Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Myers Briggs Foundation discourages the use of the test for hiring and firing.

American author Annie Murphy Paul.  Her 2006 book, The Cult of Personality, claims personality tests are leading us to miseducate our children, mismanage our companies and misunderstand ourselves.

Like many personality tests, MBTI is based on the work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who, together with Sigmund Freud, laid the foundations of modern psychology. Jung developed the idea of opposed pairs of character traits which are present in all of us and suggested that in each pair we each have a natural preference. 

It came into being thanks to an awkward relationship between a woman and her future son-in-law. Katherine Briggs, a wealthy housewife from Washington DC, realised Clarence Myers was a good catch when her daughter Isabel brought him home from college. He seemed like a nice young man, but his way of thinking was so alien to her that she turned to books for help.

Jung's Psychological Types fascinated her and became what she described as her "Bible". Soon, Isabel was infected by her mother's enthusiasm. Over two decades, the pair became avid "type watchers".  Jung only identified eight personality types, but Isabel Briggs Myers eventually doubled that number. Everybody can be described by four letters chosen out of a total of eight, she says.

The Myers Briggs Foundation discourages the use of the test for hiring and firing, seeing it primarily as a means of getting employees to think about how they interact with colleagues and work as a team.

"We don't like its use for selection because it's not an assessment of skills and abilities," says Jeff Hayes from the San Francisco-based Myers-Briggs publishing company, CPP.

"But we can't police that in every circumstance because it is used all over the world."

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