This page is intended to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, and it addresses some of the most common misconceptions about type. If you have a question that is not listed below, feel free to ask it in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
What do the letters of Myers-Briggs® types mean?
The four letters of each Myers-Briggs® type represent four inborn preferences. The first letter is either E for Extraversion or I for Introversion, and it describes how we gain and are drained of energy. The second letter is either S for Sensing or N for Intuition, and it describes how we gain information and what information we like. The third letter is either T for Thinking or F for Feeling, and it describes what information we prioritize in making decisions. Finally, the forth letter is J for Judging or P for Perceiving, and it describes how we organize and approach the outside world. For descriptions of each preference, check out The 8 Preferences.
I don’t want to take personality assessments because I don’t want to be put in a box. I am an individual!
Every person is an individual, and Myers-Briggs® does not argue that in the least! First of all, the process of deciding on a best-fit type is collaborative. This means that a computer calling a person a certain type does not make it so. When deciding on best-fit type, it is important to sit down with a trained professional who can explain the instrument and interpret and discuss your results with you. That way, if there is a discrepancy between the type you feel fits you best and the results of the official assessment, you have someone to talk out discrepancies with. Ultimately, you choose the type that fits you best!
Besides that, we ALL say, do, and think about some things in a way that is contrary to what would typically fit our types, and that is ok. The description of the type that you claim should fit you more than the other 15 type descriptions, but you do not have to identify with every word of the description to claim that type. Life experiences often give us habits and quirks that fall outside of type norms, and Myers-Briggs® does not describe all of who we are as individuals! That being said, if you still do not like personality assessments, it is your right not to take them.
When it comes to opposite preferences (E&I, S&N, T&F, and J&P), I identify with both. Can I be both?
The short answer to this is no. In looking at the four pairs of opposites, it is important to note that we all do things that fall into each of the eight categories. That being said, we usually have a greater comfort level with one preference over its opposite, and that is what determines our type. Sometimes, it can be confusing to figure out which preference fits you best because a part of your life demands that you develop skills in an area that is not your natural preference. For instance, an Intuitive type may have trouble deciding between S and N if they spend a great deal of time having to perform tasks in an incredibly detailed and systematic way. That person would likely still feel a bit more relaxed when allowed to examine big pictures and think in possibilities, and that is what will determine the preference.
Also, sometimes not being able to decide between preferences indicates a need for further discussion. For instance I frequently have individuals talk with me after group interpretations who believe they are both Introverts and Extraverts. They commonly tell me that they are not quiet or drained around their close friends. They feel like Extraverts in this situation, but they are drained by interacting with unfamiliar people or large groups. This scenario is actually perfectly normal for Introverts, as Introverts are more comfortable around small groups and people they already know. Discussions with trained professionals can clarify many similar issues.
To read more about the need for preference differentiation, check out Type Dynamics: Basics and Rationale.
I used to be one type, but last time I took the assessment, my type was different. Does type change over the lifespan?
Jung believed that a person’s type is inborn, and it stays with you throughout life. Think of type as being similar to handedness, where you are able to use both hands, but you are born with a natural preference for one over the other. You may get better at using your non-preferred hand over time, but it will probably never be your preferred hand.
That being said, many factors go into how we answer assessment questions on any given day. I know someone who has a preference for Judging, but more often than not comes out as a Perceiving type on the assessment because of disagreements with the wording of the questions. If an individual has been raised to do things in a certain way, she may answer questions in that direction without the answer reflecting a true preference. Finally, current conditions can impact assessment results. If an individual is taking the assessment for work, he may unconsciously answer in a way that suits the work environment. The same can be said for trying to please or rebel against other relationships. Once again, this is a reason to talk with a trained professional to decide on a best-fit type. This person can help you sift through what is type (nature) versus what is related to environment and life experience (nurture).
Of course, type does not remain completely stagnant throughout life. For more on how type grows over the lifespan, read over Type Dynamics: Development Over the Lifespan.
When I read preference descriptions, I identify with one type, but my assessment results say that I am a different type. I guess I should go with what the assessment says?
Heck no! The official MBTI® assessment is an excellent tool in the process of determining best-fit type, but each individual ultimately decides which type to claim as best-fit. This is yet another instance where it is good to have an interpretation done with a trained individual because this person can help you navigate discrepancies and find the type that fits you best. For that matter, this discrepancy discussion may lead to deeper understanding of self because it will allow you to explore reasons (outside pressures, etc.) for the discrepancies. This new understanding can be one of the greatest gifts of learning about type! Oh, and as bonus advice, never let a computer define you.
I keep seeing Myers-Briggs® articles and descriptions that reference things like Dominant Introverted Sensing with Auxiliary Extraverted Thinking, and sometimes I see things like Ni or Fe. What does this mean?
These terms describe type dynamics, though you are welcome to argue that they represent elements on the periodic table. Learning about type dynamics can help you understand type on a much deeper level than simply learning about preferences, as it explains how preferences interact with each other to create a whole, living type. To read more about type dynamics, including an in depth explanation of what all of those whacky words and symbols mean, take a look at the Type Dynamics series.
I took the MBTI® for free on the web. Why should anyone pay for an assessment that you can easily get for free?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® is the product of decades of in depth research and refinement by professionals who are experts in the instrument and the theories behind it. It has undergone numerous revisions over the years, which have increased its reliability and validity, and it is not available for free on the internet. Of course, there are many “knock offs” available on the web for free, but these assessments are not as well researched or tested as the official MBTI®, and they do not offer the same level of reliability and validity.
Just as important is the fact that internet knock off assessments do not come with an interpretation! As you may have noticed in reading answers to the previous FAQs, the interpretation discussion that is a part of the process of determining best-fit type is incredibly important! By taking the real MBTI®, you should have access to this valuable discussion with a type practitioner, and you will likely have a much more positive experience with type.
Most universities and colleges have a way to take the official MBTI® assessment. If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at a higher-ed institution, check with your counseling or career office to find out how you can take the instrument.
Now that I have learned about type, what can I use it for?
The most obvious answer to this question is that type can help you learn about yourself. Check out The 16 Types to see descriptions of how type impacts you in many different scenarios, from careers to relationships.
In addition to self-knowledge, type can help you understand how to better communicate with others, mediate conflict and, improve romantic and other relationships. It can help businesses and colleges build more effective teams, and it can help teachers and students understand each other more. These are just a few ways that knowledge of type can improve life! Of course, you won’t know the type of everyone you encounter, but you will still be assisted by the knowledge of different ways of being.
How can Myers-Briggs® help me get along better with others?
As mentioned above, it is unlikely that you will be able to type everyone you meet, but knowledge of type can still help you get along better with others. I remember learning about type for the first time. As the preferences were explained to me, I remember thinking, “This sounds like me, but that’s what drives me bonkers about that other person.” I also remember wanting to learn as much as I could about my own type. We see descriptions of types, and we immediately look for our own type to read about. We then read about the types of our significant others, family, and friends. This is all great, and it can play a role in us improving relationships.
In order to use type to get along with people who, shall we say, push your buttons, it’s important to do a few things. First, remember that all types are considered equally valid! People have different perspectives and ways of being, and that is ok. Second, know yourself. Part of that comes from knowing your type, but part of it comes from recognizing your own type biases and misconceptions. You may be an Extravert who thinks it’s annoying that Introverts like to think things through before talking them out, or you may be an Introvert who wishes Extraverts would allow reflection time before demanding conversation. Either way, it’s important to address these biases in yourself so that you can become more open minded to alternate ways of being and find ways to get along. Once you recognize a type bias, read up on that type, and try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes. You might be surprised to find that what previously seemed rude or obnoxious has a perfectly reasonable basis that is different than yours. You may find it helpful to read up on Stereotypes and Misconceptions of the Eight Preferences.
You may learn ways to speak to a person of another type in a way that works better than your previous way, and that is great! Just remember that you cannot change another person (type wise or otherwise), and you don’t want to lose yourself in trying to get along with others.
I am familiar with Myers-Briggs®, but I keep hearing about Socionics. Are they the same thing?
This is a question I have recently encountered a lot! I am in no way an expert on Socionics, but I can tell you that Myers-Briggs® and Socionics both came from the work of Carl Jung. Socionics developed in the 1970s, later than Myers-Briggs®, and it uses the same letters as the MBTI®. While Socionics also describes 16 types, they do not necessarily correlate with the 16 types in the MBTI®. One difference is that in Myers-Briggs®, the J and P preferences point to which function is Extraverted, while in Socionics, the J and P preferences point directly to which preference is dominant. Basically, Socionics and Myers-Briggs® have similar roots and some other similarities, but they are essentially different.
You’ve mentioned many times that it is important to have an interpretation with a trained type professional. Where can I find one?
As previously mentioned, most colleges and universities have professionals who are trained in the use of the MBTI®. If you are a student, staff member, faculty member, or alum of a university, contact the school’s counseling or career department to see if you are eligible to take the assessment and talk with a professional. If you are not associated with a college, many businesses are affiliated with consulting firms who administer the instrument, and many counselors and psychologists in the community use the assessment. Of course, if you have a type question, you are welcome to post it below, and I will be happy to answer it.
What is the best book to read to learn about type?
There are a lot of great books about type, and some of them are listed on the Resources page. My favorite book to start with is Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs-Myers and Peter B. Myers. It gives a good history of the development of the indicator, and it provides excellent knowledge of type, straight from the source!