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What is the Myers Briggs test?

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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is a personality test that categorizes individuals by psychological types based on factors such as thought process and intuition, according to the Myers & Briggs Foundation. The mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed the test in the 1940s as an application of C.J. Jung’s theories, which imply that outwardly random differences in behavior are linked to consistent patterns of perception and judgement.

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People are grouped into 16 personality types, depending on internal preferences that influence how they communicate and make decisions, the Myers & Briggs Foundation states. The MBTI compares how individuals gain awareness, known as perception, with how they draw conclusions, known as judgment. The test suggests that variations in these two qualities directly determine a person’s interests, skills, values and motivations.

The main type indicators are extroversion versus introversion, sensing versus intuition, thinking versus feeling and judging versus perceiving, the Myers & Briggs Foundation explains. For example, extroversion and introversion distinguish between people who derive energy from active engagement with the outside world and people who gain more stimulation from self-reflection and solitary activities. Thinking and feeling indicators compare a thought process based on logic and foundational principles to a thought process based on circumstantial evaluation.

Since MBTI is widely used in education, counseling and job recruitment, the theory is heavily criticized for using clear-cut categorization when many individuals demonstrate a balance of different type indicators, according to Psychology Today. The theory is also controversial because the creators expanded upon Jung’s original indicators, and an individual’s categorization results may differ based on subtle variations in the question set.

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