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History of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator Test

Updated on January 1, 2012

Personality Type through Personality Testing

What is personality, and why is it so important? Personality determines a great deal: what kind of job, husband, wife, occupation and home you will prefer. No one knows how we became the way we are, and most agree that we cannot change ourselves too much. To know one's natural traits and talents, many employers and employees willingly choose to take take a personality test.

The most famous quiz, which has been used for over half a century is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The Meyers-Briggs (Personality) Type Indicator (or MBTI) was developed from 1917 to 1962, and was based upon the theories of Phychological Type by psychology pioneer Carl Jung at around 1910. His concepts formed the backbone of the test, which was further developed by its American founders, Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Meyers.

Its first wide-scale application was in helping women coming to work in the munitions factories during World War II. Many of these women had never been commercially employed. The test was of great assisstance in assimilating their responses to see where they would have the best personality and task-related fit in their work environments.

Isabel Briggs Meyers later introduced the test to college students entering the work force for the first time. The test became a household word at this time. The test was timely for this particular era since women began entering the workplace in great numbers and simultaneously baby boomers began to seek out employment, a huge wave of employment. Using statistical analysis, its purpose was to help determine how and where the applicants' existing strengths could help create a good job fit.

Sixteen possible combinations exist, based on the rational (judging) functions and the irrational (perceiving) functions. Using an initial to abbreviate each term, the types are sorted according to the test participants' natural preferences. Just as a right handed person prefers to write with the right hand, these preferences are considered natural to the person's innate personality and would be difficult to continue for long in an unnatural way.

The classifications are as follows:

I – Introvert versus E- Extrovert

Introverts are thought oriented, while Extroverts are action oriented

T – Thinking versus F – Feeling

Making judgments (known as rational decision making) is based on Thinking or Feeling preferences. A person with a Feeling preference would “feel better“ in one environment over another, whereas a person with a Thinking preference would most likely write a list of pros and cons before making a decision.

S – Sensing versus N- Intuitive

Making perceptions (known as irrational decision making) is determined by sensing or through intuition.

T – Thinking versus J - Judging

The last letter indicates how the person interacts with the outside world, like their outside label. The final result is a chain classification like ENFJ or ITST.

There are no “good“ types or a “not so good“ types. All types are good – just different. Knowing how you fall into the spectrum of personalities enables a person to make a better choice as to what professions would be a good fit for his/her personality, and have a better chance of finding enjoyable work in which he would most naturally succeed.

Today, the MBTI is administered over two million times a year, and it has been translated into sixteen languages.

Katherine Cook Briggs - pioneer

Job Test - Finding one's Assets

Katherine Cook Briggs was an educated woman, and was fascinated by a variety of subjects. As a young child, her father worked at a University, and Katherine's mother home schooled young Katherine. She was very well educated, beginning college at age 14, and similarly home-schooled her own daughter, Isabel, who majored in political science. When her daughter Isabel decided to marry Clarence "Chief" Myers "an admirable young man" with a decidedly different personality than anyone else in their family, Katherine decided to look into personality theory.

Her studies paralleled that of Carl Gustav Jung, famous psychology pioneer. In fact, his studies exceeded hers, but since she was using her studies for practical purposes, her work was actually more important. She created the bridge between psychological theory and practical application, which would make many of Jung's findings applicable to everyday situations.

Since Katherine Cook Briggs had no psychological education, she went to work as an apprentice for Hay's consulting firm, one of the first personnel placement agencies in the country, located near their home outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From Hay, she learned about statistical sampling, testing, and questionnaires.

The test was created and refined. In 1942 it was administered to would-be Rosie the Riveters, housewives employed to manufacture munitions and artillery for the U.S. war effort in WWII.

Her daughter Isabel took over her work completely, which she continued until her death in 1980.

Carl Jung in 1910


Personality test

What are my talents?

There are sixteen personality combinations, based on the extrovert, introvert classifications, then the rational and irrational decisions and how those decisions are reflected in the outside world.

The sixteen pieces are as follows:

E- extrovert

I - introvert

N - intuitive

T - thinking

S - sensing

J - judging

P - perceiving

The first initial is for extrovert or introvert classification.

The second initial is for rational decision making. Do you base decisions on your head or your heart, in other words? The third initial is for irrational decision making, do you sense something or perceive it to be so? Remember, in this test there are no right or wrong answers, its intention is to see where your personal preferences lie. The last initial on the chain is how the individual is perceived by his or her environment. For example, you may find that you are an E-N-F-J extroverted, intuitive, feeling and judging person.

IS IT EJ - Inspector

IS IF EJ - Protector

IN IF EJ - Counselor

IN IT EJ - Mastermind

IS ET IP - Crafter

IS EF IP - Composer

IN EF IP - Healer

IN ET IP - Architect

ES ET IP - Promoter

ES EF IP - Performer

EN EF IP - Champion

EN ET IP - Inventor

ES IT EJ - Supervisor

ES IF EJ - Provider

EN IF EJ - Teacher

EN IT EJ - Fieldmarshal

These are some possible job matches by type.

What about you? Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs? Were you satisfied with the results - do you think it was accurate?

Sigmund Freud used this couch during his early psychotherapy sessions
Sigmund Freud used this couch during his early psychotherapy sessions | Source

Self help


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    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Yes, the results of the test can be really fascinating, like some kind of secret code. Thanks for sharing - imagine, singing your name ;)

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      The background info is really interesting. Pat used to have a job with an organisation that loved testing - she is an INTJ. According to the list, that makes her a mastermind (we never noticed!)

      Tricia worked for an organisation that went in for group training - her most memorable session started with each person being asked to "sing" their name.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      TwinTimes2 - Since you gave your codes I looked them up:

      INTP - Architect

      ESFP - Performer

      ISTJ - Inspector

      and I am an ENFP. Maybe the members of our group should all take the Meyers'Briggs, it would be fun to see where we all fall out. Thanks for the comment and the follow. Just wondering, how do you find time to write hubs with two sets of twins? All the best to you, ECAL

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi MyEsoteric, Croatia is the California of the Balkans (maybe of Europe itself) with forests, beaches, sea and an amazing ancient culture. I have many hubs on this with videos to help you prepare for your trip :) Interesting how the Meyers-Briggs gives the same result, time and again - there must be something to it LOL! Thanks for reading and commenting, ECAL

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      I enjoyed this hub. It made me take a Meyers-Briggs test again. Curious if I have changed or evolved...still an ISTJ! Fun read...thanks!

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Good hub, EuroCafe; I am a believer as well and use MBTI at my company. I find it very accurate, it descibes me (INTP) and my business partner (ESFP) to a Tee.

      BTW, I have Croatia on my list of places to visit someday. I have come close a couple of times on my government trips, Italy and Slovakia. I have also run into several of your countrymen and women on Carnival Cruise lines.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      I was sorry to hear, Kate, that the personality test was used against its initial purpose! Really unfortunate! In reading of these two women's philosophies, it was repeated over again how no ideal personality exists, and in short, the test is not a pass - or fail. It is simply to help the taker get orientation where he or she belongs in the rainbow of variations.

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 6 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thanks, Ms Dee, for the positive feedback on the test and info on the second phase of its development. Great info. :)

    • kateperez profile image

      kateperez 6 years ago from pasadena, tx

      I put very little stock in any personality inventory. I've learned about them, too, being an advanced psych student.

      The personality inventories that I have been compelled to take have not been utilized properly and I was niched into a specific category, my entire usefulness, value, and personality were not given proper attention.

      When poorly informed people are given opportunity to learn about the "personality types" of their employees, it can become a race to prove that you are more than what the test conveys.

      I guess it has its merits, but I am more than what a personality inventory tells others I am.

      Good hub, however, very well written, addressed, and structured. You should be commended for an excellent write-up and I am voting this up.


    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      I love the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator and became a certified provider some years ago. The application of the theory has helped me tremendously in understanding the perspectives of different people. It is accurate so many times (I use it in my work) and there is an expanded version of the MBTI called the Step II. It breaks down each of the four dichotomies into five more subcategories or areas. For example, even though I am a Judging type (the last letter) there is one area in which I prefer more to Perceive than to make Judgments. I highly recommend the Step II for even further understanding of oneself.