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Psychometrics Spotlight: Myers-Briggs


Over the next few weeks we’ll be examining the relative merits of the range of psychometric tests on the market; this week the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is put under the spotlight.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality questionnaire was developed by the mother and daughter team, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. They based the questionnaire on the theory of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, in order to provide understanding of people and appreciation of the differences between them.

Following more than 50 years of research and development the MBTI questionnaire is now the most widely used personality questionnaire in the world, with more than 3.5 million questionnaires completed worldwide each year. It is available in 19 languages and there are more than 13,000 qualified MBTI practitioners throughout Europe.

The MBTI questionnaire is designed to recognise that everybody has preferred ways of processing information and making decisions. Although people can adapt these styles when required, they will be at their most comfortable and effective when able to use their preferred choices.

When people use the results to understand each other’s preferences, they can prevent misunderstanding and miscommunication. For example, you may be frustrated by a colleague who seems to focus on small details when you are describing a new idea. By understanding more about their personality you may well find that it is by asking these questions that they can best visualise your idea.

These preferences are represented by four dimensions including:

  • Extroverted/Introverted

  • Whether you gain more energy from the company of others or from being by yourself.
  • Sensing/Intuitive

  • Whether you focus on individual details or the overall picture when learning new information.
  • Thinking/Feeling

  • Whether you are ruled more by the head or the heart when making decisions.
  • Judging/Perceiving

  • Whether you prefer to prepare a more structured or relaxed approach to performing tasks.

From these, a four letter code or ‘Type’ is produced and there are sixteen possible combinations of these. The unique combination of preferences within each type provides a deeper picture of the individuals preferred approach in a number of settings.

There are many applications of the MBTI questionnaire, both occupational and non-occupational, and these include:

  • Individual development

  • You can learn about your preferred working style and use this understanding to be more effective. For example, if you enjoy bouncing ideas off other people you can arrange a brainstorming session at the start of new projects.
  • Career development

  • Understanding how you prefer to work can be a powerful indicator of the work that will suit you. For example, understanding that you like to work on your own can immediately focus the list of ideal occupations.
  • Organisational development

  • Organisations can look at the overall type of their company and the individual departments, based on a collation of individual types. This enables them to better understand the culture of the company, which can be of help on such areas as implementing change.
  • Management and leadership development

  • Individuals can identify areas outside of their preferences, which they may need to develop to become more successful at managing and leading.
  • Problem solving

  • The MBTI questionnaire can help individuals and teams to see which important aspects of their interpersonal interactions they tend to neglect. If for example the majority of the team is ‘big picture’ focused, awareness of this can be a reminder that they still need to focus on details.
  • Team building

  • Much conflict can arise within teams that lack self-awareness. The MBTI questionnaire provides a framework through which members of a team can increase their understanding of each other. They can then adapt their approaches accordingly.
  • Relationship counselling

  • The same insights that help teams to work together effectively can be used to improve the quality of interactions within relationships.

It is important to note however that the MBTI questionnaire is not appropriate for use in a selection context. Although it shows people’s preferred choices, it recognises that people are able to adapt when necessary. It also does not provide insight into how well someone performs within their preferences. Other instruments have been developed for use in selection, such as the 16PF questionnaire, and it is important to use questionnaires in the context they were designed for.

Taking the MBTI questionnaire is usually an individual’s first step in discovering their Type, and is not designed to be a stand alone process. It should always be accompanied by a feedback session, allowing whoever is taking it to discuss the results, and to select the Type that they feel provides the ‘best fit’ with their personality. This thereby builds a foundation for further personal awareness and development.

For further information, please contact OPP on 08708 728727 or visit the website at

® MBTI and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trade marks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust. OPP Limited is licensed to use the trade marks in Europe. ® OPP is a registered trade mark of OPP Limited.


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