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Developed by Thorunn Sif Ingimundardottir

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument is used to classify individual personalities into 16 different types and is developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine C. Briggs in the 40’s. The instrument is based on Carl G. Jung’s theory about the four psychological functions that describe how individuals think, feel and experience the world differently. Each personality is defined with four letter acronym that is combined with a defining letter of the person’s preference in each function. Being able to identify these information about a person might help when establishing teams or groups, being able to assign that person in an appropriate position or even increase the team dynamic.



In recent years, an increasing interest in people and their behaviour has slowly led to essential change in how projects are managed. Today, people and people’s behaviour is considered one of the fundamental facet when it comes to managing projects.It is essential to project managers to be able to “assigning the “right” people to “right” tasks”[1] and manage the resources in an efficient way. In order to accomplish that, the manager needs to observe the project as a collection of people all with different background, competences, interest and last but not least, with different personalities. The manager’s job is than to connect these diverse people and direct them to work towards shared purpose.[1]

But how can the project manager identify what kind of personality the people have in order to allocate them in the right way? And what kind of people should be combined in a team?

It is a very complicated and difficult job to find the perfect people for each project. Identifying people’s knowledge and competences is quite simple and can be done through interviews, tests and performance auditions for example. However, identifying people’s personality can be more difficult and complex. There is no clear way of doing it, and there are no definite categories for each personality since they vary between each person even though they might have the same background, interest etc. Some tools have been established with the purpose to help with the identification process, and among them is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument or as often referred to as the MBTI® instrument.

Jung's Theory

In 1920, Swiss psychologist, Carl G. Jung introduced a theory about psychological type.[2] The theory postulates that human behaviour is based on the way people uses their mind in one of two ways when gathering and processing information.[3] Jung’s type theory is helpful in the way that it explains how people function by demonstrating how people think, feel and experience the world in different ways. Jung introduced four psychological functions; sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking. The first two functions, sensation and intuition relate to how people gather and interpret information. Sensation is when people directly sense or experience things, for example by seeing, feeling or smelling and immediately experience some tangible factors. Intuition is when people use possibilities, what might happen or has happened when they integrate information and feel that the insinuation of the experience is more dominant than the experience itself. Feeling and thinking are the functions related to how people make decisions and how they formulate their judgment. Feeling emphases on value, what is right and what is wrong, while thinking is about making decisions using logics and objective truth. Jung’s theory then states that every function can be experienced by people either in an extraverted or introverted way resulting in eight different hypothetical functions. Those that experience in a extraverted way think more about how they affect the world while those that experience in a introverted way think more about how the world affect them. Neither way is correct nor wrong, it can vary at times how people feel. However Jung’s theory assumes that it is not possible to experience in both extraverted and introverted at the same time, so there is always one out of the two ways that is superior in every function for all individuals.[4] “The ideal is to be flexible and to adopt whichever attitude is more appropriate in a given situation-to operate in terms of a dynamic balance between the two and not develop a fixed, rigid way of responding to the world.”[4]

The MBTI® instrument

In 1940s, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine C. Briggs developed the MBTI® instrument with the purpose to clarify Jung’s theory about the psychological types so that most people, individuals and companies, could use it and understand it. The MBTI® is based on Jung’s eight theoretical personality functions but the mother and daughter added another concept to the theory, the preferred lifestyle. The preferred lifestyle is superior for the extraverted types but supplementary for the introverted types.[5] With this addition, the MBTI® instrument is constructed with these four dichotomies listed below:

  • Favourite world
  • Information function
  • Decision function
  • Structure

Each of these four dichotomies offer two possible preferences and people need to decide on which they prefer. These four preferences lead to a specific personality type for that person and can be expressed with a four letter acronym based on the defining letter in the person’s preference in each dichotomy.[2] The dichotomies and the two preferences in each one are shown in Table 1 below:

Favourite World:
E Extraversion When you prefer to think more about how you affect the world
I Introversion When you prefer to think more about how the world affects you
Information Function:
S Sensing When you prefer to directly sense and immediately experience some tangible factors
I Intuition When you prefer to think more about what might be and the insinuation of an experience is more dominant than the experience itself
Decision Function:
T Thinking When you make decision based on logics and in an objective way
F Feeling When you prefer to make decisions based on what you feel is right or wrong, based on your own values
J Judging When you prefer to live planned and organized life
P Perceiving When you prefer to live spontaneous and flexible life

With these four pairs of two possible preferences a “type table” can be constructed, showing 16 different personalities. Figure 1 shows how The Myers & Briggs Foundation demonstrates this table.[2]

Figure 1: “Type Table” the MBTI® instrument is based on, found on the Myers & Briggs Foundation webside[2]

The Types

Multiple sources have listed the 16 types of personalities in various ways. The Myers & Briggs Foundation made very precise and clear definitions that can be seen on their website [1] . Another interesting way of defining the personality types can be found on the 16 Personalities website [2]. They have made a character for each type and brief definition of them with a link to further introduction to all the types.[6]

In Action

When analyzing an individual he has to state which way he prefers in every dichotomy. Than he writes the defining letter of that way and formulates four letter acronym. For example, person that is very organized, bases its decision on hard logics and perceives himself in sensing introversial way would be defined as a type ISTJ. The individual’s personality can than be found in the “type table” and the type can be identified. The table can also be used to provide information and analyse teams or group of people. It is important to be aware that no type is definite and can change with time for each individual. There is also no right or wrong type.[2]


The Myers & Briggs Foundation claims that the instrument differs from other psychological instruments since it not based on characteristics or competences, instead it focuses on people preferences. The foundation also states that it has been studied for over 40 years and during those researches been found valid, doing exactly what it is supposed to do, and reliable, giving the same results when repeated.[2] However, the MBTI® instrument is a psychological tool and like many other psychological tools, it is followed by numerous of debate regarding its validity and reliability. In 1993 David Pittenger, a psychologist, wrote a paper called Measuring the MBTI... And Coming Up Short that pointed out some problems regarding the MBTI®. He examined its statistical structure, reliability, and its validity, he said were the basic issues when it comes to any psychological test. Regarding the statistical structure, Pittenger mentioned that the instrument is a typology thus its expected scores should be bimodally distributed. It should show two normally distributed curves, indicating the introverted and extroverted preferences with little or no overlap, resulting in one result with bimodally distribution for both preferences. However, data shows that there is no evidence for such distribution and that most people score between the two curves. This leads to the fact that an individual with an extroverted preference can be very similar to another person with an introverted preference.[7]

When Pittenger talked about the MBTI®’s reliability his main focus was on how the line between the preferences in each dichotomy is unclear. The instrument only allows people to place themselves in either one of the preferences, even though the person’s preference is mixed with both of them. Therefore it is possible that people with similar scores overall, is defined with very different personalities. At last Pittenger mentioned the validity of the instrument. His main concern is that there are no hard evidence that the MBTI® instrument measures anything of value. Even though there is nothing that has proofing the measures to be wrong, there is also nothing that proves that it is correct. Meaning that there is no proof that it is possible to classify all people into 16 different personality types nor that the four dichotomies exist. [7]Like Team Technology phrased it, “If they in fact do not exist, there is no base for the MBTI® instrument at all.”[8]

Annotated Bibliography

The Myers & Briggs Foundation

The website provides basic information about the history behind the MBTI® and how it has developed to become what it is today. There are further information about the four dichotomies and the 16 personality types among with information about how to link defined personality type to specific job type. The site also has information on how to become certified to administer the MBTI® instrument and some training application related to that.

Pittenger, David J. (November 1993). “Measuring the MBTI... And Coming Up Short”. http://www.indiana.edu/~jobtalk/HRMWebsite/hrm/articles/develop/mbti.pdf

An article after David J. Pittenger, during the writing an assistant professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Marietta College. He discuss how the MBTI® instrument is not based on evidences and scientific approach. He talks about the three main issues when it comes psychological tests; structure, reliability and validity. He also claims that the instrument has gained its popularity due to promotion and publicity, not on its reliability and validity as some might say.

Ring, Barbara P. (2008). “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Research Report”. http://personalityinstitute.tripod.com/mbtiresearchreport.htm

The report is on the MBTI®. It makes a brief introduction to the instrument and the theory behind it, but the main focus of it is discussing development issues, structural, reliability and validity, and how it is used in practic. The report introduces other factors when it comes to the development issues than Pittenger in his report and they are very interesting to read over and compare.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Geraldi J., Oehmen J. and Thuesen C. (2017) "How to DO Projects". DTU Management
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (2017). http://www.myersbriggs.org/
  3. Ring, Barbara P. (2008) "Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Research Report". http://personalityinstitute.tripod.com/mbtiresearchreport.htm
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sofia University. (2017). "Carl Jung". http://www.sofia.edu/our_team/carl-jung/
  5. Myers, Isabel Briggs with Peter B. Myers. (org. edt. 1980, reprinted 1995) "Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type"
  6. 16 Personalities (2017) . https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types
  7. 7.0 7.1 Pittenger, David J. (1993) "Measuring the MBTI... And Coming Up Short". http://www.indiana.edu/~jobtalk/HRMWebsite/hrm/articles/develop/mbti.pdf
  8. Team Technology. (2017) "Myers Briggs Criticisms". http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/myers-briggs-criticisms.html
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