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  1. #1
    Member Shadow Play's Avatar
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    Default Criticism of MBTI

    Introduction

    I was going to post this in the (currently ongoing) thread called "MBTI is dead", but the post got so long that it warranted its own thread.

    I don't agree that MBTI is invalid; not completely invalid, at least. It is an attempt to systemise varying temperamental gut pulls in individuals by describing four different types of "two kinds of people", as well as the ways in which those various "two kinds" overlap within each individual. We all know people who are outgoing or recluse, down to earth or speculative, detached or personable, and hard working or lazy. There is even statistical data - compiled in the MBTI Manual - that shows correlations between types and career satisfaction or various personality traits. MBTI has been independently confirmed to share four out of five factors with the Big Five.

    Identical twins have a higher likelihood of testing with similar type preferences, which potentially demonstrates Jung's hypothesis about twins demonstrating genetic personality traits (though he didn't frame it in those terms, since it was the 1920s).

    It doesn't warrant the comparisons with Horoscopes it receives. After all, hardly anyone would expect two people to share personality traits in common because they were born around the same time. No statistical data would show this unless it was heavily skewered to support that conclusion.

    However, MBTI is not without its limitations.

    The Problem with Preferences

    MBTI is a typology system oriented around the dichotomies, not functions, and there are a number of aspects where the MBTI has diverged - for the better, in my opinion - from Psychological Types. Despite of this, MBTI pays lip service to Jung's type theory through jerry rigging a function stack to each type, claiming in bad faith that they reflect in one's dichotomy preferences. Proper, "actual" functions as patterns of cognition described on typology forums are not falsifiable, since they cannot be adequately tested for. Thus, quasi functions are devised which are based on two or three letter dichotomy combinations. These are erroneously passed off as functions. The continuous lip service is hindering the credibility of MBTI.

    In response to criticism of bimodal distribution, proponents of the MBTI claim that, instead of being binary letters, the dichotomies represent four spectrums of preference which overlap with Big Five factors. It makes sense in theory, but the types themselves do not reflect the strength of an individual's preferences. For example, one ENFP could test with strong N, F, and P preferences, but have a borderline E preference, while another ENFP could test with moderate E and P preferences and borderline N and F preferences. Those two ENFPs are technically the same type, and they would show up as such if compiling results for statistical data, but their labels would not reflect the significant MBTI-related differences in their own types.

    Reynierse, who concluded that the functions are a category mistake, proposed a workaround for this, suggesting that dichotomies be arranged in order of preference. This would allow for NFPE and EPNF typings, for instance. The problem is it only shows the order of preference, not the strength of preference. It's all fine and dandy to use "x" if a preference is close enough to the middle, but the official MBTI does not promote the use of "x" (even though it doesn't explicitly deny that possibility), and tests do not allow for middle preferences to reflect in one's results.

    Test Limitations

    The test itself has its limitations. Many of the items do not constitute logical opposites, which is something that's acknowledged in the MBTI Manual.

    Quote Originally Posted by MBTI Manual
    In writing items, every effort was made to make the responses appeal to the appropriate types, for example, to make the perceptive response to a JP item as attractive to P people as the judging response is to J people. The result is that responses may be psychologically rather than logically opposed, a fact that annoys many thinking types. Item content is less important than that the words and form of the sentence should serve as a "stimulus to evoke a type response."
    The items in the official test are the ones that passed muster after testing against thousands of subjects, with those items showing the clearest preference for their respective dichotomies. The problem is those items have binary Y/N responses, meaning that for some responses, the subject might just pick a random response without feeling strongly about the one they chose. This can lead to results which, although showing a dichotomy preference, do not adequately reflect the strength of that preference. For example, a subject could choose mostly N responses, but if they are ambivalent about the majority of them, they could test as having a strong N preference despite only having a mild N preference.

    Accuracy of results requires the subject to answer in "shoes off" mode, but some subjects could potentially be projecting their ideal self or some other self (assuming the self is more than a psychological construct) when taking the test. Alternately, because of a lack of validity scales to assess exaggerated or socially accepted responses, it's possible for a subject to fake their responses.

    Retest Reliability

    The NEO-PI-R, the name of the standard Big Five test, has the following retest rates for each factor: N .92, E .89, O .87, A .86, C .90. This leaves a retest rate of approximately 60% for the four corresponding facets combined, excluding Neuroticism because it lacks a directly corresponding dichotomy. The average retest rate for individual MBTI dichotomies is approximately 83%, which is slightly lower than the average for the Big Five facets, but not much lower. However, the retest rate consistency overall for subjects is approximately 50% within nine months, while the retest rate after nine months is approximately 36%.

    On the one hand, it doesn't make sense to criticise MBTI for a lack of reliability while praising the Big Five for its reliability, since 60% isn't much better than 50%. On the other hand, we're looking at no more than half of subjects producing consistent test results within a short term timeframe.

    Useless for Self-Improvement

    Despite being sold as a tool for personal growth, MBTI has limited use for self-improvement. Whether or not it needs to be a tool for self-improvement is a matter of opinion, and this hangs on the assumption of there even being a meaningful self, but the dichotomies serve mainly to outline temperamental gut pulls that supposedly lead to various "two kinds of people". It is possible to adjust to one's temperament to some extent, such as making a deliberate effort to develop punctuality if one has a habit of lateness. However, considering studies have shown identical twins have a higher likelihood of sharing similar type preferences, this would suggest personality is at least as much nature as it is nurture. If that's the case, there is only so much anyone can do in adjusting against their own temperaments.

    Furthermore, if a system really is to offer meaningful improvement, it must be honest about the shortcomings of the thing it aims to improve. MBTI emphasises the strengths each type has to share, but in doing so, it avoids focusing much on the negative aspects that can come with type preferences.

    The Big Five does not share either of those problems. It neither aims to be a system of self-improvement, and nor does it go out of its way to emphasise the positive traits for each factor. Instead, the Big Five merely aims to describe different sorts of individuals using psychological terms, even if those terms might seem loaded with negative adjectives. It lacks an agenda.

    Only Four Dichotomies?

    More importantly, can we be sure the dichotomies are even the most accurate labels for our differing temperaments? What if there are other temperamental spectrums that haven't been factored by either the MBTI or the Big Five? I disagree with the criticism that those typologies don't explain all of human personality - and nor should they explain all of human personality. But I suspect there are underlying methodological issues which limit identifying core factors. Factor analysis lacks a universally recognised basis for pinpointing a solution when there are different numbers of factors. This means factor analysis is dependant on the analyst's own interpretation of data.

    Although MBTI claims to be a soft science, extraversion and introversion are its only confirmed factors at this point in time. The rest of the dichotomies could well be multiple factors rolled into one, which means an individual could be strongly P in some respects and strongly J in others, or there could be other factors that only show up through dichotomy correlations - such as S/N and J/P correlating with one another. The MBTI Step II aims to compensate for this by outlining five facets for each dichotomy, but this assumes each dichotomy necessarily has the exact same number of facets. This is a shortcoming the Big Five shares with the MBTI, since it assigns six facets each to the five factors.
    Last edited by Shadow Play; 11-10-2018 at 02:43 AM. Reason: Refining a few points.
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  2. #2
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Mbti was designed to make the workers work harder and faster by making them think they are suited for a particular job.

    Mbti is based.on the religious belief that we find our salvation in work.

  3. #3
    Member Shadow Play's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mole View Post
    Mbti was designed to make the workers work harder and faster by making them think they are suited for a particular job.

    Mbti is based.on the religious belief that we find our salvation in work.
    Capitalism was designed to make the workers work harder and faster by making them think they are suited for a particular job.

    Capitalism is based on the religious belief that we find our salvation in work.

  4. #4
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    Nice.

    I've actually brought up over the years most of these points, though never as an actual thread.

    I don't think I'll cover all of the points you've made, but I'll just add a few comments.

    I don't think when I first learned of mbti, I ever had the notion that it was meant for 'self improvement'. I believe it was presented in more of an 'everyone is different. Let's understand each others' differences and see some ways in which we are different' way. There wasn't a 'Self Improvement, Yay' element tacked on. imo the whole 'self improvement' thing was tacked on after the fact, now that we're in an age (so to speak) of self help and self improvement books?

    Regarding 'only 4 dichotomies', I've long thought there are all kinds of much more important differences between people - personality characteristics/ temperaments - than what are outlined in mbti. So no, there aren't 'only 4', there are many more traits we could tack on. The Big 5 latches onto one that I personally find meaningful, which is the neuroticism component - but, it's probably too 'big' - it's trying to capture too many elements.

    I was musing with another member on here a while back that I think a big difference from one person to the next is Ego -- how latched onto their own ego and 'way of being' -- shutting out everyone and everything else -- are they? Or are they not latched on tightly at all? Some people project themselves and their needs onto everyone else, expecting everyone to conform or scorning anyone who falls short -- other people are opposite. And there's everything in between. That's one example.

    That may, frankly, tie into your point about re-test issues -- about people 'changing' over time. My personal opinion is that there are a set of people in life who become 'harder' as the years go on --- they become more set in their ways, more rigid, more attached to particular traits and identifying with them (they'd likely have very consistent re-test ability). And another set of people who become more open and flexible as they grow older, aren't as attached to particular things. And no, I don't think this has anything to do with J/P or N/S.

    Re how much 'material' each dichotomy is supposed to be covering. Yeah, that's why these days I'm a pretty even split between J/P and even F/T. (actually 18 years ago I was pretty close on F/T and first tested as T, though had a slight preference for J). I'm super J in many time management aspects, but P in terms of often lacking life goals and having no issue whatsoever with tons of down time of doing nothing. The easiest way I can frame it - and I'm convinced this is why I'm typed differently by different people -- is that I'm going to seem J to a moderate to extreme P, I'll seem P to a moderate to extreme J, I'm going to seem more T to a moderate to extreme F, and more F to a moderate to extreme T. So yah - a lot is encompassed under each dichotomy.

    Edit: Also, depending on a persons' life experiences, values, and perceptions, all which can shift through time, one may adjust behaviors, ethics, views and outlooks on people and the world and life itself, which could then impact answers to dichotomies. A thinker could 'become more F' as the years go on due to reflections on these sorts of things, or vice versa, and same goes for all of the dichotomies imo (*except* I don't think it applies so much to E/I since E/I has less to do with thoughts and perception).
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  5. #5
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Once we are inside the cult of mbti, we can comfortably remain there by applying logic. But we are applying logic to a false premise. And the result is a false conclusion.

  6. #6
    Member Shadow Play's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    Nice.

    I've actually brought up over the years most of these points, though never as an actual thread.

    I don't think I'll cover all of the points you've made, but I'll just add a few comments.

    I don't think when I first learned of mbti, I ever had the notion that it was meant for 'self improvement'. I believe it was presented in more of an 'everyone is different. Let's understand each others' differences and see some ways in which we are different' way. There wasn't a 'Self Improvement, Yay' element tacked on. imo the whole 'self improvement' thing was tacked on after the fact, now that we're in an age (so to speak) of self help and self improvement books?

    Regarding 'only 4 dichotomies', I've long thought there are all kinds of much more important differences between people - personality characteristics/ temperaments - than what are outlined in mbti. So no, there aren't 'only 4', there are many more traits we could tack on. The Big 5 latches onto one that I personally find meaningful, which is the neuroticism component - but, it's probably too 'big' - it's trying to capture too many elements.

    I was musing with another member on here a while back that I think a big difference from one person to the next is Ego -- how latched onto their own ego and 'way of being' -- shutting out everyone and everything else -- are they? Or are they not latched on tightly at all? Some people project themselves and their needs onto everyone else, expecting everyone to conform or scorning anyone who falls short -- other people are opposite. And there's everything in between. That's one example.

    That may, frankly, tie into your point about re-test issues -- about people 'changing' over time. My personal opinion is that there are a set of people in life who become 'harder' as the years go on --- they become more set in their ways, more rigid, more attached to particular traits and identifying with them (they'd likely have very consistent re-test ability). And another set of people who become more open and flexible as they grow older, aren't as attached to particular things. And no, I don't think this has anything to do with J/P or N/S.

    Re how much 'material' each dichotomy is supposed to be covering. Yeah, that's why these days I'm a pretty even split between J/P and even F/T. (actually 18 years ago I was pretty close on F/T and first tested as T, though had a slight preference for J). I'm super J in many time management aspects, but P in terms of often lacking life goals and having no issue whatsoever with tons of down time of doing nothing. The easiest way I can frame it - and I'm convinced this is why I'm typed differently by different people -- is that I'm going to seem J to a moderate to extreme P, I'll seem P to a moderate to extreme J, I'm going to seem more T to a moderate to extreme F, and more F to a moderate to extreme T. So yah - a lot is encompassed under each dichotomy.

    Edit: Also, depending on a persons' life experiences, values, and perceptions, all which can shift through time, one may adjust behaviors, ethics, views and outlooks on people and the world and life itself, which could then impact answers to dichotomies. A thinker could 'become more F' as the years go on due to reflections on these sorts of things, or vice versa, and same goes for all of the dichotomies imo (*except* I don't think it applies so much to E/I since E/I has less to do with thoughts and perception).
    I agree that the 'self-improvement' thing was tacked on, which is why I've amended one of my points to say "being sold as a tool for personal growth". I think there's something to the idea that MBTI appeals to audiences of self-help and self-improvement books, and is marketed accordingly. It also wouldn't surprise me if MBTI has an above average popularity among the new age crowd, although this shouldn't be the basis to determine its credibility.

    Interestingly enough, the deficiency in enabling self-improvement is a more valid criticism for the functions-centric side of typology than the dichotomies-centric side. Jung himself was of the opinion that types could, in certain circumstances, shift in preference or in the orientation of extraversion and introversion. This could either be a natural change over time, or it could be a more sudden change if the unconscious takes control of the conscious. Jung hoped that, through studying types, he could not only understand different sorts of people, but to also enable one to better integrate the shadow aspects and become whole. The "personal development" aspect of studying function theory also gets pushed by functions theorists such as Thomson and Berens, as well as on countless blogs and Tumblr pages.

    There is a slight correlation between introversion and Big Five Neuroticism. This is another advantage the Big Five has over both Jung's types and MBTI, which did not differentiate between these two things. Jung, in particular, had a warped notion of introversion that sought to withdraw libido from the object, out of fear of the object's influence in the psyche, thus causing an introvert to be recluse and fearful. I think Jung himself was a neurotic introvert that used his own neuroticism as the basis for determining the introvert's mental state. A substantial portion of his type theories are self-referential, and often unintentionally so.

    I don't believe people really "change" on a fundamental level. From my understanding, the self is basically a construct the psyche projects to make sense of its own conscious experience. It's a synthesis of one's sensory input, perceptions, memories, knowledge, temperaments, and traits and tastes which develop based on the psyche's exposure to its environment. It's possible to change one's opinions through acquiring knowledge and experience, and one can develop coping strategies to deal with any shortcomings they may have, but those are not innate tendencies. As for your point about people becoming more open/flexible or more closed off, that's an aspect of personality which seems to have a basis in both temperament and in one's conscious development.

    I suspect that when an individual does have inconsistent typings between tests, it's often because there are one or more dichotomies where they just don't have a particularly strong preference. So, an introvert who is strongly introverted and comfortable with their own introversion would consistently test as one, but an ambivert can waver between E and I scores between tests. However, I can imagine, say, someone testing with mostly F preferences later coming out with mixed T/F preferences after some negative experiences, such as when their trust has been shaken or when they've been abused by those they cared about, leading to this acquired 'hardness' reflecting in a change of preferences.

    In my case, I most often test as an INTP, but I've occasionally yielded INTJ and ENTP test results between tests. The extent to which I type as P>J or J>P depends on how the test items are worded; if asked whether it's better to have structure and planning, I'm somewhat inclined to say 'yes', but am I actually organised? Do I have discipline or good time management skills? Nope, and my low Conscientiousness scores on Big Five tests reflect this. Curiously, E/I is the one dichotomy where my preferred answers will change somewhat depending on what mood I'm in, as opposed to which items are used. N and T have always been consistent. I'm only speaking for myself here, of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mole View Post
    Once we are inside the cult of mbti, we can comfortably remain there by applying logic. But we are applying logic to a false premise. And the result is a false conclusion.
    Exactly. The premise is preemptively taken to be the conclusion, leading to a situation where people assume the framework is already valid.
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