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  1. #1
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Default Measuring the Validity of MBTI

    I'm not aware of another thread on this topic, but please merge if there is one. It seems like a good idea on the site to have a thread that examines research done to support or debunk MBTI as a system. I'm never entirely certain what to make of the system, and am looking for a clearer picture about its claims to being accurate. The purpose of this thread is to include research that supports the system as well as research that criticizes the system.

    Here is one page I encountered about research done on MBTI.

    Nowack, K. (1997). Personality Inventories: The Next Generation. Performance in Practice, American Society of Training and Development, Winter 1996/97

    The National Academy of Sciences committee reviewed data from over 20 MBTI research studies and concluded that only the Intraversion-Extroversion scale has adequate construct validity. That is high correlations with comparable scales of other tests and low correlations with tests designed to assess different concepts. In contrast, the S-N and T-F scales show relatively weak validity. No mention was made in this review about the J-P scale.

    Overall, the review committee concluded that the MBTI has not demonstrated adequate validity although its popularity and use has been steadily increasing. The National Academy of Sciences review committee concluded that: Ďat this time, there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programsí, the very thing that it is most often used for.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
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  2. #2
    Boring old fossil Night's Avatar
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    Great thread, toonia.

    I haven't done much research into the scientific merit of the MBTI as a process for clinical cognitive behavioral evaluation - I can posit that there isn't much real science to be had, as it doesn't use independent means of diagnosis, or falsifiable experiments to conclude final measurement of type.

    Here are some faults I find with the MBTI:

    The most immediate issue is the potential for negative diversity (as in the case with any self-scoring metric) which could lead to confusion in classification/misrepresentation of Type behavior tendency.

    While it's reasonable to presume a certain margin of error, successful translation of the MBTI (from theory to scorecard) is hinged on the individual's 'honesty' in providing a best-fit description of his 'typical' temperament. This is harder than it sounds. Emotions are transient and certainly fluctuate from one day (or moment!) to the next.

    Another factor that often seems to damage reliability is the complexity (or simplicity) of the supplied verbiage composing the question. If the test-taker doesn't understand the question, he won't practically comprehend the answer.

    So, I guess my biggest concern is the reliability in translation. Obviously, much of this could be countered with a licensed proctor, but few (at least in my experience) adopt this route, instead preferring the old D.I.Y. method of self-analysis.

    ...

    I have a particular distaste for the affective labeling often used to distinguish a subgroup (Artisan; Rational; Counselor; Guardian). Many times, additional anecdotal description is used to further categorize (and thereby further divide) groups into local clusters of behavior. Instead of allowing the encountered behaviors to develop an organic identity, these self-important titles appear to almost degrade descriptive clarity, into a series of spurious stereotypes (I'm an INTJ/Mastermind - I'm naturally better at strategizing than the INFJ Counselor. -or- I'm a T; emotions are unimportant to me...)

    As a result, clannishness and self-righteous 'Type-entitlement' emerges. Applying a sense of intellectual/psychological hierarchy against a self-scoring metric is a disappointing conclusion to a system that appears originally intended to reduce mystery between different thinking styles...

  3. #3
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Check out the American Psychological Associations various studies on MBTI.

    MBTI holds up very poorly when under the microscope of validity. And as you've pointed out the only dimensions that hold true are Introversion/Extroversion.

    The NEO PI-R (Five Factor Model) has the largest body of evidence supporting its efficacy.
    Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship.
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    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    The following is what appears to be the official statement of validity on "The Meyers & Briggs Foundation" site. They quote some statistics about people retesting with three of their four letters at 75-90% consistency, but they are not clear about the parameters of the research that produced these results.

    Meyers & Briggs Foundation
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  5. #5
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night View Post
    As a result, clannishness and self-righteous 'Type-entitlement' emerges. Applying a sense of intellectual/psychological hierarchy against a self-scoring metric is a disappointing conclusion to a system that appears originally intended to reduce mystery between different thinking styles...
    In some ways this is some of the most useful insight that MBTI reveals about human psychology. I have a tendency to forget how intensely some people internalize these ideas. I've wondered if the disconnectedness of modern society leaves people more vulnerable to latch onto somewhat arbitrary systems that provide a sense of identity and community.

    I'm hoping there will be links to some kind of research that validates it as well. I'm hoping there are two sides to the debate. If there isn't much of anything at all, then why consider it credible?
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

    I want to be just like my mother, even if she is bat-shit crazy.

  6. #6
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night View Post
    Great thread, toonia.

    I haven't done much research into the scientific merit of the MBTI as a process for clinical cognitive behavioral evaluation - I can posit that there isn't much real science to be had, as it doesn't use independent means of diagnosis, or falsifiable experiments to conclude final measurement of type.

    Here are some faults I find with the MBTI:

    The most immediate issue is the potential for negative diversity (as in the case with any self-scoring metric) which could lead to confusion in classification/misrepresentation of Type behavior tendency.

    While it's reasonable to presume a certain margin of error, successful translation of the MBTI (from theory to scorecard) is hinged on the individual's 'honesty' in providing a best-fit description of his 'typical' temperament. This is harder than it sounds. Emotions are transient and certainly fluctuate from one day (or moment!) to the next.

    Another factor that often seems to damage reliability is the complexity (or simplicity) of the supplied verbiage composing the question. If the test-taker doesn't understand the question, he won't practically comprehend the answer.

    So, I guess my biggest concern is the reliability in translation. Obviously, much of this could be countered with a licensed proctor, but few (at least in my experience) adopt this route, instead preferring the old D.I.Y. method of self-analysis.

    ...

    I have a particular distaste for the affective labeling often used to distinguish a subgroup (Artisan; Rational; Counselor; Guardian). Many times, additional anecdotal description is used to further categorize (and thereby further divide) groups into local clusters of behavior. Instead of allowing the encountered behaviors to develop an organic identity, these self-important titles appear to almost degrade descriptive clarity, into a series of spurious stereotypes (I'm an INTJ/Mastermind - I'm naturally better at strategizing than the INFJ Counselor. -or- I'm a T; emotions are unimportant to me...)

    As a result, clannishness and self-righteous 'Type-entitlement' emerges. Applying a sense of intellectual/psychological hierarchy against a self-scoring metric is a disappointing conclusion to a system that appears originally intended to reduce mystery between different thinking styles...
    Independent means of diagnosis. Very good, Night.

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  7. #7
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    Check out the American Psychological Associations various studies on MBTI.

    MBTI holds up very poorly when under the microscope of validity. And as you've pointed out the only dimensions that hold true are Introversion/Extroversion.

    The NEO PI-R (Five Factor Model) has the largest body of evidence supporting its efficacy.
    Yes, it seems to me that it is useful to talk about introversion and extroversion, just as it is useful to talk about the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.

    And discovering that I was fairly introverted in my teens led me on an interesting journey.

    It took me first to Anslie Mears an innovative Melbourne psychiatrist who was brilliant in helping the introverted to be more comfortable in themselves, and also how to be successful in society while being introverted and not aping extroversion.

    And from there things moved along for me and here I am happily introverted and talking to you.

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    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    The National Academy of Sciences review committee concluded that: Ďat this time, there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programsí, the very thing that it is most often used for.
    So the next interesting question is -

    Why is MBTI the very thing that is most used in career counseling programs when there is not sufficient, well designed research to justify its use?

    The motive for using it must be overwhelming - I wonder what it is?

  9. #9
    Freshman Member simulatedworld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    Check out the American Psychological Associations various studies on MBTI.

    MBTI holds up very poorly when under the microscope of validity. And as you've pointed out the only dimensions that hold true are Introversion/Extroversion.

    The NEO PI-R (Five Factor Model) has the largest body of evidence supporting its efficacy.

    lol. Good job American Psychological Association; you've discovered straw men.

    "Microscope of validity"? Are you serious? How do you test the "validity" of a system that's inherently unscientific because there are no standardized definitions of the types? Really, how on Earth do you do that?

    What scientific principle do you think it is that MBTI intends to establish with objective certainty? (HINT: There isn't one.)

    If you're trying to test the reliability of the various "MBTI tests" running around, you won't find much because it's not intended as a scientifically reliable test. It's just a vague guess that may or may not help you in determining which of the 16 *imaginary* archetypes you fit closest to.

    MBTI is an arbitrary labeling system for data organization. It is a frame of reference, NOT a scientific methodology, and as such cannot be judged in terms of scientific validity.

    I'm frankly shocked that the APA could be this short-sighted. When did Myers or Briggs or Keirsey or any of those authors ever claim scientifically verifiable and reproducible test results? I mean good lord, the sheer will power it takes to ignore this discrepancy...

    You guys are missing the point, and badly. In order for MBTI to even be "testable" it would have to purport to give the same results to the same people consistently, but it changes with how people are feeling that day, not to mention the host of other problems with the testing process itself.

    I've seen people test ISFJ and then figure out later from studying the archetypes that they're actually closer to INTJ, etc. etc....this stuff has such a huge "margin of error" (which is technically the wrong term because we aren't working with measurable data here anyway.) The whole "MBTI test" thing was never intended to provide consistent or measurable accuracy; it's just a starting point from which to begin your study and determine for yourself which type may fit you best.

    Some people are so close to the borderlines between types that they don't fit squarely into one. That goes with the territory when you work with a subjective system like this--you can't just throw out all its perceptive value because it can't be stuck in a test tube and measured. You're barking up the wrong tree.


    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    So the next interesting question is -

    Why is MBTI the very thing that is most used in career counseling programs when there is not sufficient, well designed research to justify its use?

    The motive for using it must be overwhelming - I wonder what it is?
    Because career counseling is no more an objective field than typology. If I were counseling people as to how to choose a career that makes them happy, and if using some arbitrary, non-scientific system like MBTI to compare themselves to others helped them do this more effectively, then why not? Any perspective I can look at that helps me better understand my own needs and wants is probably going to be helpful here.

    Obviously we wouldn't want to base this decision entirely on something so iffy, but it's just one perspective to look at. So many people's criticisms of MBTI seem to consist of, "But it'll lead you astray if it's the only thing you ever trust 100% of the time!"

    Umm yeah, no shit?
    If you could be anything you want, I bet you'd be disappointed--am I right?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by simulatedworld View Post
    When did Myers or Briggs or Keirsey or any of those authors ever claim scientifically verifiable and reproducible test results?
    Basically, here:

    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    But yeah.

    I agree with you in that it shouldn't be looked at objectively or for anything that requires scientific verifiability. The fact that the Meyers and Briggs Foundation purports reliability doesn't change this.

    It fares much better in terms of what the armchair typology community can do with it than what it was originally intended to do.

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