An introduction to Myers-Briggs

Note: This is part one of a multi-part series about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This article will discuss an overview about the MBTI theory, as well as touch on what MBTI is not.

Have you ever taken a personality test? You might be thinking of the quizzes in the backs of magazines that are just for fun. (You might have even taken one of these quizzes on our website!) Lots of people enjoy quizzes because they enjoy introspection–that is, the practice of thinking about oneself.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is somewhat like a personality test. Created by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, it asks a series of questions about the way you see the world, interact with others, and solve problems.

Although the test has sixteen results for sixteen personality types, this number is far from arbitrary. The MBTI is based on the observations of analytical psychologist Carl Jung. Jung believed that there are eight types of ways to interact with the world, and that most of us have one or two that we rely on most heavily. We'll go into the eight types of interaction later. For now, all you need to know is that the order of your preference for each type is what determines your personality type–at least, according to the structures which the MBTI is based on.

What is MBTI used for?

The thing that distinguishes MBTI from other personality tests--besides its basis in psychological theory--is its real world application.

Some people might tell you that corporations and potential employers sometimes rely on the MBTI to determine how to best work with their employees. Those people aren't wrong, but there's a better reason to become acquainted with your MBTI personality type. Because the MBTI is so closely related to Jungian theory, the results of the test can tell you a lot about yourself–your strengths, weaknesses, best study style, interaction with others. Basically, the test attempts to tell you more about your thinking style, which is never a bad thing to know.

What is MBTI not?

MBTI is not the zodiac. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) Some websites will list the sixteen personality types and make sweeping generalizations. They might say one type is more likely to lash out at others, or another type is more predisposed to making lots of money. And honestly, we don't think that's fair. If the MBTI is meant to discuss different ways that humans interact with each other and process the world, what good does it do to claim one is better than the other?

If you take the MBTI or use another method to figure out your personality type, it's probably better to avoid comparing your type to others. There isn't one type which is more successful or glamorous than the others. The point of the test is to find out what kind of thinker you are so that you can apply that knowledge to your real life.

For example, if you read that people with your personality type work better in groups, you might find it easier to conduct study sessions with your peers. That doesn't make you better or worse than someone who studies alone–it just means that everyone is different (which is actually super cool.)

Want to know more?

In a future installment, we'll talk about the eight functions that Jung believed we rely upon. We'll also talk about the different ways to find out your personality type. Finally, we'll briefly touch on the sixteen personality types.