Background: MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It's a theory that suggests that people can be divided into 16 types, based on the way they percieve and analyse information (whether they make decisions based on logic or their feel, rely more on intuition or direct sensoric perception, and whether they are more on judging or percieving approach to things happen).

All of these "preferences" are fit into the "consciousness model" in the way, in which you can understand the appearance or behavior of a certain "type" by looking what are the dominating preferences (feeling against thinking, sensoric perception against intuition, judging vs percieving).

For a comprehensive overview, see the wikipedia article on the MBTI. Go here for another discussion of the MBTI.


  • Does the MBTI have a fundamental background?
  • Were there any scientific experiments conducted?
  • Are there any "type" theories that are based on actual brain research?
  • $\begingroup$ Can you expand your question to summarize the key aspects of the theory (to make the question self-contained and to teach readers something from just seeing the question) or at least add a link? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2012 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ Well, in terms of results the MBTI may be one of the better instruments out there and it has been used in various research. But as to if human personality really is made up of 16 personality types..... nope. $\endgroup$
    – user189
    Commented Jul 8, 2012 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, is the short answer! :) That doesn't mean it's right, of course, just that it's a reasonable theory. Comparing it to the Big Five model is a bit akin to comparing apples and oranges. They've got some things in common because they're both fruit, but designed to do different things. MBTI isn't (for example) attempting to predict behaviour (although it can sometimes be misapplied like that) whereas the Big Five theory doesn't care about what you are like, it is almost entirely concerned with behaviour. Personally, I like the binary model of MBTI... not because I think it's absolutely right, $\endgroup$
    – user940
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the question was: do we have some strong evidence of MBTI dealing with underlying brain structure, or it's just some applied stuff, making no value in understanding human mind. The fact this question was up by itself means that there are some interesting ideas/results provided by MBTI) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ For a recent follow up on popularity and comparison to other personality theories, there is this new question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 2:35

4 Answers 4


From what I remember, the MBTI has been compared in some studies to the Big Five (or OCEAN) model of personality. If you've not heard of it, the Big Five is the primary theory of personality that is accepted by researchers who do this sort of thing. Here are some papers comparing the two approaches:

Recent comparison and another.

The main point is that a number of the MBTI traits are correlated with the Big Five traits, though the MBTI can be criticised for various reasons (e.g., it's binary approach to personality). I think from what I remember is that the main criticism revolves around the fact that the MBTI has no place for neuroticism whereas the Big Five does.

That should be enough to get you started (e.g., reading their intro and seeing where this has been cited). There's also a somewhat useful infographic available here.

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    $\begingroup$ The binary approach of the MBTI is its chief weakness, and likewise one of the strengths of the Five Factor Model is that it assigns individual scores to personality factors rather than dichotomising them. Personality is normally distributed - that is, on the spectrum from introversion to extroversion, most people will be ambiverts with some proportion at either end. Putting people into one of two groups on some given factor is not a useful way to measure personality. $\endgroup$
    – adb
    Commented Jul 9, 2012 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ @adb MBTI isn't a binary approach. Although it indicates the type that is favored, all of the texts that I've read indicate that it's only a preference. It's recognized that, in different situations, people will rely on types other than their preference. It also doesn't indicate the strength of preference. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ @ThomasOwens: The type that is favored is binary for any of the four dichotomies. There is no third possibility. BTW, it may not be invalid to say that nobody is exactly neutral, but it's a waste of information to not even score a person's likelihood of the binary preference based on the amount of evidence supporting one over the other. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ The "Big Five" has plenty of criticisms itself, not the least of which is that the five traits are not orthogonal, which calls into question the very idea that it is a useful model of personality. $\endgroup$
    – Attackfarm
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 0:19

The MBTI is based on Carl Jung's work with psychological types. However, Jung's work led to the formation of analytic psychology. This work is often associated with clinical observations and anecdotes instead of controlled scientific study. This means that Jung didn't carry out research that can be considered conclusive and scientifically validated. However, I'm not sure if any of his theories can be or have been supported by research done by other people.

That said, the purpose of the MBTI is not to be a scientific theory. Going back to its history, it was meant to determine jobs that would be most suitable for women entering the workforce in the United States during World War II. It's assumed that the person taking the assessment is answering the questions honestly. Also, the MBTI results don't indicate ability or aptitude, but preferences. The MBTI has been used by human resource departments and managers to gain some high level insights into their staff and potential methods for structuring organizations and leading teams. Employees have also used the MBTI for determining possible career directions that they might be more likely to have a preference for.

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    $\begingroup$ It's been used often, yes, but what permits you to say they "gain some high level insights into their staff and potential methods for structuring organizations and leading teams"? Sounds a bit marketing-speak for my ears and as far as I know the MBTI is not particularly useful in an organizational psych. setting, just widespread. $\endgroup$
    – Ruben
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruben Some organizations have employees take the MBTI survey and include the results in their records. Managers can use the results to interact more efficiently with their staff by knowing what their MBTI types are. For example, a manager might schedule more frequent (and perhaps shorter) 1-on-1 meetings with extroverts than introverts, who would have less frequent 1-on-1 meetings only when there is something meaningful to discuss. The other type indicators might help in career development, promotion, or identifying potential conflicts or synergies in members of a project team. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ They might. They might not. I'm saying I haven't heard that it actually improves company outcomes or teamwork. If it did, I'd probably have heard, considering how good they are at marketing their product. I think it's mainly used because people like the type descriptions they get due to the Forer effect. $\endgroup$
    – Ruben
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 18:43

Absolutely not. And, unlike claimed in other answers, it's about as based on Carl Jung as me whistling out of tune would be "work based on Mozart."

The MBTI was "developed" by a "psychic medium" who read books on Jung and spoke to him twice, much to his chagrin. He later actively avoided her. Furthermore, Jung himself cautioned against using his Personality Types as anything but a foundation for research, as the book and his further writings were based on anecdotes and clinical observation, not research in the scientific sense. He, himself, called it "Eine filosofische Excursio", "a philosophical trip".

The MBTI is an overly simplified pop-sci attempt at a personality inventory. Its type descriptions are written in the form of Barnum texts, texts that most people might find applicable to them. It is assessed through self-evaluation and strongly skewed by the expectations of those who take it. This, too, makes those Barnum Texts stronger ("Do you think often?" "Yes" "You're a thinker" "Wow, you're sooo accurate in your assessment of me").

Since the test is also binary ("Do you like Apples?" doesn't lead to a conclusion about how much someone likes Bananas) and does not control for socialised or pathological answers, it is hopelessly useless.

  • Saunders, F. W. Katherine and Isabel: Mother’s Light, Daughter’s Journey. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1991
  • Stricker and Ross (1962). Also: Stricker, L. J. & J. Ross. “An Assessment of Some Structural Properties of the Jungian personality Typology.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 68 (1964), pp. 62-71.
  • Carskadon, T. G. “Clinical and Counseling Aspects of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Research Review.” Research in Psychological Type, Vol. 2, No. 4 (1979a), pp. 2-31.
  • Sipps, G. J., R. A. Alexander, and L. Friedt. “Item Analysis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.” Educational and Psychological Measurement, Vol. 45, No. 4 (1985), pp. 789-796.
  • Dickson, D. H. and I. W. Kelly. “‘The Barnum Effect’ in Personality Assessment: A Review of the Literature.” Psychological Reports, Vol. 57, No. 2 (1985), pp. 367-382.
  • Auerbach, E. “Not Your Type, But Right for the Job.” The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1992, editorial, p. 11.
  • $\begingroup$ There is much claimed in this answer. Do you have any references to support your claims? $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @mfloren: happily. Added. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 6:47
  • $\begingroup$ Much appreciated! If I may, which of these focuses on the lack of relationship to Carl Jung's work? $\endgroup$
    – mflo-ByeSE
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ This is a curiously unscientific way of saying that it is not a reasonable scientific theory. $\endgroup$
    – Duvrai
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @mfloren - I am sorry, I just now saw this. The focus, because it's the "main selling point" of the MTBI for some reason. Its proponents go so far as to call Mayers a "student of Jung", which is about as accurate as calling me a student of Ekman's or Dickson, because I've read their books. Saunders, F. W. Katherine and Isabel discuss this at length. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 23:50

Does the MBTI have a fundamental background?

Yes. It is based on Jung's work, later published as Psychological Types (Collected Works, Book 6). Katherine Briggs, Isabel Myer's mother, did the initial work via communication with Jung. Like Jung, she had different theories at first, but dropped them when she heard of Jung's research on the subject. She developed the Attitude Type and four functions into a consistent theory (further than Jung did, at least at first). She also added the external function indicator as she was focused on getting jobs for women, and the externalized function was seen to be a major component. Its importance was shown even more strongly by Keirsey's work on Temperament Theory.

Were there any scientific experiments conducted?

If by "scientific" you mean objective, verifiable tests, the answer is no. Currently, at least, that is impossible, being the perception of the Attitude Type and functions are subjective.


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