OBJECTIONS TO TYPOLOGIES
The MBTI is not alone in using a typology to represent continuous data. As discussed above, most dichotomies from which typologies are created involve imposing an artificial division on continuous, normally distributed scores. The resulting dichotomy does not accurately reflect the true nature of the underlying trait.
HR staff familiar with the MBTI or other typologies observe that organization members usually respond favorably to the test results because their type "seems right" ("Now I know me!") and they start seeing others in terms of the handy type scheme ("Now I know you!"). This experiential validation often obscures issues related to the typology's departure from usual psychometric practices. Typologies also tend to foreclose on further exploration of personality dimensions because the instrument seems so comprehensive in its explanations.
One additional problem is encountered with typologies. When moving from a simple dichotomy to a two-way typology there is some blurring of the relative contribution of each of the dimensions in shaping the individual's orientation. This loss of information on the magnitude of scale scores becomes even more pronounced when using a four-variable dichotomy as in the case of the MBTI. To illustrate, since the magnitude of scores is not maintained, an ESTP with a very high S tendency is described in exactly the same way as an ESTP with an S score that barely tipped in the S direction because both have the same type, ESTP.
Current Status of Typologies
What is the current status of type approaches to personality? Bolz (1977) related the decline in serious interest among personality researchers in the once-popular personality typologies on the difficulty of finding psychological variables that conform to categorization. Mendelsohn, Weiss, and Feimer (1982), after an extensive review of typological literature, state that "there does not seem to be any typology in personality research that is demonstratably more than a simplifying way of talking about complex, continuous data" (p. 1157). They further caution that typologies are even more tenuous where more than one personality dimension is involved (as is the case with the MBTI). They go on, however, to acknowledge the communications convenience of typologies, but with the following cautions:
This summarizing and simplifying function of typological language is useful and probably unavoidable, but there are attendant dangers: first, that these arbitrary categories are taken to represent genuine divergences in psychological organization, and second, that we tend to regard as step functions what are, in fact, continuous functions. The problem then, is to show that claims of a typology are justified by more than convenience. (p. 1168)
If typologies, including the MBTI and a host of personal style/management style instruments and their related training programs used in HR work (O'Brien, 1983), fail to accurately reflect the underlying psychological attributes, why do they survive, especially in business and industry? They provide communications convenience. They simplify and make accessible to everyone through an easy-to-learn language the complexities of individual personality and some of the mysteries of interpersonal relationships.
"THE MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR IN HRM PRACTICE: PROCEED WITH CAUTION" Michael Chase, Quincy University
THE MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR IN HRM PRACTICE: