psychological type, significant success has been reported by practitioners using the MBTI in a wide variety of cultures and cocultures, both in developing nations and industrialized societies.  Reliability and validity studies to date indicate significant reliability when used with English-speaking populations or those with a reasonable command of English, and that the MBTI does indicate respondents’ Jungian type preferences in the cultures in which it is being used.  Research issues include the investigation of whole type multiculturally as well as individual preferences, and the dynamics of interaction of individuals and their cultures.  Though these are difficult challenges, the rewards promise to be great (Kirby & Barger).

Health, Stress, and Coping
A “decade of sophisticated research” (Shelton, 1986, p. 197) has produced conclusive evidence that personality factors, as well as biological factors, play a significant role in the disease process. The MBTI is an important tool in investigating health, stress, and coping variables, and in using knowledge thus gained to tailor prevention and treatment programs to the person’s type.  Shelton reviews research using the MBTI to study physiological differences according to type, to relate the incidence of several disease processes and type, to relate stress and coping to type, and to study the outcome of a stress reduction treatment program.  He presents an interesting discussion of explanations of results hypothesizing both relationships of type to susceptibility to stress-related disease, and reaction to stress as a function of type.  The third edition of the MBTI Manual (1998/2003) includes a section on the implications of research on health, stress, and coping with stress in its chapter on the use of type in counseling and psychotherapy.  This appears to be fertile ground for ongoing research.


 In reliability and validity, the MBTI appears to be at least comparable to other personality measures currently available.  It is strongly supported by research, and is continually being reviewed and revised for psychometric improvement, while preserving  the integrity of the instrument and its original purpose of operationalizing Jung’s personality typology.  Its expanding and successful applications in a variety of settings suggest its versatility as an assessment instrument.  It is easy to use and relatively inexpensive.  (The online Consulting Psychologists Press catalog lists Form M item booklets at $98.75 for 25 reusable booklets; hand-scorable answer sheets at $26 per 25; Form M self-scorable at $90.75 per 10; individual report forms at $26 per 25, and scoring templates for $73 each set.  Prepaid booklets and answer sheets for mail-in scoring with a computer-generated profile report is listed at $109.50 per 10.  Online testing and reporting are also options.).   The information reported is geared toward client benefit, whether for issues of immediate interest, or for deeper study to enhance personal growth and enrich interpersonal relationships in all areas of life.  Its positive view of the value of all types, each with its own gifts and strengths, and each person a unique and dynamic blend of these characteristics, is particularly attractive to normal populations.  It is, as well, a strong validation of individual personhood.  As such, it is of particular value for those individuals whose types are underrepresented in the general population of our culture and who, having been required to live and work against their natural tendencies, have suffered physically or psychically.  For these people, just to learn that their differences are not pathological, but simply a matter of type, brings healing and motivation to grow.  Wherever there are human interactions, the MBTI can be valuable in promoting, according to Isabel Myers’ philosophy, “constructive use of differences” (Best of Bulletin, 1998, p.6)

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