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Background: MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It's a theory that suggests that people can be divided into 16 types, based on the way they percieve and analyse information (whether they make decisions based on logic or their feel, rely more on intuition or direct sensoric perception, and whether they are more on judging or percieving approach to things happen).

All of these "preferences" are fit into the "consciousness model" in the way, in which you can understand the appearance or behavior of a certain "type" by looking what are the dominating preferences (feeling against thinking, sensoric perception against intuition, judging vs percieving).

For a comprehensive overview, see the wikipedia article on the MBTI. Go here for another discussion of the MBTI.


  • Does the MBTI have a fundamental background?
  • Were there any scientific experiments conducted?
  • Are there any "type" theories that are based on actual brain research?
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Can you expand your question to summarize the key aspects of the theory (to make the question self-contained and to teach readers something from just seeing the question) or at least add a link? –  Artem Kaznatcheev Jul 7 '12 at 16:20
Yes, is the short answer! :) That doesn't mean it's right, of course, just that it's a reasonable theory. Comparing it to the Big Five model is a bit akin to comparing apples and oranges. They've got some things in common because they're both fruit, but designed to do different things. MBTI isn't (for example) attempting to predict behaviour (although it can sometimes be misapplied like that) whereas the Big Five theory doesn't care about what you are like, it is almost entirely concerned with behaviour. Personally, I like the binary model of MBTI... not because I think it's absolutely right, –  user940 Jul 9 '12 at 18:04
Well, the question was: do we have some strong evidence of MBTI dealing with underlying brain structure, or it's just some applied stuff, making no value in understanding human mind. The fact this question was up by itself means that there are some interesting ideas/results provided by MBTI) –  Vasily Sochinsky Jul 9 '12 at 23:11
For a recent follow up on popularity and comparison to other personality theories, there is this new question. –  Artem Kaznatcheev Aug 16 '12 at 2:35
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3 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

From what I remember, the MBTI has been compared in some studies to the Big Five (or OCEAN) model of personality. If you've not heard of it, the Big Five is the primary theory of personality that is accepted by researchers who do this sort of thing. Here are some papers comparing the two approaches:

Recent comparison and another.

The main point is that a number of the MBTI traits are correlated with the Big Five traits, though the MBTI can be criticised for various reasons (e.g., it's binary approach to personality). I think from what I remember is that the main criticism revolves around the fact that the MBTI has no place for neuroticism whereas the Big Five does.

That should be enough to get you started (e.g., reading their intro and seeing where this has been cited). There's also a somewhat useful infographic available here.

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The binary approach of the MBTI is its chief weakness, and likewise one of the strengths of the Five Factor Model is that it assigns individual scores to personality factors rather than dichotomising them. Personality is normally distributed - that is, on the spectrum from introversion to extroversion, most people will be ambiverts with some proportion at either end. Putting people into one of two groups on some given factor is not a useful way to measure personality. –  adb Jul 9 '12 at 11:57
@adb MBTI isn't a binary approach. Although it indicates the type that is favored, all of the texts that I've read indicate that it's only a preference. It's recognized that, in different situations, people will rely on types other than their preference. It also doesn't indicate the strength of preference. –  Thomas Owens Jul 22 '12 at 23:50
@ThomasOwens: The type that is favored is binary for any of the four dichotomies. There is no third possibility. BTW, it may not be invalid to say that nobody is exactly neutral, but it's a waste of information to not even score a person's likelihood of the binary preference based on the amount of evidence supporting one over the other. –  Nick Stauner 10 hours ago
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The MBTI is based on Carl Jung's work with psychological types. However, Jung's work led to the formation of analytic psychology. This work is often associated with clinical observations and anecdotes instead of controlled scientific study. This means that Jung didn't carry out research that can be considered conclusive and scientifically validated. However, I'm not sure if any of his theories can be or have been supported by research done by other people.

That said, the purpose of the MBTI is not to be a scientific theory. Going back to its history, it was meant to determine jobs that would be most suitable for women entering the workforce in the United States during World War II. It's assumed that the person taking the assessment is answering the questions honestly. Also, the MBTI results don't indicate ability or aptitude, but preferences. The MBTI has been used by human resource departments and managers to gain some high level insights into their staff and potential methods for structuring organizations and leading teams. Employees have also used the MBTI for determining possible career directions that they might be more likely to have a preference for.

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It's been used often, yes, but what permits you to say they "gain some high level insights into their staff and potential methods for structuring organizations and leading teams"? Sounds a bit marketing-speak for my ears and as far as I know the MBTI is not particularly useful in an organizational psych. setting, just widespread. –  Ruben Dec 5 '12 at 18:02
@Ruben Some organizations have employees take the MBTI survey and include the results in their records. Managers can use the results to interact more efficiently with their staff by knowing what their MBTI types are. For example, a manager might schedule more frequent (and perhaps shorter) 1-on-1 meetings with extroverts than introverts, who would have less frequent 1-on-1 meetings only when there is something meaningful to discuss. The other type indicators might help in career development, promotion, or identifying potential conflicts or synergies in members of a project team. –  Thomas Owens Dec 5 '12 at 18:12
They might. They might not. I'm saying I haven't heard that it actually improves company outcomes or teamwork. If it did, I'd probably have heard, considering how good they are at marketing their product. I think it's mainly used because people like the type descriptions they get due to the Forer effect. –  Ruben Dec 5 '12 at 18:43
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Well, in terms of results the MBTI may be one of the better instruments out there and it has been used in various research.

But as to if human personality really is made up of 16 personality types..... nope.

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Can you elaborate on your second point a bit? I don't disagree, but backing it up with some details would make this a much better answer. –  Chuck Sherrington Jul 8 '12 at 21:54
It's not about the whole personality divided into 16 types. –  Vasily Sochinsky Jul 9 '12 at 8:56
Can you please provide us with some research you mentioned above? –  Vasily Sochinsky Jul 9 '12 at 23:16
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