The Myers Briggs test: Psychology Myth Busting #4

Forth and final in the series of Psychology Myth Busting.

There is something intriguing about the Myers Briggs personality test. Myers Briggs promises to help us understand ourselves and our co-workers. Managers love to use it to allocate staff to projects and teams. It splits people across 4 groups of 2 different personality traits, choose one from each group.

1. 2. 3. 4.
Extroverted
(Expressive)
Sensing
(Observant)
Thinking
(Tough-Minded)
Judging
(Scheduling)
Introverted
(Reserved)
Intuitive
(Introspective)
Feeling
(Friendly)
Perceiving
(Probing)

Result being you get a code, eg Extroverted Sensing Feeling Judging is ESFJ and a way of understanding and communicating who you are.

What’s wrong with Myers Briggs

Everyone loves a pseudo psychology quiz that tells us what Star Wars character we are, or even what type of cheese we are. Buzzfeed have built a whole company around it.

What does Myers Briggs share with a Buzzfeed quiz? No scientific basis.

It was put together in the 1940s by Myers and Briggs, neither of which had any kind of academic or scientific background. It was loosely based on theories from Carl Jung.

The biggest problem is that it pigeon-holes people into binary choices. Either extrovert or introvert. Thinking or feeling. Human behaviour is not that black or white. I’m introvert in the morning when I’ve just woken up and extrovert just after three cups of coffee.

As a UX guy I have to be both thinking and feeling. There is no continuum. You are one thing or another. Read a comprehensive criticism from the Guardian.

The worst part about the test. The Myers Briggs foundation promotes and sells it as a tool to place people in jobs. Some companies use it to salary, bonus, hire and fire people. All with no scientific basis. In short, it’s dangerous bull$hit akin to a religion. (It’s worth saying Scientology’s best recruitment trick is the free psychology test)

In fact the difference in length of our fingers is a better indicator of personality than Myers Briggs. Get the ruler out if you want to understand yourself.

Death to bullshit science

The conclusion, always question psychology theory when it’s applied to design or design people. But then I would say that as I’m a Han-Solo-Camembert-Extroverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging type of guy.

Read the whole series of psychology myth busting and let’s put an end to this junk.

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Favourite of the ad agency
  2. Miller’s number, 7 ± 2 – Haunted by a number
  3. Left Brain / Right Brain – What? You can’t be creative and code?
  4. Myers Briggs – No better than a Buzzfeed quiz

If you want to learn how to evaluate psychology theory and apply it to design and user experience, you should come to one of my workshops. Learn more and sign up to the email list.

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