Personality Assessment Instrument Critique of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Term Paper

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Myers Briggs

Evaluating the Myers Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, introduced in 1943 by the social scientists from which it draws its name and revised frequently thereafter, is a questionnaire-based instrument designed to provide personality profiling data on its respondents. As the discussion hereafter will demonstrate, it can be used to produce useful general personality trait outlooks or for diagnostic purposes where mental illness may be present.

Characteristics, Uses and Purposes:

At its root, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is designed to reflect the core personality dichotomies initially conjectured by Karl Jung. These denote that in four separate personality trait characteristics, the MBTI can be used to determine where a respondent will fall along a particular spectrum. Accordingly, the document by Briggs & Myers (1983) asserts the primary impetus for its design. Here, Briggs & Myers explain that "The instrument was designed to implement Jung's theory of type as understood by the test author. In keeping with this theory, the manual asserts that the MBTI is not trying to measure people, but to SORT them into groups. The instrument consists of four separate dichotomies or indices: Extroversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judgment-Perception." (Briggs & Myers, p. 1)

Among the core purposes of the instrument is its usefulness in either categorizing personalities in a general way or in comparison to those already presenting with some form of psychological disorder. The latter purpose is demonstrated in such research endeavors as that conducted by Janowsky et al. (2000), in which two distinct populations are profiled using the MBTI. Here, drawing from a 'normative population' of 55,971 respondents and from a 24 personal population sample of individuals who had been hospitalized with Major Depressive Disorder, the study by Janowsky et al. demonstrates one of the practical purposes of the Indicator. Namely, the article shows that MBTI can help to distill key characteristics where a normative baseline can be established as distinct from the index demonstrated such samples as the Major Depressive Disorder group here. In pursuit of this finding, Janowsky et al. hypothesize that "social phobia patients would be more introverted than individuals in a normal (normative) population. We also hypothesized that social phobia patients would be even more introverted than a comparison group of major depressive disorder patients, a group which has been shown previously to be relatively more introverted than normal controls." (Janowsky et al., p. 122) According to Janowsky et al., on the trait index relating to introversion and extraversion, one can draw a close parallel between this incarnation of the Major Depressive Disorder and respondent proclivities. In confirmation of its hypothesis, the study finds that patients presenting with social phobia tend to display a 93.7% proclivity toward introversion as compared to a baseline normative tendency of 46.2%. (Janowsky et al., p. 121) This is a useful demonstration of the way that the MBTI can be used to draw certain usable conclusions in identifying core traits relating to certain personality disorders.

Relationship to Theories of Personality:

According to Briggs & Myers, the Type Indicator is designed with particular compatibility to Jung's Type Theory of Personality. This theory states that individuals can be generally categorized according to an array of personality trait permutations and that these permutations may inform some understanding of the balance of defining personality characteristics. From these, in turn, it is possible to make any number of observations about how the individual respondent formulates his or her identity, actions, decisions, personal relationships and emotional responses. The article by Briggs & Myers finds that "According to type theory, an individual's four preferences or dichotomies interact. Given the four dichotomies, 16 different four-letter types are possible. An INTJ, for example, is an introvert who is intuitive, thinking, and judging. For each of the 16 types, a description is provided which distinguishes it from the others." (Briggs & Myers, p. 2)

Diagnostic Implications:

In many ways, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is distinct from other personality-measuring instruments because it is not inherently intended for diagnostic purposes. This is not to argue that the instrument cannot be used to make certain diagnostic observations. However, as is demonstrated in the article by Francis et al. (2007), the MBTI differs from a number of its counterpart instruments because it does not set out to measure indexes of psychological distress, dissonance or disorder. Francis et al. resolve this when comparing the model to the short-form Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. This latter instrument is designed to produce indexes relating to levels of anxiety, neuroticism and psychopathology. In the course of their comparative research, Francis et al. determine that there are correlative values in the two differing instruments and that some level of proportional correlation may exist between the diagnostic outcomes produced by the Eysenck instrument and specific trait combinations in the MBTI. This means that certain trait combinations may be used to predict higher risk for some of the diagnostic possibilities represented by Eysenck.

Still, it is important here to identify the core distinction of the MBTI among personality measuring instruments. Francis et al. indicate that "the model of personality proposed by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator differs from those proposed by Eysenck and Eysenck (1975), Cattell, Eber, and Tatsuoka (1970), Costa and McCrae (1985), and by Eysenck, Wilson, and Jackson (1999) . . .., the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator model does not set out to provide a total description of human personality but rather to assess a priori defined mental processes. For example, there is nothing in the model that purports to be explicitly concerned with individual differences in emotionality, anxiety, or psychopathology. Specifically, there is nothing that maps theoretically onto the notion of neuroticism." (Francis et al., p. 260)

That said, as hinted at in the aforementioned study by Janowsky et al. (2000), the Indicator may be sued to draw meaningful personality comparisons between two distinct populations. In the above-noted article, a comparison between a normative population and a sample population presenting with a depressive disorder would demonstrate the capacity of the MBTI to connect the latter population with notably high indexes in certain trait categories. This hints at the diagnostic value of the MBTI working independently from other personality and assessment instruments. The study by Janowsky et al. (1999) reinforces this value by employing the MBTI to assess personality trait distinctions between two distinct sample populations presenting with different psychological diagnoses. Here, Janowsky et al. (1999) use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to find type patterns as they relate to individuals with Unipolar Depression (synonymous with the Major Depressive Disorder measured in Janowsky et al. [2000]) and as they relate to individuals with Bipolar Depression. The study would cite as its main objective the interest of determining what personality traits among those measured by the MBTI might be used to distinguish one form of depressive disorder from the other. Accordingly, the study carries an imperative inherently aimed at improving the diagnostic capabilities of mental healthcare providers seeking prime determinants distinguishing bipolar and unipolar sufferers from one another. According to Janowsky et al. (1999), the MBTI serves as particularly valuable for a comparative study of this nature because it measures characteristics found in baseline normative populations but also measurable across a broad spectrum of variances in non-normative populations. In comparing two non-normative populations, researchers point out that "the MBTI traditionally uses single categorical or combinations of categorical dimensions (i.e., one is either an extrovert or an introvert). However, MBTI dimensions can be represented on a continuum (i.e., the range from most extroverted to the most introverted, expressed as a continuum score." (Janowsky et al., p. 100)

Psychometric Properties:

The studies collected for evaluation in the discussion here above reveal some of the psychometric properties of the MBTI and, in doing so, underscore its core flexibility. The indication that the MBTI can be used to…

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