HomeOpinionSchools waste time using Myers-Briggs

Schools waste time using Myers-Briggs

Published Nov. 9, 2022

By JEAN LEWELLEN

Many students would say deliberating between future career paths comes with a lot of stress. Carmel High School students may remember taking a period off and taking personality tests on the college and career support platform Naviance to deep dive into the career options best suited to them. The personality categories on this platform are those of the most widely acclaimed personality assessment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, with approximately 2 million tests taken annually. 

The inspiration for these tests was psychologist Carl Jung, who released his book “Psychologische Typen” in 1921 where he discusses his theories of personality, organizing them into 16 categories. This is where the issues of scientific validity begin. In his book “C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters,” Jung explains his findings are purely anecdotal and did not use any controlled studies. 

According to the Myers-Briggs Company, Jung’s concepts were developed into a test by the mother-daughter duo of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, who while having college education, lack background in psychology. The testing of their “type indicator” began in 1942 with the purpose of helping women in war time find job opportunities best suited to them. 

Despite their intention, the test was a total contradiction to Jung’s warnings, its purpose quite literally being to assign people a category. The questions that determine results working in the ultimate binary of agreement or disagreement, only some using a scale between the two. Both options, however, lack room for contextual influences.

In fact, according to a study by Dr. David J. Pittenger, psychometric researcher and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Marshall University, around 50% of people who retake the test receive a different result even if just five weeks later.

Eventually control of the test was transferred in 1975 to Consulting Psychologists Press Inc., which now earns approximately $20 million annually from the test as well as the off-shoot products developed in its wake. While CPP’s board has three leading psychologists, all refuse to use the test or its principles in their own work. One of these members, Stanford psychologist Carl Thoresen, said in a 2012 interview with the Washington Post that “it would be questioned by my academic colleagues.”

Despite lack of credibility in findings and consistency in practice, these tests remain popular and are upheld by public institutions as a seemingly scientific tool. While there is no harm in using these tests as a tool of self exploration, continuing to promote them without any pretext as to the theories they were built upon is a prime example of the importance of skepticism.

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