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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Definition, Purpose, Precautions, Description, Preparation, Normal results

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a widelyused personality inventory, or test, employed in vocational, educational, and psychotherapy settings to evaluate personality type in adolescents and adults age 14 and older.


In an educational setting, the MBTI may be performed to assess student learning style. Career counselors use the test to help others determine what occupational field they might be best suited for, and it is also used in organizational settings to assess management skills and facilitate teamwork and problem solving. Because the MBTI is also a tool for self-discovery, mental health professionals may administer the test in counseling sessions to provide their patients with insight into their behavior.


The MBTI should only be administered, scored, and interpreted by a professional trained in its use. Cultural and language differences in the test subject may affect performance and may result in inaccurate test results. The test administrator should be informed before testing begins if the test taker is not fluent in English and/or he has a unique cultural background.


In 2000, an estimated two million people took the MBTI, making it the most frequently used personality inventory available. The test was first introduced in 1942, the work of mother and daughter Katharine C. Myers Briggs and Isabel Briggs. There are now several different versions of the test available. Form M, which contains 93 items, is the most commonly used.

The Myers-Briggs inventory is based on Carl Jung's theory of types, outlined in his 1921 work Psychological Types. Jung's theory holds that human beings are either introverts or extraverts, and their behavior follows from these inborn psychological types. He also believed that people take in and process information different ways, based on their personality traits.

The Myers-Briggs evaluates personality type and preference based on the four Jungian psychological types:

  • extraversion (E) or introversion (I)
  • sensing (S) or intuition (N)
  • thinking (T) or feeling (F)
  • judging (J) or perceiving (P)


Prior to the administration of the MBTI, the test subject should be fully informed about the nature of the test and its intended use. He or she should also receive standardized instructions for taking the test and any information on the confidentiality of the results.

Normal results

Myers-Briggs results are reported as a four-letter personality type (e.g., ESTP, ISFJ). Each letter corresponds to an individual's preference in each of the four pairs of personality indicators (i.e., E or I, S or N, T or F, and J or P). There are a total of sixteen possible combinations of personality types on the MBTI.

Letter One: E or I

Extraverts focus more on people and things, introverts on ideas.

Letter Two: S or N

Sensing dominant personalities prefer to perceive things through sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, while intuition dominant types look to past experience and are more abstract in their thinking.

Letter Three: T or F

The third subtype is a measure of how people use judgement. Thinking types use logic to judge the world, while feeling types tend to view things on the basis of what emotions they invoke.

Letter Four: J or P

Everyone judges and perceives, but those who are judging dominant are said to be more methodical and results-oriented, while perceiving dominant personalities are good at multi-tasking and are flexible.



Quenck, Naomi. Essentials of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.


"Identifying How We Think: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Hermann Brian Dominance Instrument." The Harvard Business Review. (July-August 1997) 75, no. 4: 114.


American Psychological Association. Testing and Assessment Office of the Science Directorate. 750 First St., N.E., Washington, DC 20002-4242. (202) 336-6000. <http://www.apa.org/science/testing.html>.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. 1131 Shriver Laboratory Bldg 075, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. (800) 464-3742. <http://www.ericae.net>.

Paula Anne Ford-Martin


Multi-tasking—Performing multiple duties or taking on multiple responsibilities and roles simultaneously.

Vocational—Relating to an occupation, career, or job.

Additional topics

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