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The flaws with personality testing
by David L. Mount

One should be careful when interpreting the results of a personality test. Just because someone tests one way does not necessarily mean that they are that way. People are made up by a combination of several personality traits. There also is the chance of incorrectly labelling a person. Employers should be aware ...
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C7 Being an MBTI practitioner accredited on both sides of the Atlantic I'd like to have a go at clarifying this issue. Let me summarize what I read in the article and in some of the prior postings as "The type descriptions are stereotyping certain aspects of human behaviour which triggers the perception in people's mind that the MBTI is labelling them and attempts to make their personality fit into one of 16 boxes". In my experience this is by far the most common negative comment about the instrument and I hear it quite frequently during the workshops I conduct. Virtually all of my discussions with people having that perception clearly show a common source of origin. Most of them became sceptics or plain non-believers because of some past experience that provided them with varying degrees of knowledge about MBTI and about Type. Unfortunately, most of them are unaware that it originated from what I would in general terms call "Misusage or unethical use of the MBTI". Others formed their opinion from literature about the instrument but don't realize that whatever they read was based on inaccurate or at least outdated information. To give one example, recently a trainee told me he had read on Wikipedia ( that several researchers have expressed their concerns about the validity, reliability and utility of the indicator. When I checked this I soon found out that all of the Wiki postings came from literature that referred to a version of the MBTI dating from 1985, which meanwhile has been updated and improved several times. But situations like this are usually easy to rectify by providing the sceptic the correct information. This is not the case when misuage or unethical use occurs. In most instances this happens when people have been exposed to or have received training on the MBTI from a practitioner who is not qualified and who had not been accredited by the official governing bodies such as CPP in the US or OPP in Europe. A properly accredited practitioner will avoid stereotyping in all possible ways when giving descriptions about the 16 types. He will e.g. not talk about "Thinkers" or "Sensers" because this kind of language indeed puts a label on someone's forehead. Instead he will speak about "someone with a preference for Thinking" or "a person inclined to rely on his Sensing function". Also, an accredited practitioner will never allow his client to use the MBTI as a tool for hiring people and it would be impossible for his client to do so because our code of conduct strictly prescribes that someone's MBTI-profile must be revealed only to the individual who completed the indicator and to nobody else. Besides that, the MBTI is useless as a tool for hiring because it was not designed for that purpose and it doesn't measure talent, nor skills, nor competences, nor anything else in that field. It shows what someone's preferences are, but not how good or bad he is at something or another. Someone's MBTI-profile may e.g. say that this person has a clear preference for iNtuiting, but if you thought that's what you're looking for in an applicant and you hire him on the basis of his profile you might be making a big mistake because despite his preference for iNtuiting he might be very lousy at it! Other forms scepticism I frequently encounter are caused by people having completed imitations or popularised versions of the MBTI instead of the official questionnaire. I refer to the zillions of magazines and websites that take advantage of the growing popularity of the instrument and grab it as an opportunity to boost their sales figures. With slogans like "Answer these 20 questions and find out who you really are" they want to make the excercise look not too difficult or time consuming and they do attract high numbers of willing candidates. I've taken a few myself just to see what they are like and I shiver when I think back about the kind of profile reports I would get afterwards. It's not surprising that someone who has done one of these thinks the MBTI is stereotyping! On a closing note let me say this to the moderator making a comment about posting C6. The author of this posting may not have articulated his point very clearly but nevertheless he's right in most of what he's saying. Whenever someone voices their concern that the MBTI allegedly tries to put a person into one of 16 boxes, this is how I try to difuse that. I tell people to look at it as if you were living in a house with 16 rooms. During any given day you visit all the rooms and spend time in all of them, less time in some and more time in others. Some rooms you'll go to often or you'll pass through them on your way to another room and other places you'll visit only when you have to and the time you spend in each room may vary a lot from day to day. But there will be one room where you spend most of your time and that will be the one where you feel most comfortable or relaxed and at ease and that will be what you'd call your preferred room. The MBTI says exactly the same thing. During any given day, depending the circumstances we all behave like everyone of the 16 types. But there is one that we naturally gravitate towards, one that fits us better than the other 15 and that is our preferred type. Sorry for this long posting but I hope it was helpful. -- Marc
C8 First of all, the MBTI is not meant to be used in selection situations. The technical manual even goes so far as to say this and it is generally used for teambuilding. So the company you applied to was misusing the test. Another major issue with the MBTI is that it is an ipsative measure, meaning that it forces you to choose between two options when you might agree with both. Ipsitive measures are generally bad and this is likely the reason you disagree with your results - you may have been right in the middle on many of the options, yet you were forced to choose one (I have this problem on the E/I portion - I'm stuck right in the middle and sometimes I flip one way or the other depending on the day). Also, it is not really a "personality test" per se. It is a "type indicator" and is based in entirely different theory than trait-based personlity testing. While it is true that there are some poorly constructed tests out there, there are many more that have been shown to predict job performance and have very little adverse impact (discrimination against minorities). As such, companies have come to rely on them to help determine who would be the best person for the job even with the potential issues. I have kind of a hard time believing that the hiring person actually told your friend they thought that he might embezzle from the company though. That is not usually the kind of information a person would give out. I imagine that there were other traits your friend had that made them not suited for the job as well. Finally, your comment that there is no hard evidence that personality tests actually measure personality is completely false. The major personality tests out there (HPI, CPI, etc) have gone through rigorous construct validation processes to ensure not only that they do measure different personality traits, but also that they are related to job performance when criterion validated against the job in question. -- Anonymous
C9 If I may, I think the author of the artical could be an estj. Your article seems to aspire this perfect letter combination that would peg your personality to a tee. It is easy to get a "wrong" result, because there could be so many factors going wrong each time the test is taken. Moreover, the taker can easily see how their answers will influence their result and manipulate it accordingly. Plus, there's the potential that the taker might not even be aware of their true preferences. I presume that judging people are usually more clear regarding their preferences, but that might not be the case either. I claim that you are an estj, because their hidden agenda is to be perfect, and confidently believe in published items as if facts can hold up the sky. Please don't feel offended since this is only a vague guess that I would put 40% of confidence upon. However, I gather you'd not be a pure "stereotypical" estj since you seem to hold a great amount of interest in the the theoritical playfield of socionis. Finally, I agree with much of what you mentioned. I like to add on the typing among many things in life cannot be distinct like black and white, and maybe it's slightly better to leave it as a intriguing mystery.:P -- the mad hatter
C10 @ C9: NO, the author of the article CAN'T be an estj. an intj thinks about truth und likes speculations. an estj hates thinking about truth without making money and also hates speculations. i don't think ANY estj can be interested in Socionics or MBTI because you don't earn a lot of money with it and you have to speculate about other people's types.. -- INTj
C11 He could be anything, isn't that the point. Probably not. -- Anonymous
C12 So basically FORGET EVERYTHING!! We're only polluting ourselves from the only thing we know for sure - nothing. -- Th
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