The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality test based on Carl Jungs psychological theory. It is widely used in companies for team building, as well as for marriage counselling. This paper looks at how accurately the MBTI test can predict the group dynamics of a student household. Nine students sharing the same household took the test. The results show an accurate prediction of the student’s attitudes (Introversion/Extraversion), as well as their preference for the way they approach their external life (Judging/Perceiving).
Some researchers (Mccaulley, 1990) argue that the MBTI is “just another fad”. However, evidence in support of this personality test has not ceased to appear. The MBTI was developed by Katherine Myers and Isabel Briggs. The MBTI was developed to be used on non-clinical populations. Its main aim is to indicate the cognitive preferences of a certain individual. It is based on the psychological theory of Carl Gustav Jung who created this theoretical model and tested it in his clinical practice. Jung was interested in the way people consciously use their functions of perception and decision making in everyday life. The theory was discovered by Briggs in 1923, during the period of World War II. It became apparent to her that several people engage in jobs unsuitable for their cognitive functions. After the operationalization of the test, it was thoroughly tested in Briggs’ family for over twenty years. It became ready for use in 1975 and was made available for the public in 1976, by being published in a consulting psychology press.
Nowadays it is widely used for family and group counselling, academic advisement and also career counselling. It is also widely used in management organizations and companies because it can show corporate dynamic. One example of a famous company that uses this test is Apple. (Webb, 1990) The results are used as indicators of a person’s preference for in taking of information, decision making and how they generate energy. Thus, a person’s pattern of communication, intrapersonal skills and several other personality factors can be understood. (Cummings III, 1995) In this paper, the accuracy of the MBTI prediction of a group dynamic of a student household has been analysed. First, an explanation of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types will be given. Secondly, the results along with description of types will be presented. Then, the analysis of the results will follow. It will be focused on communication patterns and conflict handling. The accurate predictions will be depicted along with the imprecise ones. Finally, a discussion will succeed which will contain some limitations as well as some points regarding reliability and validity.
Carl Jung argues there are four cognitive functions. Everyone uses all four dimensions; however, each individual has a stronger preference for one function from each category. The preferred function is used more easily and is what comes naturally to the individual.
The four functions are Intuition (N), Sensing (S), Thinking (T) and Feeling (F). The first two, Intuition and Sensing, are the Perceiving functions, used is the process of assimilation of information. The following two, Thinking and Feeling, are the Judging functions. They are used when making judgments about the perceived information. They are the cognitive functions associated with decision making. People that have a preference for the Perceiving function – Sensing put accent on the concrete things that surround them. They make use of the immediate, practical information that they acquire through their senses. People with a preference for Intuition look for patterns in the information and understand how these patterns might lead to several future outcomes. They use insight as a method to see the development of things. However, insight is a concept not fully understood by researchers to this day. Intuitors can predict how the events will develop but cannot explain how they came up to that conclusion (Webb, 1990). Insight is defined by the Webster Dictionary as “the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively”. Moreover, the Judging function – Thinking indicates a preference for making decisions through a rational process. A logical analysis of causes and effects stays at the basis of the decision process. The opposing function – Feeling – implies making a decision based on that individual’s moral values. Through weighing the relative importance of competing alternatives the person judges what is more important in order to satisfy their personal beliefs. These two categories represent the second and third letter of the MBTI. (Pienaar, 2004)
These four functions can be used in two complementary attitudes, extraverted attitude or introverted attitude. Extraversion refers to the fact that a person acquires and spends their energy while engaging with the external environment. The external world inspires and stimulates them. An Introverted attitude characterizes someone who acquires their energy from their inner world. Ideas and concepts are sources of stimulation and are used to understand events. The extraversion/introversion category is represented in the MBTI by the first letter. (Webb, 1990)
Myers and Briggs created an additional category for their test. The orientation towards the extraverted world was an implicit aspect of Jung’s theory and it was made explicit in the MBTI. The orientation toward the external world, symbolized by the fourth letter of the results, is represented by either Judgment or Perception. This fourth category shows which of the two main functions, Perception or Judgment, one uses when dealing with the outside world. People who prefer Judgment make decisions more quickly; enjoy a structured and organized way of living. The ones who prefer Perceiving however, embrace changes, are open to new suggestions and opportunities.
All four categories are polar opposites of each other. Through a forced choice questionnaire format, the MBTI is able to establish the individual’s preference towards one of the poles. (Pienaar, 2004) Each individual receives as a result four letters that indicate their type. There are sixteen different types and each has a dominant function. The dominant function is the one most developed and used more frequently in everyday life. A second function provides balance as an auxiliary. Kuipers, Higgs, Tolkacheva & de Witte (2009) suggested that the dominant function represents the core element of type dynamics. They argue that a person’s main behavioural characteristics are influenced by the dominant cognitive function they possess.
This paper intends to analyse the MBTI test results of a student household. The nine students have individually taken the online test  and provided the results which are as follows: ISFJ, INFJ, INFP, ISFP. Moreover, two persons have received the type ESFJ and three persons have gotten INTJ. This shows that there are a variety of different types and that the predominant attitude is of Introversion, with only two Extraverts. Furthermore, a preference for Feeling as Judging behaviour is present. Also, the predominant approach to the external life is that of Judging, with only two people that use Perception when structuring their way of living.
These types have a different dominant function. The predominant one is Intuition, followed by Feeling. Only one individual has their dominant function Sensing.
We can see that the types that have the dominant function as S (ISFJ) – seek the fullest possible experience of what is immediate and real. Having the dominant function Intuition (INTJ, INFJ) means a person seeks a broad view of the future. A dominant function of Feeling (ESFJ, INFP, and ISFP) implies a way of living characterized by harmony, both among personal values and intrapersonal environment. (Mccaulley, 1990)
Webb (1990) presented a short description of each type. INTJ’s were portrayed as having original minds and a strong motivation oriented towards their ideas and purposes. They are often seen by others as sceptical, determined, independent but also stubborn. ESFJ’s are seen as hearty, frank and decisive. They usually perform well in matters that “require reasoning and intelligent talk”. The ISFJ has been defined as responsible, friendly and conscientious. They are devoted to meet their obligations; they are loyal and considerate. INFJs are characterized by perseverance and originality. They are conscientious, concerned for others; they stay strong by their principles. The ISFP personality type often comes out as friendly, quiet and sensitive. They avoid disagreements and are loyal followers. INFPs are often absorbed by their own ideas and independent projects. They like learning and often pursue too many paths at once.
The analysis of the participant’s results will focus on patterns of communication and behaviour, conflict handling and supportiveness. It will be made by comparing the student’s everyday behaviour with several research findings.
Firstly, communication is one of the things that constitute the pillar of a group dynamic. Research (Berney, 2010) (Webb, 1990) (Filbeck & Smith, 1997) argued that the MBTI can be useful tool to enhance team communication. They suggested that one major problem in communication between types is the fact that people with Extraverted personalities tend to act rather than reflect, which is apparent in their communication patterns. They would rather speak and make their thought known rather than think about their ideas at first. This might make them believe introverts are slow thinkers and disregard their ideas because they are not accustomed to waiting for a thought to be processed before verbalized. At the same time, introverts might consider individuals with extraverted personalities impulsive; they might think extraverts act prematurely and without thinking. Understanding that extraverts think while they speak is an important thing if communication between people with these two attitudes is to be effective.
This pattern of communication is present in the student household analysed. When in a group situation where the two extraverted personalities are present, it is not unusual for them to vocalize their thoughts more than the introverts. As predicted by the type theory, this also created a belief among the Introverts that the two extraverts are “loud and impulsive”. At the same time, it is common to hear from the two ESFJs refer to their household roommates as quiet. This verifies the common misconception that people have when thinking of Introverts vs. Extraverts. (Mccaulley, 1990) Introverts are not “quiet”, but whenever surrounded by extraverts, they prefer to listen rather than talk. This is another point that surfaces among the students. People that are referred to as “quiet” by the extraverts, do talk more when surrounded only by other introverts.
Communication differences can be observed between the objective Thinkers and subjective Feelers as well. Berney (2010) argues that Thinkers might come along as too direct and impersonal when negotiating an issue with Feelers. This is a present occurrence among the group of students analysed. When one of the INTJs is involved in debating an issue with the other Feeling personalities, they are often accused of being too succinct. Questioning each idea and not considering intrapersonal harmony as their main aim is often frowned upon by others. However, a clear, objective view on the matter is also appreciated because it offers a perspective that the Feelers often do no focus on. The thinkers identify the issue clearly and offer potential solutions based on their strengths and weaknesses.
The Judging/Perceiving category also presents itself with different patterns of communication and behaviour (Berney, 2010). Judgers often prefer to live their lives in an organised manner. They prefer structure, which means they would rather complete a task and then relax. Perceivers, on the other hand, are fond of spontaneity and do not value the management of time as strongly. The student unit analysed consists of only two Perceiving personalities, which makes them stand out among the others. Their patterns of behaviour can be observed whenever a group decision has to be made. Obeying to certain rules, deadlines of even following a structured path of tasks is not preferred by the perceivers. When deciding on a matter, they would opt to have more information and time to process it rather than coming to a decision on the spot. This preference for flexibility intervened with the Judgers’ preference for having a cleaning or cooking schedule. (Filbeck & Smith, 1997) (Berney, 2010)
Second of all, unresolved conflict can destroy the harmony of a group. It can result in dissatisfaction, depression and even aggression. However, when conflict is approached from a constructive perspective, it can give birth to new ideas, new solutions and revelations.
Whitworth (2008) argued that personality is the underlying cause of behaviour and behaviour is what causes conflict. Conflict can be seen as a clash of power against power, it take place whenever two people want to obtain something they both cannot have. The relationship between personality type and conflict-handling styles has been tested. The results show that there is no preferred method of dealing with conflict across different types. However, cooperativeness is a factor that influences conflict. Cooperation between types, which can be influence by the Judging function, is based on mutual understanding. The study shows that the collaborative style is the most effective in conflict solving. A cooperative style implies that the two parts work together to find a solution. Moreover, individuals can compromise; they can address issues directly and seek a middle ground position. However, it has been shown that regardless of personality type, the preferred conflict solving style is avoidance.
In a student household, there can be several triggers for conflict. Privacy, personal boundaries, cleaning and sharing of facilities often become focus points of disputes. Similarly to research results (Whitworth, 2008), the preferred conflict-handling style among the household residents is avoidance. Avoiding an issue, however, has rarely led to a definite solution. This forced the students to utilize a different approach. Compromise has been the conflict handling style that has been adopted in those situations. Compromise has a high chance of being effective in this particular group because the majority of the members strive for harmonious interpersonal relationships. This leads them to understand the desires and points of view of others and reach a compromise in times of dispute.
It has been shown that few personality types have a strong impact on team dynamic. These are the types that often cause controversy or help the group reach its goals. (Kuipers, Higgs, Tolkacheva, & de Witte, 2009) The three types that were found to exhibit an influence and are present in the student household are: ISFJ, ESFJ and INFP. The two types, ISFJs and ESFJs, have a positive impact on group dynamic because they reinforce rules, act patiently, offer support and create a positive atmosphere for work. INFP types are likely to spend more time reflecting rather than acting. Their personal values are not easily adaptable to different circumstances which can have a negative impact on external relations. This finding is consistent to the student situation analysed. The individual with the ISFJ type is the one more likely to assume responsibility on organisational matters. Different schedules for group activities or use of facilities were reinforced by the person with the ISFJ personality type. Moreover, the INFP person does not obey to rules. This often pushes him to disregard what others have decided. He would prefer a more spontaneous, open way of living. The structured environment put forward by the ISFJ has often been challenged by both the INFP’s behaviour and actions.
Thirdly, supportiveness is another important process for group dynamics. (Kuipers, Higgs, Tolkacheva, & de Witte, 2009). It has been suggested that Feeling personalities show empathy and support more often than the clear and objective types. This hypothesis is not present in the student group analysed. It is important to keep in mind that the only people that have a preference for the Thinking function are the three INTJs. There does not seem to be a difference in the level of supportiveness expressed among the group members. Everyone seems to have encouraging and benevolent words for whoever needs them. No reluctance from the INTJs’ part has been observed in this matter.
In conclusion, an amalgam of different personality types can create a harmonious environment. Opposite types can complement each other and use their different skills to approach problems. (Webb, 1990) Behaviour and group dynamics are complex issues that depend of several variables which makes them extremely difficult to predict. The Myers-Briggs type indicator can give an accurate general prediction of the group dynamic of a student household. However, external factors have a great influence on the student interactions and can disrupt the otherwise natural course of events. The principal factors the MBTI was able to predict were patterns in communication. Moreover, an accurate forecast was made regarding the fourth category of a type. The behaviour associated with the J-P scale has been consistently predicted by the test
Although the MBTI is widely used among non-clinical populations, there are several factors that might influence its results and the interpretation of them. These factors could have influenced the results of the students that took the test, which would constitute a limitation of the paper.
One of these factors is represented by a process of falsification which might interfere with the way everyone answers the questionnaire. Falsification refers to the environmental pressures caused by the society or family on the individual. MCcaulley (1990) argues that this process might divert a person’s preferred path of cognitive development and influence the test results.
Another factor which might constitute a limitation of this paper is that it has been shown that only a few personality types have a strong influence on team dynamics. (Kuipers, Higgs, Tolkacheva, & de Witte, 2009) Moreover, the MBTI’s prediction of team development was weak. Another strong issue with the MBTI test and group analysis surfaces from the fact that the test measures types rather than traits. It uses a continuous scale and it is built around a bimodal distribution or preference scores. Thus, two different individuals can share a personality type but have different percentage scores for each category.
Gender and culture might also constitute a point of interference with the results. Studies (Williams & Tappan, 1995) have shown that gender can be a determining factor in whether or not a person is an internal or external processor. Men are more likely to use internal processors than women. Moreover, the student household consists of a total of eight different nationalities. No studies have been made testing whether the cultural influence on a person interferes with the MBTI. Nonetheless, it is a factor worth mentioned.
Questions about how reliable and valid a personality test is always come to researchers’ minds. The validity and reliability of the MBTI has been a controversial topic since its release. Some have argued against its empirical build. However, it has been proven on several occasions that the MBTI satisfies both requirements of validity and reliability. Carlson (1989) argues that the test presents satisfactory test-retest and internal reliability. Moreover, favourable measurements of validity have been made across a variety of studies. (Kuipers, Higgs, Tolkacheva, & de Witte, 2009) (Lorr, 1991)also had significant results when testing the MBTI’s test-retest and split half reliability. What is more, the Type Indicator shows significant correlations with other personality instruments. Studies have agreed that even though it is a valid personality test, it remains only a moderate predictor of behaviour. Further research was recommended.