By Avani Papadopoluos
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test measures psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. However, is it really accurate and justifiable to say that this test can determine your personality?
To answer this, first we have to take a step back and understand what personality is. The Google dictionary definition states that personality is “the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.” It is influenced through both genetic and environmental factors as well as situational and dispositional attribution. Dispositional attribution is where we attribute behavior to the person’s beliefs and motives and situational disposition is where we attribute behavior to the person’s actions during a situation. However, how a person may act in one situation may not be how they act during another. For example, we could say that somebody is quiet in class and sum them up as being an introverted person, but that same person may also love to constantly talk to people outside of class. So how can we define somebody as either introverted or extroverted? Apparently, the Myers-Briggs Personality Test can do that and much more.
After answering all the questions on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, you are given four letters that state your personality type. These letters represent your attitude type, the way you take in information, how you make decisions, and how you deal with the world. This is judged through extraversion (E) or introversion (I); sensing (S) or intuition (N); thinking (T) or feeling (F); judging (J) or perceiving (P).
These qualities can supposedly judge and tell you what specific traits make up your personality. But by the test’s standards, people are limited to specific traits that are supposed to give a concrete depiction of your personality. Such tests box people in, defining them in an orderly fashion, as if personality is really something that can be measured or generalized with computer generated results.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test fails to recognize that personality cannot be concluded in four letters. No individual can perceive or react to everything the same way and they can’t make all their decisions based on either feeling or thought. There will always be times when you do one or the other or even both. Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs cannot define your personality for the rest of your life and can only gather information based on the responses you give, which is limiting in itself.
Additionally, when testing the validity of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, people have found that the results are skewed when taking the test a second time and filling the same answers as they did previously. According to USA Today, “Research has since found that upwards of 50% of people got a different score when they re-took the MBTI just five weeks later.” This only goes to show that the results you get can’t even be trusted.
Another factor the Myers-Briggs Personality Test doesn’t take into account is when the person taking the test lives with a mental illness. Because our behaviors shape our personality and vice versa, mental illnesses influence our personality. With therapy or medication, however, this can change a person’s behaviors and personality, which is something the Myers-Briggs doesn’t have the capability of understanding. Somebody’s personality can be different from what it is when living with a mental illness versus when being treated for it.
Like many other personality tests, the Myers-Briggs limits you to five answer options to a question: “YES, yes, uncertain, no, and NO.” However, I argue that this isn’t an appropriate way to measure personality if the results come out to be so decisive. Instead, I feel that we are a culmination of several traits that may contradict each other at times, but that is what makes us human. Because our attitudes and behaviors influence one another, by that standard, they’re always changing. How we may react to one thing on one day may be different on another because our attitudes and actions are fluid. Therefore, if you want to understand somebody’s personality, the best way would be through spending time and interacting with them, not by making them take an inaccurate personality test and restricting them to a corner.